Over the last five years, the American Transmission Co. has hosted more than 100 open houses and other public meetings throughout the state to communicate with the public about our transmission line projects.
We find the open houses are an effective way to create a two-way dialogue with the people who may be affected by our plans, and to provide an open and inclusive forum for the public to be involved in every stage of our projects. These meetings are open to everyone - supporters, opponents and those in between.
The purpose of employing a security officer at our larger open house meetings was mischaracterized in your article ("They've Got the Power," 8/17/07). Our open houses are set up to provide a welcoming, comfortable, and nonthreatening environment for people who want to discuss the facts, ask questions and even challenge us about the project.
An officer on-site helps to maintain a welcoming and comfortable environment where people are not harassed or otherwise impeded in their participation. Anyone who wants to engage in a dialogue and discuss the facts is welcome to attend - even those individuals who don't agree with us or support the project.
Opposition groups who want to set up shop and make speeches have every right to hold their own meetings and forums - and provide their own venues to do so. They also have a right to protest on public property. ATC is in no way impeding those rights. But we also have a right and responsibility to create a welcoming and hospitable event for our guests.
Because the safety of ATC's employees, the employees of the venue, and our guests is of utmost importance, a security presence also ensures appropriate and quick control over any disruption that may occur. Emotions often run high, and, on occasion in the past, our employees have been physically threatened during an open house.
Fortunately, this situation has not happened at any of our Dane County open houses, but the risk exists, and we feel that the safety of our employees and guests is paramount.
local relations manager,
American Transmission Co.
Your story was excellent. I'd like to point out that if - or perhaps when - ATC builds a new 345 kilovolt (that's a whopping 345,000 volts) line across the county, the electric system's capacity will increase enough to "keep the lights on" for future customers.
What ATC doesn't explain is that the expanded capacity will require more energy from coal-fired power plants. We will then be guilty of adding to the specter of global warming, an altogether irresponsible action.
The U.S. is already responsible for adding a disproportionate amount of carbon dioxide (much of it from burning coal) to the atmosphere and doing little about it. Maybe we should treat ourselves and the rest of the world with more respect by adjusting our behavior.
ATC, of course, makes money by building more lines. We the ratepayers foot the bill. In this case, the new line will make it easier for ATC to carry electricity from Canada to the Chicago area for a healthy profit.
There must be a better solution.
I read that Dane is the fasting-growing county in the state, with over 40,000 more people today than in 2000. And with global warming, ever more homes have air conditioning.
Given all this, can anyone seriously expect electric power use here not to increase? Unless we are willing to build new local power plants, that means more transmission lines.
Just don't put them in my backyard.
The Legislature was wrong to set up ATC as a for-profit venture. It should be a public utility but not run by the government.
Pursuit of work
I enjoyed Kenneth Burns' cover story, "American Idyll" (6/29/07), concerning our credo "the pursuit of happiness." I thought it was an altogether appropriate piece for Independence Day. But while the question of what happiness connoted to the Founding Fathers was justly mentioned early in the piece, I found its inquiry, well, glib and somewhat self-serving to rationalize our present-day mass consumption of stuff.
Far be it from me to quibble that the word "happiness" stems from the Old English for "hap," meaning luck or chance (as in "hapless") or that happiness-as-chance is the inheritance of the Greek worldview dictated by fickle gods.
All the same, it puzzled me that the word "pursuit" would not receive similar scrutiny. Pursuit is synonymous with occupation, i.e., work. As professor Darrin McMahon, author of Happiness: A History, has stated: In the 18th century "pursuit" meant "to chase or to follow in hostility."
Hostility! Furthermore, the words "persecute" and "prosecute" are literally rooted in the verb "to pursue." My hunch is that our Founders had in mind the right to work, to be entrepreneurial.
With all due respect to Mr. Burns, it seems to me that this better explicates whence we've come than his surmising of a national predilection for accumulating flashy gadgets from Circuit City.
Timothy C. Bauer
What a lovely article! I have been a semi-regular at Wonewoc ("They See Dead People," 7/13/07) for more than 10 years. I've gone mostly as a retreat - to step into that other-worldly-ness and to slow down. It is a peaceful place. Owls sing to you at night. Deer come fleetingly to munch the grass early in the morning.
It's good to know that Barbara Picha is at the camp. She is one of the most ethical of the Spiritualists I have known. She walks that teeter-totter-path between the living and the dead with great care.
If you get to Wonewoc, stay awhile.Have a picnic among the trees. Someone will likely light a fire in the fire pit, and people will drift in and sit around staring at the embers. At a certain point, it does seem like the trees talk to you.
Science and society
Thank you for your article about nanotechnology, "Small Wonder," (7/6/07). Nathan Comp nicely represented this emerging area of research, created a fair and balanced picture of the issues facing nanotechnology and effectively included both scientific and societal impact research activities taking place at UW-Madison.
Scientists, journalists and educators have a joint responsibility to explain science to the public and to engage the public in its development. The Citizens' Coalition on Nanotechnology and the Madison-area Nano Cafés illustrate the potential success when these groups work together.
Greta M. Zenner,
director of education,
Materials Research Science and Engineering Center on Nanostructured Interfaces,