Some of my readers have advanced the theory that Rep. Brett Hulsey actually wrote to Bass Pro Shops headquarters in Missouri to encourage them to bring their 150-300 jobs to the Lambeau Field shopping and entertainment complex in Green Bay.
As proof, these commenters observe that Hulsey's letter includes some happy talk about working with the retailer. They cite this passage:
"As conservationists, we want to work with you and the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Wildlife Federation, and other conservation groups to create good jobs and protect key bass habitat like wetlands."
Regarding Brett Hulsey's letter as encouraging a compromise is like crediting a ransom note that reads "If you don't want your little girl to be hurt ..." as being concerned for her welfare. Heaven forbid that such reporters should be called lazy, disingenuous or just plain sloppy.
Yes, I'm certain that Brett Hulsey does want Bass Pro Shops in Green Bay. But not at the cost of a single acre of "wetlands." He has his priorities and it ain't jobs, jobs, jobs.
What his letter did NOT reveal is that state environmental officials already reached a compromise. Never did the Hulsey letter tell Bass Pro Shops that the project had already been approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Never did he say that by developing the 1.6 acres of wetland on the 20-acre Lombardi Avenue site another 4 acres of more important wetlands would be restored.
After the DNR had approved a permit for the project the Wisconsin Wetlands Association challenged the decision, forcing a process that could tie up the project for months. Here is the Wetlands Assn.'s celebratory press release.
Republicans countered by introducing a bill, Assembly Bill 10, to accommodate the sporting goods store.
Why would a freshman legislator, knowing that the Republicans had the votes to pass the bill, then write businessmen in far-off Missouri unless it was to scare off those business people from opening up shop here? Here is Brett Hulsey:
"As outdoor enthusiasts and anglers, we are writing to express our concerns about Special Session Assembly Bill 10, a bill to bypass Wisconsin's wetland conservation laws to build a Bass Pro Shop in wetlands in the municipality of Ashwaubenon. As you know, wetlands are vital for bass and other species ... Without wetlands, there are no fish."
Hulsey wanted to make certain that Bass Pro Shops knew there were bomb throwers like him ready to undercut the state's efforts to lure the retailer to Green Bay. Really, this is almost unprecedented. Are Hulsey et al on the negotiating team?
"Please contact Rep. Brett Hulsey's office immediately," his letter concluded.
The very next day, the Appleton Post-Crescent reported, Hulsey did receive a call from Bass Pro president and CEO John Hagale. Bass Pro Shops was out of Green Bay. As Gomer Pyle used to say, Surprise! Surprise!
One of Hulsey's co-authors, Louis Molepske, D-Stevens Point, made no pretense of his role in the letter. He wrote it to uphold the Wetlands Assn. challenge. "My actions were taken to protect citizens' constitutional right to question their government under current law."
Certainly, it was taken that way by State Rep. Dean Kaufert. "This is a perfect example of the anti-business sentiment displayed by some state officials in Wisconsin ..."
Assembly majority leader Scott Suder saw it the same way. "Late this week, Missouri based Bass Pro Shops announced they would no longer be building one of their stores in Green Bay amid unfounded criticism from several Democrats in the State Assembly."
"It is shameful that a handful of lawmakers - none of whom represent the district where the store was to be built - have successfully kept hundreds of struggling Wisconsinites from getting back on their feet and finding work."
Sure, you can dismiss Kaufert and Suder as "partisans." But Hulsey and Molepske aren't?
No wetland left behind
I know that many in Madison share the environmentalist fervor of Hulsey and his three co-authors. It is the faith-based belief that every mud hole is sacred and must be preserved at all costs. It is the green absolutism that discerns no qualitative difference between marshland filtering a body of water or housing varied flora and fauna, on the one hand, and a random low spot on the topography clogged, as this one was, with invasive species.
According to the rigid ideologues on the green Left, this acre and a half in the middle of the city of Green Bay must not be touched lest Lake Michigan degrade into some Stygian sewer.
Wisconsin has more acreage under conservation -- verdant, wild and undisturbed -- than at any time in a century. Eagles, pine martens-- even elk -- are returning to the wild.
Suder is correct to say that "this is just the latest and perhaps the most despicable example of why the voters rebelled against the Democrats last November."
They'll have to bus respondents in
The Dane County Regional Transit Authority is preparing a referendum that would call for more buses and a half-cent increase in property taxes. Yes to buses, no to tax hikes, I say. If mass transit is a priority, then defund something else. Prioritize, people!
RTA is going to a public hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m. at the Fitchburg City Hall, 5520 Lacy Road. It looks like there is one more RTA meeting after that before the referendum deadline and that is on Feb. 17.That meeting is 5 p.m. at the McFarland Municipal Center, 5915 Milwaukee St. They will need to approve the plan that night if they want to get the referendum on the April 5 ballot year.
Fighting Ed is up to something
Is Ed Garvey starting a new political party? He has visited Washington D.C. to consult with other wobblies dissatisfied with President Obama's lurch to the center. Might it be called the New Progressive Party? Ed would not elaborate.
State of the State
I thought Scott Walker was authoritative, optimistic, eloquent, and forceful in his State of the State speech last night. He did not rush his speech or swallow his words. He seems comfortable in his own skin, with a "Can do" tone in the best tradition of Tommy T. and Ronald Reagan. He is the best speaker I can recall as governor.
Walker announced that he is not going to sweep the problems under the rug as was done during the last eight years.
"Wisconsin's proud tradition of responsible budgeting gave way to repeated raids on segregated funds, excessive borrowing for operations and an addiction to one-time federal dollars. These are no longer options, and their use has only delayed and worsened the difficult decisions we must now make."
The speech was blessedly brief (about a half hour) and short on details. Those will come in his first budget proposal. Before people get out their crying towels, it is worth looking at what one of the more notable Democratic names in the country is proposing in New York.
Gov. Cuomo wields the knife
Seeking to close a $10 billion budget deficit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing reducing school aid by $1.5 billion and Medicaid by $982 million. His plan also calls for closing prisons, youth detention and mental hygiene facilities, as well as slashing higher education funding by 10%, CNN reports.
New York also plans to lean heavily on its employee unions, many of which will see their contracts expire when the new fiscal year starts on April 1. If concessions aren't made, Cuomo said as many as 9,800 workers could lose their jobs.
Reagan, a president for all time
We continue our tribute to the greatest president in the last 60 years, Ronald Reagan. His centenary is this Super Bowl Sunday. Visit this special website devoted to President Reagan.