Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Override Vote Reveals Political Power Basics

Call the DNR override vote yesterday one of those defining moments in Wisconsin politics: big business still calls the shots at the Capitol.

George Meyer, former Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and a principal force in the unsuccessful effort to remove that position from gubernatorial control, lays out the facts, here,

Meyer was around when then-Governor and his legislative lieutenants hijacked the appointment from the Natural Resources Board to make sure the agency better served the needs of the business community.

So under a politicized and weakened DNR, we have easier permitting for construction near waterways, for example.

And the DNR has decided (been told?) to proceed with Waukesha's Lake Michigan diversion application review - - the precedent-setting application under the Great Lakes Compact - - without having written the very administrative rules that would have defined what an application or review process must contain.

Little wonder - - as it was Wisconsin's DNR, I have been told - - that pushed the notion during Compact-writing negotiations that a community like Waukesha could be eligible to divert water entirely out of the Great Lakes basin if it was within a county that somewhere touched the Great Lakes basin boundary.

In other words, a political line on a map would trump geography - - and perhaps a political advantage could be scored.

If a Republican wins the Governor's office in November, you might as well move the DNR - - what little will be left after the agency goes through an ideologically-inspired diminution - - over to the WMC's offices a few blocks away because that's where policy and program will be directed.

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