Right now Milwaukee county parks compete for funding with transit, public works, social services, and healthcare and pension costs for current and retired employees. Pitting the parks budget versus committed legacy costs or highly visible departments like public works is not a fair fight. Deferring maintenance on a playing field will take some time to get noticed, stopping garbage pick-up or pension payments will cause immediate uproar and legal action.
Removing Milwaukee parks from county government would also set an important precedent for other local governments struggling to adequately fund essential services to residents. Imagine what school districts, for example, could do without the array of non-education expenses that too often eat into classroom expenditures. Imagine if cities and counties could focus only on providing services for residents rather than budgeting for promises made in decades past. Surely services would improve.
Public parks contribute to the quality of life of a community, thereby playing a vital role in keeping neighborhoods stable and prosperous. If the percentage of the county tax levy going to Milwaukee parks continues its downward slide Milwaukee’s quality of life will suffer. Creating an accountable independent park district whose sole function is running and funding a parks system is not radical, it’s logical.
Politically the rejection of anything relating to job creation is strange. WPRI’s latest public opinion poll shows the majority of respondents (52%) think “jobs/economy” is the most important issue facing state government in Wisconsin. No other issue cracks 20%. Given that short of hiring people there is little government can do to directly create jobs, Gogebic should have been a slam-dunk.
Alas, Wisconsinites also like the environment. The same WPRI poll shows a majority of respondents (51%) think environmental regulations “should not be weakened” to create more mining jobs in northern Wisconsin. The senate vote certainty suggests that when it comes to the competing issue of jobs and the environment, the environment wins.
Which is why I found it humorous that the same state senate that rejected streamlining environmental regulations for jobs approved legislation (by a 24-9 margin!) allowing Wisconsinites to hunt wolves with traps, guns, bows, and crossbows. I know I know, wolves are no longer endangered and pose a legitimate threat to livestock, but the optics sure look strange to this city-dweller.
Maybe the real issue is government power. Poplar Senator Bob Jauch alludes to this, telling WLUK in Green Bay that he wants the jobs but does want the Department of Natural Resources to have its “tools limited.”
More important than why the bill failed is the disappointing end result: 700 mining jobs are not coming to Wisconsin. But hey, at least the senators saw fit to give us a wolf hunt.
Imagine my surprise today when I showed up in a Shepherd Express article about the Stewardship program. Apparently, there aren’t many conservatives willing to go on record in questioning the program – so I’m the go-to guy to be “The Grinch that Stole Earth Day.”
Anyway, I thought the article was well written, and lays out the typical arguments for the program. Supporting the program is Bud Jordahl, who forgets more about land conservation on a daily basis than I will learn in my lifetime – and whose son I consider to be a friend (as long as he sets good screens for me in basketball).
Anyway, it eventually gets around to me, and says:
Many conservatives balk at the price tag for the program.
“Despite the current dire economic straits of state government, Doyle continues to rack up the state’s credit card debt in order to pacify his environmental supporters,” wrote Christian Schneider in a commentary for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.
Schneider also stated that, based on a study by the Legislative Audit Bureau, the DNR is paying more for the land than it’s really worth. And, what’s more, the concept of the program is flawed, Schneider argues, based on theoretical right-wing economic theory.
“According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 18% of Wisconsin’s total land is currently being held for public conservation by various levels of government – an irony completely missed by advocates of ‘affordable housing,’ who don’t realize that the more land the government takes off the market, the more expensive the land gets,” Schneider wrote.
Of course, my points are “theoretical right-wing economic theory.” The fact that if something becomes more scarce, it costs more is purely theoretical. The Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and market forces – all unproven theories.
I’m also fond of Democrats’ constant evocation of former Republican Governor Warren Knowles as this great moderate, since he supported Gaylord Nelson’s land buying program. This is the same Governor Knowles that referred to the Wisconsin Young Democrats as “homocrats” when they pushed for the repeal of sodomy laws in 1966.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has apparently prioritized turtle safety as a big issue this summer – they are asking motorists to stop their cars and pull turtles off the road if they see them:
Turtle nesting is underway in Wisconsin
MADISON â€“ Anyone traveling Wisconsin roadways has likely seen the broken shells and other soft pieces of a once living turtle. Some are of the small painted turtles, while others are large snapping turtles. Their misfortune is the result of them trying to cross the road to find food, mates, or especially at this time of year, suitable nesting sites.
Turtles grow slowly in northern climates, according to Bob Hay, an amphibian and reptile biologist with the Department of Natural Resources…
â€œIf you see a turtle on the road — and only if itâ€™s safe to do so — carefully pull over and help the turtle to the side of the road it is facing,â€ he says, but cautions that people should never put themselves or other drivers at risk when stopping.
When helping an aggressive turtle — such as a snapping turtle — off the road, the safest way to avoid being bitten is to gently drag it across the road by it tail, leaving the front feet on the pavement. It may help to use a stick that the turtle can bite, allowing one to grab the tail more safely.
So let’s just back up, here.Â First of all, the only way I’m helping a turtle is if the turtle agrees to drag me to the hospital when I get hit by another car.
Secondly, as mentioned in the release, turtles are mean.Â There isn’t a turtle that would hesitate to peel your wig back if it had fingers.Â And free will.Â So when a turtle bites your finger off, are you supposed to lay on the road and wait for a bunny rabbit to come by and sew it back on?Â Is that the natural order of roadside assistance?
Plus, everyone knows that the best way to protect turtles is to allow them to carry concealed firearms.
The best part of the release is the final line:
People should also be aware that the turtle season is closed until July 15 each year, so picking turtles up off the road as pets or for food is illegal. Anyone who observes this being done should contact the DNR hotline at 1-800-TIPWDNR (1-800-847-9367).
Now wait – I’m expected to pull over and save a turtle, but what do I get in return?Â I can’t either eat him or put a little army helmet on him and have him play with my G.I. Joes?
Yesterday, I got to play the role of “the Grinch that Stole Earth Day” in my column in the Wisconsin State Journal. In it, I discuss the Stewardship program and how effective conservation programs that recognize the value in private land ownership can be. (For some reason the web site formatting is off, and some parts are repeated.)
My pro-stewardship counterpart was Scott Hassett, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. His column can be found here.