We want good jobs in our part of the state but we also appreciate clean ground water and clean air. Before we take risks, especially with air and water, we want to know the facts and have a voice in the debate. We want local control where appropriate, and representation of our interests in Madison when not. We don’t want what happened in Flint, Michigan where an entire city got 20 months of stinky water because of decisions imposed by a non-elected administrator.
But today, like in Flint, there is trouble. According to Kathleen Vinehout, “The Towns Association called Senate Bill 464 one of the most damaging bills to local control in recent memory.” It freezes in place laws on an industrial development once any minor related permit is approved. The League of Conservation Voters is warning people now about Assembly Bill 554, which would allow Wisconsin communities to sell city water systems to private, out of state companies. Senate Bill 493 about fish farms was introduced one day and in public hearing the next. Fish farms might be a good development idea for us but, as noted in a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, it would allow digging around waterways, and even allow wetlands to be filled in without DNR oversight. Lakes and streams belong to the public. Fish farming should have a good debate and be done right.
We’ve got important water issues looming as good water becomes more precious. Unfortunately, with one-party rule in Madison, secret bill writing and rapid approval on bills affecting our water and air have become the norm. Democrats and moderate Republicans are getting run over by extreme ideology coming from Tea Party Republicans and the Koch brothers who seem to want to push development at any cost.
Some people think the pendulum is simply swinging back, but it is quite a bit more like a wrecking ball. We have unfortunately sent some far-right ideologues to Madison. Like in Flint, we can’t trust them to know what is good for us, especially without open government, plenty of time to understand the issues, and robust debate. We need better balance.