Friday, July 31, 2015

JS editorial gives DNR's Stepp, Walker another pass

It's every government regulator's dream - - walk into the big paper's editorial board with a messy record and walk out unscathed.

Case in point: there has been yet another reorganization of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources following Gov. Scott Walker's budget cuts to the agency's science staff that further his ideological redirection of the agency towards a "chamber of commerce mentality."

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp stopped in at the Journal Sentinel Editorial board, gave the right reassurances, and walked out with this editorial:

Reorganization holds promise, but agency needs more employees
There is no reason to panic because of the proposed reorganization at the state Department of Natural Resources. Environmental standards and regulations will remain the same; enforcement of those regulations won't change and scientific research at the DNR will continue, Secretary Cathy Stepp told us in a meeting this week, and there is little reason to believe that a reorganization by itself would change any of that.
As I said yesterday, hold on.

First of all, Stepp supported Walker's budget and staffing cuts - -
DNR Secretary Defends Walker's Proposed Cuts to Agency
- - and how can the Journal Sentinel editorial not emphasize that Walker - - Stepp's boss - - asked the Legislature to make the deep cuts to the agency staff?

Second of all - - what the DNR is now 'enforcing' has been substantially and intentionally weakened by state actions since 2011 - - I'd cite numerous posts I've written over the years; one example focused on water, here - -  but you might be more convinced by the non-partisan Scientific American.

Additionally, the editorial assigns no real responsibility to Walker:
The DNR workforce has fallen 18% since 1995 to 2,558 employees, according to DNR figures. Just as one example, in the budget just passed by the Legislature, the Bureau of Science Services, which conducts research for the agency, was eliminated and eight positions cut. Stepp said the research work will be folded into various departments, 
And asking the Legislature and Walker now to address the situation - - especially since the budget is done and Walker is out campaigning for the Presidency - - is ludicrously late.

We've also seen the newspaper's quick support for the agency before.

I noted it in 2011, when Walker sprang his first DNR restructuring that was going to make the agency more focused, and nimbler, and the newspaper gave a quick thumbs up:
Improving the DNR 
Gov. Scott Walker's plan to streamline the state Department of Natural Resources is a good idea - as long as it doesn't weaken environmental protections.
And how was it all working out?

A year later, in 2012, the Journal Sentinel reported: 

Environmental inspections by the state Department of Natural Resources dropped sharply during the first year of Gov. Scott Walker's administration.
Then, in early 2014, the Journal Sentinel again reported an enforcement lag:
Environmental enforcement at the Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Scott Walker lags behind past administrations of both parties dating back to 2000, state records show.
Remember that line at the beginning of today's editorial - - "Environmental standards and regulations will remain the same; enforcement of those regulations won't change..."

Where is that evidence?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad you called them out, but the fact remains, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is not a legitimate source for news. The misleading report earlier this week from AG Brad Schimel's summit is just more recent proof. This summit actually was about Schimel's support for adding a new exclusion to open records requests, "deliberative process"; their report said exactly the opposite.

The people at MJS know that they exist to promote republicans and Scott Walker in particular. They also know that they have abandoned their hometown and instead have built their business model around inflaming racism and hate towards the city of Milwaukee. Circulations have been in free-fall among those that actually follow the real news. MJS does not exist to be a profit-making source of information based on advertising sales supporting legitimate content.

It is really just a pro-Walker propaganda rag and its owners do not care that this has destroyed the traditional business model of American newspapers. The owners of MJS long ago decided that this asset was worth more as a disinformation machine. The recent sale to Scripps appears to be just more of the same, but with even less local coverage.