Monday, December 26, 2011

Assembly Mining Bill Undermines Transparency Claims

Holiday travelers or folks succeeding in avoiding the Internets over the long weekend may have missed a) another sighting of the revealing Walker "nod,", and, more importantly, b) an end-of-the-year Journal Sentinel interview with Scott Walker wherein he praised himself for his transparency. I had a little headline and posting fun with it:

Memo to Scott Walker: Transparency is like Cholesterol

Walker gave the paper this memorable line:
"I know the transparency I have and the integrity I bring to the position...” Walker said.
This is not the first time Walker, oblivious to irony or that the Emperor's clothes long ago disappeared seems unaware that his deeds and other words render that claim completely ridiculous.

It's like saying, 'I know my diet and the integrity I bring to sticking to it - - can you supersize my Coke and fries with that Big Mac, please?"

Also remember that he has repeatedly referenced his Eagle Scout experiences, yet said (see transcript of the taped call with Ian Murphy, the fake David Koch) that the "the only problem with only gut reaction" with dispatching provocateurs into the Capitol protest crowds was that there would be possible political backlash that might force him to negotiate a settlement:
Murphy: Right, right. Well, we’ll back you any way we can. But, uh, what we were thinking about the crowds was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.

Walker: You know, the, well, the only problem with that — because we thought about that. The problem — the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this. The teachers union did some polling of focus groups, I think, and found out that the public turned on ’em the minute they closed school down for a couple days. The guys we’ve got left are largely from out of state, and I keep dismissing it in all my press conferences saying, ‘Eh, they’re mostly from out of state.’ My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems. You know, whereas, I’ve said, ‘Hey, you know, we can handle this, people can protest. This is Madison, you know, full of the ’60s liberals. Let ’em protest.’ It’s not gonna affect us. And as long as we go back to our homes and the majority of the people are telling us we’re doing the right thing, let ’em protest all they want. Um, so that’s my gut reaction, is that I think it’s actually good if they’re constant, they’re noisy, but they’re quiet, nothing happens, ’cause sooner or later the media stops finding ’em interesting.
The Assembly's mining bill - - written behind closed doors, with its 183 pages sprung on the public just six days before its public hearing in Milwaukee 350 miles away from the mine's most impacted residents and region - - is another telling example of Walker administration deeds undermining words and braggadocio about transparency.

Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel has produced a wonderful investigative piece detailing how the bill got written, with no named sponsors.

His story is laden with information that shows how opaque - - that is, not transparent - - the process was. I recommend reading the story in full, but here are some highlights:

Legislators worked with Gogebic Taconite on mining bill

Five Republicans, staff were authors of legislation

Who wrote the Assembly's mining bill?

That's what many people wanted to know after a public hearing last Wednesday at State Fair Park when Republicans declined to provide details on who authored the legislation and whom they relied on for help.

Now, details are emerging:
The bill was largely written by five Republicans and their staffs who huddled for months with different parties, including the business lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and representatives of iron ore mining company Gogebic Taconite, which wants to construct a mine in northern Wisconsin.

The Department of Natural Resources's top mining expert, Ann Coakley, and Deputy DNR Secretary Matt Moroney were consulted, Moroney said. But lawmakers said they didn't brief environmental or wildlife groups.

Legislative records show that Rep. Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee) instructed the Legislature's bill drafters to write the bill...

WMC, which is the state's largest business lobby, and staff from Gov. Scott Walker also weighed in, according to legislators...

Neither [Reps.] Honadel, Suder nor Vos said they could recall who was responsible for language that would make it easier to develop a mine on or near wetlands - something environmentalists worry will harm the local watershed...

[Honadel] began working on the bill in January and met with WMC and the Cline Group, a Florida-based company that owns Gogebic and operates coal mines. Cline wanted to develop a known iron ore deposit along Highway 77 between Upson and Mellen.

Early work produced a draft bill that was heavily influenced by Gogebic but was dropped as the Legislature focused on the budget and grew preoccupied with recall elections in the Senate.

Then, after months of what seemed to be little progress, a new bill was unveiled Dec. 8.

Democrats and environmentalists said the latest version bears a resemblance to the earlier draft and that it goes too far in rolling back environmental safeguards.

With Republicans initially tight-lipped about its authorship, Democrats attacked it.

Rep. Peggy Krusick (D-Milwaukee) wondered during the State Fair Park hearing why there was no attempt to work with Democrats to strike a compromise.

When Republicans declined to say who drafted the bill, [Rep.] Milroy asked, "How do we know who we can ask questions to about aspects of the bill?
If that's a transparent process run by a transparent administration, someone better call Webster's, since this is what it has to say about it

Definition of TRANSPARENT

1 a (1) : having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly : pellucid (2) : allowing the passage of a specified form of radiation (as X-rays or ultraviolet light) b : fine or sheer enough to be seen through : diaphanous
2a : free from pretense or deceit : frank b : easily detected or seen through : obvious c : readily understood d : characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices

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