Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials
Wisconsin State Journal, May 13
Stop Illinois’ bid to ease lake barriers
Illinois is worried that elaborate new barriers to stop Asian carp from invading Lake Michigan will bog down cargo shipping in its busy canals.
Well, too bad.
The health of the Great Lakes is far more important to all of the Midwest and Canada than the parochial economic interests of shipping companies in greater Chicago.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Attorney General Brad Schimel and other leaders across the Midwest should resist any attempt by Illinois to weaken the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to protect the world’s largest group of freshwater lakes from voracious Asian carp, which would decimate native fish species.
The Army Corps proposed a $275 million plan last year to shore up the Brandon Road Lock and Dam along the Des Plaines River near Joliet, Illinois. The plan calls for electric barriers, noisemakers, water jets and chemicals to block the carp and other invasive species from swimming upstream to reach Lake Michigan.
Illinois officials last week worried the plan was too disruptive of cargo that moves along its canal system. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said he wants to negotiate changes to the plan with other states.
Wisconsin should resist that bad idea.
Remember: An Asian carp was found last summer just 9 miles from Lake Michigan after somehow getting past several electric barriers.
So if anything, the Army Corps’ plan should be strengthened. Ideally, a permanent separation between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins should be restored. Systems to transfer barge loads around barriers might add some time and expense to shipments. But that’s far less cost and hassle than the Asian carp will be if it reaches the Great Lakes and spreads inland.
Already, five Asian carp — which can grow as large as 100 pounds and crowd out native sport fish — have been found in the Wisconsin River. Luckily, a dam near Prairie du Sac, about 40 miles northwest of Madison, prevents the aggressive invader from moving farther upstream.
A similarly effective barrier is needed to stop Asian carp from getting through Chicago’s canals to spread across the Great Lakes.
Illinois has far less urgency to do something significant because many stretches of its rivers are already infested. Asian carp, which escaped from Southern fish farms decades ago, have virtually eliminated native species such as walleye and bass in parts of Illinois’ waterways.
Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest can’t let that happen here.
Wisconsin joined Michigan, Ohio and the Canadian province of Ontario in an offer to help pay for maintenance of a gauntlet of devices and barriers in the Chicago canal system. Those states and the province represent more than 90 percent of the Great Lakes’ surface area, according to The Associated Press.
But the Army Corps ruled that Illinois must participate, prompting Rauner’s call for negotiation.
Wisconsin must stand strong against any attempt by Illinois to weaken protection. Too much is at stake for the health and vitality of our natural waterways to surrender now.
The Capital Times, May 7
Politician Kevin Nicholson’s lack of insight is shocking
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson has had a very hard time coming up with arguments for why he should be his party’s pick to run against Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin.
But Nicholson has come up with an outstanding argument for why Republicans and Democrats should reject his candidacy.
At a time when the American political process is already too divisive, he wants to divide the country even further. And, shockingly, he wants the division to be between veterans.
“I’ll tell you,” Nicholson declared last week on a Milwaukee radio show, “the Democrat Party has wholesale rejected the Constitution and the values that it was founded upon. So I’ll tell you what: Those veterans that are out there in the Democrat Party, I question their, their cognitive thought process. Because the bottom line is, they’re signing up to defend the Constitution that their party is continually dragging through the mud.”
Nicholson is not merely wrong on the facts. He is wrong for failing to acknowledge a basic premise of the American experiment: People can disagree on issues of consequence while still recognizing one another as patriots. Nicholson served in the military, and we give him credit for that. But he fails to recognize that there were many patriotic Democrats, many patriotic liberals, who served with him.
That failure of insight is embarrassing for Nicholson as an individual. It is disqualifying for him as a candidate.
Leader-Telegram, May 13
So far, few Foxconn dollars coming to region
Take a map of Wisconsin that’s blank, with the exception of county borders and major municipalities.
Now, plot the headquarters locations of all 28 subcontractors chosen to work on the $100 million initial phase of the Foxconn project being constructed in Mount Pleasant. Although there are a few exceptions, a vast majority of the dots would be crowded into a small slice of southeastern Wisconsin.
Kudos to Hoffman Construction. The Black River Falls company earned a contract for mass excavation, stormwater and erosion control work. It’s also — at a distance of about 50 miles — the closest business to Eau Claire among the 28 signed on to work on the facility, which will be used to manufacture LCD screens. No other west-central Wisconsin company is on the list.
“Today we are seeing more of the Foxconn bonus throughout Wisconsin,” Gov. Scott Walker said in statement. “It is great to see Wisconsin businesses and working families from all over our state benefiting from this historic investment.”
Based solely on the first-phase allotment of work, that statement is premature.
It’s important to emphasize that the announcement last week only pertained to $100 million of the project’s budget. With a total price tag of $10 billion, there’s significantly more money to be had for contractors.
Eau Claire in late April hosted the last meeting in a series of 14 held throughout the state “to give potential contractors, subcontractors and suppliers information on the massive project and how they can get in on the bidding,” according to a Leader-Telegram story by Andrew Dowd.
Those less enamored with the deal also are making their voices heard. Currently, state Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse and others are hosting a series of public town hall events. “In less than a year, the public cost of this project has increased from an original estimate of $3 billion to $4.5 billion,” reads a news release. “These town hall events will offer local residents an opportunity to meet with state lawmakers, learn more about taxpayer liabilities and comment on recently identified environmental risks.”
Decision-makers in Madison often promote projects that benefit the state as a whole or a specific region. This may be prudent in the Foxconn case, but it’s unlikely to have a significant impact “all over our state.” And many have questioned the level of incentives it took to land the Taiwan-based company.
“We’re skeptical the massive and unprecedented government handout will pay off for Wisconsin taxpayers,” the Wisconsin State Journal said in an editorial. “But the deal is signed and done. So we’ll hope for the best, including as many as 13,000 jobs going to mostly people who live in Wisconsin.”
Indeed, the investment may pay off for the state. If the first round of contractor deals is any indication, however, that impact likely won’t reach into much of western Wisconsin.
It should be noted that 27 of the 28 companies hired are based in Wisconsin. That’s a positive. The one straggler is R.A. Seaton Contractor Services, which is based a short distance from Wisconsin’s southern border in Rockford, Illinois.
And James Hoffman, president of Hoffman Construction, said in a story by the Leader-Telegram’s Eric Lindquist the announcement will result in “a very significant expansion for our company.” He expects to add 150 more seasonal workers this year than is the norm.
We’re just hopeful that future phases of the project will include a few more entries from outside of southeastern Wisconsin.