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Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

Issue of the Week: Transparency Needed in Waukesha’s Water Request

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Those who have been following the long saga of Waukesha’s precedent-setting application for Lake Michigan water were stunned by Waukesha Common Council President Paul Ybarra’s cancellation of last Thursday’s meeting with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The meeting had been set up to discuss the deficiencies in Waukesha’s application and the steps that the city needs to take to win approval under the Great Lakes Compact.

But Ybarra wanted to discuss Waukesha’s application behind closed doors and had objected to an open meeting that included the Wisconsin Compact Implementation Coalition, an environmental watchdog group. The coalition has been critical of Waukesha’s request, saying that it has not fully considered all of its alternatives to Lake Michigan water, including increased conservation and combinations of locally sourced alternatives. That’s an opinion shared thus far by the DNR and Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima.

Ybarra claims that the city had wanted to talk about sensitive legal matters during the meeting and didn’t want the outside group listening in. But isn’t it more likely that Waukesha couldn’t defend its request once it was held up to scrutiny? And doesn’t the public have a right to know Waukesha’s plans, since they involve a precious public resource? Ybarra should reschedule his meeting with the DNR, allow the public to attend, and proceed with the application for Lake Michigan water if it truly is the only solution to that city’s water woes. A fair, robust discussion is in the public’s best interests.

Hero of the Week

LaVance Johnyakin

Every day, holidays and weekends included, LaVance Johnyakin picks up surplus bakery and produce from grocery stores and delivers them to the food pantries operated by Sherman Park Community Ministries. On top of that, Johnyakin delivers dry and canned goods from Feeding America to the pantries at least four times a week. Johnyakin leads and motivates 30 volunteers who sort and distribute food to families and individuals, including more than 100 homeless veterans.

Dennis Johnson, executive director of Milwaukee Veterans for Peace, says that the group’s “Homeless Veteran Initiative” would not be possible without Johnyakin’s tireless efforts, noting that “he is the kind who never takes the bows, just keeps on working.”

Readers who wish to help this unsung hero in his efforts to serve area veterans and others are urged to visit www.milwaukeevfp.org.



Jerk of the Week

U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa

Whenever it comes down to a choice between protecting corporate profits and defending the rest of us from corporate harm, it’s easy to predict that ultraconservative U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa will decide in favor of the corporations. Last week, Randa dismissed a case involving a childhood victim of lead paint and the paint manufacturers, finding that the manufacturers can’t be held responsible for the toxic paint they’d sold decades ago. Why? According to Randa’s reasoning, some of the manufacturers have been bought by other companies in the meantime, and those companies shouldn’t be held liable for the damage done by a predecessor’s product. So Randa tossed the case, which pretty much negates a 2005 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that would allow victims of lead paint to sue the manufacturers—a decision that pro-corporate conservatives have been furious about since it was handed down. Randa got a chance to do their dirty work and went for it. The victim’s attorney, Peter Earle, has said he would appeal.