Wednesday, March 21, 2018

From Mt. Pleasant to Sheboygan and beyond, beware political-developer cooperation

Collusion being the term of art these days, but let's take a look at lock-step cooperation between business and politicians that can leave the people out - -  literally.

The Village of Mount Pleasant hails itself as "a community rooted in a rich agricultural history; one that has always depended greatly on the natural environment which its original settlers depended."

I don't remember Gov. Walker being mindful of that history when he chose their community and farm fields 

for the Foxconn project upon which he has bet his re-election, and where there is now so much unpleasantness:

* Note the fury by some residents on Tuesday over the Village's planned seizure of their private property, a heavy-handed use of government power that may be enabled by a crafty declaration of "blight" on their well-tended land and homes.

* And for people staying behind or living nearby beneath the prevailing winds, consider the emission every year by the project's production of an estimated 740 tons of air pollutants annually.

I don't remember Walker or Foxconn talking up these messy details when they pushed through billions in state taxpayer subsidies and exemptions for Foxconn from routine stream, lake and wetland protections - - or when the municipalities dutifully fell into line with their own record-breaking commitment to the project of $764 million in local taxpayer subsidies.

What happened to Mount Pleasant's declared legacy to "the natural environment?"

Or to the letter and spirit of the Wisconsin Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine, as the DNR has long-explained its implications: 
Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways. 
The [Wisconsin Supreme] court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions. 
"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist.  Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.(2)
When these Mount Pleasant residents shown Tuesday night on WISN TV 12 giving their village officials holy hell over being strong-armed off their property, I was reminded that the Walker crew tried, unsuccessfully, to do to the same thing to people in northwestern Wisconsin  - - despite a treaty with the Bad River Band of Ojibwe which said the first expropriation of their land and lifestyle in the 19th century wouldn't be repeated - - so another non-Wisconsin company could wreak havoc with a huge open-pit iron ore mine.

The Foxconn site in Racine County is about 3,000 acres.

The proposed mine would have clearcut hills and forest, filled trout streams, lakes and wetlands in Iron and Ashland Counties for at least 4.5 miles.

And produced a world-class hole in the ground a half-mile wide and 1,000 feet deep and thrown mountain top removal and rock-milling dust in the air for 35 years.

It's easy to make a pun about the con in Foxconn, but we didn't know the full extent of hidden donations by the mining company for Walker's political committee until reporting on the the so-called John Doe probes fleshed out the amount at $1.25 million.

And we're seeing other well-connected land grabbing in Wisconsin, whether through an 11th-hour legislative amendment to speed a controversial wetland filling permit for a sand mining operating in Monroe County or to massage state agencies to transfer public land for private parking, building and golf course operations inside the popular Kohler Andrae State Park - - all outlined, here.

No one wants to be thrown off their land, or have it routinely contaminated as is the case, for example, in Kewaunee County, all because we have a governor and compliant GOP legislators put into office by big-dollar special interests so Walker can continue to spread and embed his 'chamber of commerce mentality' across the political environment and government's public purposes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny how Scott Walker and the Republicans' novel interpretation of property rights does not extend to the family homeowner.

That's because corporate property rights are protected, but not families'.

The homeowner must yield to the corporate-state that reigns supreme.