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Wisconsin governor taking a ‘detour’ with highway signs

February 12, 2019
FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2010 file photo, Governor-elect Scott Walker speaks to reporters outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin's new Democratic governor is repurposing highway signs that his Republican predecessor installed declaring the state to be "open for business." Scott Walker ran on the motto in 2010 and put 23 signs in place at the state's borders after his win to send a message about his agenda he argued would entice job creators. But now those signs are being sawed in half by Gov. Tony Evers' administration to be converted into "detour" signs. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s new Democratic governor is having road signs that declared the state “open for business” turned into detour signs, drawing criticism from Republicans who say it’s an apt metaphor for where his policies will take the state.

Republican former Gov. Scott Walker had the 23 “open for business” placards installed in 2011 at the state’s borders, where they had hung on “Wisconsin Welcomes You” signs. Walker used the motto after his 2010 win to send a message that his policies would entice job creators to the state. He placed the phrase on welcome signs at Wisconsin’s borders, in the same spot the state’s governors traditionally have put their name.

Gov. Tony Evers is following the practice of the previous governors in putting his name on the signs.

“The old signs will be cut in half with no material wasted,” wrote James Langdon, of Evers’ Department of Administration, on Feb. 1. Each “open for business” sign will be made into two detour sign and direction plaques, he said.

The move has generated criticism from Republican lawmakers who say taking down “open for business” signs send the wrong message. State Rep. John Macco wrote to Evers’ administration asking if he could have one of the discarded signs.

“I wanted to hang one in my office,” said Macco, a Republican from Green Bay, on Tuesday. “I just think it would be cool to have because it’s sort of what I stand for.”

But Macco was told he couldn’t have one because they were all being turned into detour signs.

“Ironically that is exactly the result his policies may produce,” Macco wrote in a column this week.

Another Republican, state Sen. Dan Feyen, of Fond du Lac, wrote to Evers’ administration last month asking for the signs when he learned they had been removed. Feyen said he would be happy to display them in his offices in Madison and Fond du Lac to let the business community know that Wisconsin is still “open for business.”

“Wisconsin is open for business under our administration and I believe Gov. Walker believed under his administration,” Evers told reporters Tuesday. “Having the sign reflect what it used to reflect in the past is where we wanted to be. It’s not a controversy from my vantage point.”

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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