Consumer protectors are being set up to fail
Bill Lueders' article ("WKOW vs. DATCP: The Backstory," 3/26/10) cites TV reporter Dan Cassuto's problems getting information from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. I only hope Dan is not treated as shabbily as the department treats its own employees.
The complaint specialists and investigators in the division of consumer protection are chronically overworked and understaffed. Last year the state eliminated 10 positions and $1.2 million dollars from the division's budget.
DATCP closed regional offices in Green Bay, Eau Claire and Milwaukee in December, laying off 20 employees and moving their jobs to Madison. Unfortunately, the agency is still paying rent on those empty offices, to the tune of $130,000 year.
In recent months, 18 people have left the division, taking with them more than 250 years of experience. Most now work lower-level jobs. Currently there are 18 vacancies in a division with only 35 positions. There is simply no one left to do the work.
As one investigator told me, "If I were a rip-off contractor, I would be operating in Wisconsin right now. It is open season on the Wisconsin consumer."
Dave Schultz, president, AFSCME Local 333, Wisconsin State Inspectors Union, Green Lake
Save that prairie!
I was dismayed to read about the Madison Parks Division's apparent directive to "move or lose" the restored prairie near the entrance to the Warner Park Community Recreation Center (Madison.gov, "Get That Prairie Out of Our Parking Lot!," 4/2/10).
The prairie garden, a labor of love created and maintained over several years by north-side volunteers, has transformed an empty traffic circle into a sustainable, flowering prairie habitat with native plants.
Overall, the Parks Division has been an advocate for cost-saving, ecologically sustainable and progressive practices, including restoring prairies - which is why this decision is so surprising.
We ought to encourage volunteers to undertake projects like this, since the division does not have unlimited time or money. Forcing volunteers to move the prairie, even with assistance of Parks staff, may make potential volunteers less enthusiastic about putting their efforts toward beautifying our parks - which could be the greatest loss of all.
Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, Wisconsin State Assembly
Good column, Marc
Thanks, Marc Eisen, for your excellent rebuke of Mayor Dave on both the renovation of the Central Library and the Edgewater expansion ("A Loss of Competence at City Hall," 4/2/10).
Madison deserves an impressive new Central Library, a building that serves all of Madison. What happened to the Fiore plan? If a $16 million public subsidy is endorsed by Mayor Dave for the privately owned Edgewater expansion, why does he balk at using a far lesser amount for Madison's Central Library?
Margaret S. Lacy
Don't rush to judgment on 'able' parkers
Re: Anna Syversten's March 26 letter [complaining about apparently able-bodied people who use disabled parking]: Where did Anna receive her medical degree? In order for me to get a disabled plate/placard, my medical doctor of more than 20 years had to review my records, check me and run a few tests. Anna is capable of diagnosing without the benefit of any of this?
On a good day I can move somewhat swiftly, don't have to use any assist. I fought for years to overcome this disability and "pass," but the years have taken their toll. On a bad day I can have many problems; some are relating to walking. There are as many reasons for disabled plates/placard as there are people possessing them.
Reene Francis, Sheboygan