Cathy Stepp, Scott Walker's hand-picked chamber of commerce operative to manage the state's natural resources department, has developed a transparently shifty method of deflecting criticism aimed at her management of the department:
Defend agency staffers - - at whom criticism is not aimed - - which deflects the substance of the criticism and, she supposes, negates her original, over-the-top attack on DNR workers that should have disqualified her from the agency's leadership.
Stepp's remarks as DNR Secretary make her sound like Woody Allen trying to win back the affections of a dumped partner. It's an amazing bit of Alice-in-Wonderland political jujitsu.Those of you that haven't had the pleasure of peeking behind the scenes of our state agencies like DNR, Health and Family Services, etc...need to know how some of the most far-reaching policies come down on our heads.
The most crushing/controversial rules that businesses have to follow in our state are--most times--done through the "rule making process" of our state agencies. Without bogging everyone down with some really boring procedure talk, suffice it to say that many of these great ideas (sarcasm) come from deep inside the agencies and tend to be reflections of that agency's culture.
For example, people who go to work for the DNR's land, waste, and water bureaus tend to be anti-development, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes, karner blue butterflies, etc...This is in their nature; their make-up and DNA. So, since they're unelected bureaucrats who have only their cubicle walls to bounce ideas off of, they tend to come up with some pretty outrageous stuff that those of us in the real world have to contend with.
Here's the latest example.
The Journal Sentinel today goes after her "leadership" of the agency over the drop in inspections and enforcement actions designed to root out polluters and ensure public health and safety.
First, came the report that enforcement actions by the Department of Natural Resources are down under Gov. Scott Walker's administration. Now, we learn that environmental inspections also dropped in Walker's first year in office. The depth of both drops is unacceptable; agency officials have to find a way, even when resources are limited, to ensure there is no letup in environmental protection efforts.Stepp's overly-bureaucratic, self-serving response includes this:
That is, after all, the agency's primary mission.
If it has trouble performing that mission, something is wrong under the leadership of Secretary Cathy Stepp.
...a years-long recruitment freeze and a huge wave of retirements (half of our full-time employees were eligible to retire) led to staffing vacancies that exceeded 20%. Unpaid mandatory furloughs implemented by the Doyle administration stretched an overworked staff even further.But no one was said or inferred that DNR staffers weren't working hard.
At the same time, I found an incredibly talented and passionate workforce that had fantastic ideas on how to "fix" the DNR. Only Herculean staff efforts had kept the agency afloat as the full-time staff fell to a modern-day low of 2,169.
The editorial pointed to her management.
If it has trouble performing that mission, something is wrong under the leadership of Secretary Cathy Stepp.This is not the first time Stepp has used the staff this way to distract her critics.
When bi-partisan opponents of the iron mining bill had raised enough of a fuss over its environmental and drafting flaws to kill it - - let me repeat, it was the bill and its origins that were the problem - - Stepp took to conservative talk radio and news releases with intensely political remarks framed as a defense of her staff.
I had a growing frustration that lawmakers and others were publicly impugning and denigrating the ability of DNR employees to make an environmentally sound evaluation and decision, to do their jobs. I’d match our staff expertise and integrity against any comers.What an inventive way of evading responsibility.
Now that that the voting is over, I am stepping up and adding my opinion to the post-mortem on the mining bill. I feel strongly it’s my job to make sure that the failure to move forward with mining in Wisconsin is not laid at DNR’s feet. DNR DOES have the ability and resolve to apply standards and make sound decisions on environmental permitting.