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Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008

Deliver a Strong Compact

Majority of Wisconsin residents want to protect water

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Although it’s both contentious and tedious, a new poll indicates that Wisconsin residents want legislators to get moving on approving the Great Lakes Water Compact, which would set new rules about the use of water along the Great Lakes. Although legislators have been stymied and the issue has been turned into a geographic and political fight, Wisconsin residents—regardless of where they live in the state or which party they belong to—want to get this deal done.

The poll was commissioned by several conservation organizations and was conducted last fall by the UW Survey Center. It found that 80% of respondents want the state to turn the compact into law. What’s more, that support is fairly consistent across party lines—83% of Republicans support it, and 76% of Democrats and 82% of Independents do as well. What’s more, while 77% of those who live along the Great Lakes want the compact, about 83% of those who live outside of the Great Lakes basin want it as well, showing that protecting the Great Lakes is a concern to all state residents—not just those who live along its shores.

Anne Sayers, program director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, said that the poll also indicates that residents want a strong compact, one that would set water conservation guidelines, ensure that the public would be involved in any water diversion request, eliminate a loophole for commercial water bottlers and require that water returned to the Great Lakes is of good quality.

“This poll shows that Wisconsin residents are interested in doing the right thing,” Sayers said. Capitol watchers expect legislation to implement the compact to be introduced soon. But whether it will be as strong as Wisconsin residents want is yet to be seen.

The League is organizing its conservation lobby day at the Capitol next Wednesday, when voters will discuss the compact and other natural resource protection measures with their legislators.

Midwest Job Cuts: Although residents have worked hard to keep the airline locally owned and operated, despite a strong takeover bid made by AirTran, Midwest Air Group announced that it’ll be cutting about 400 jobs. The airline will use SkyWest Airlines Inc. to handle its Midwest Connect jet flights. The employees to be cut are represented by unions; the SkyWest employees are not. Midwest is still hoping to be sold to the investment group TPG Capital/Northwest Airlines, but the deal hasn’t been approved by federal antitrust regulators. Midwest Chairman and CEO Timothy Hoeksema called the jobcut announcement “painful.”

Changes in St. Francis: Stark Investments is buying up more land along Lake Michigan and has decided to take a pass on buying the Cousins Center, the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Stark is buying land just south of its current offices, and plans to build two 100,000square-foot buildings. Once that’s finished, its 100 Milwaukee employees will move down to the site.

Just So You Know: State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and state Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) want you to know if your child is not receiving a comprehensive sex education at school. They’ve introduced a bill that requires school districts that teach abstinence-only sex ed programs to notify parents that students are not learning about contraception, for example, or STD prevention. The two Democrats say that abstinence-only sex ed doesn’t lead to fewer pregnancies or STDs, and that kids should be fully informed of what they need to do to stay safe and healthy.

Game On?: Who knew that one of the most obscure offices in city government could create so much heat? The race between state Rep. Pedro Colon and Grant Langley for city attorney, a position Langley has held for years, is now officially declared interesting.

After Langley told a reporter that he’d debate Colon “anytime, anywhere,” Colon responded with an offer to debate eight times around the city. Colon campaign spokesman Andrew Sharp said Langley has not accepted the proposal as of press time.

But he invited Langley to call 755-2290 to set up the debate schedule.

We Need New Blood: The latest state report on the Milwaukee County workforce shows that the county lost residents between 2000 and 2007, and we’re getting older. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development found that the city of Milwaukee, West Allis, Greendale, Whitefish Bay and Wauwatosa are losing people, while big gains are being made in Oak Creek and Franklin.

The report also found that Milwaukee’s residents are getting older and, as people retire, a labor shortage may be looming in the future. One bright spot, though: While the county has the most highly paid managerial workers, it’s also home to easier-to-fill occupations that only require short-term or moderate-term training. “Having positions available requiring different levels of education or training gives more options to Milwaukee County residents seeking employment,” the report stated.

Building in Bronzeville: The city of Milwaukee has launched a project in the North Side neighborhood of Bronzeville to offer vacant lots for sale for $1. (We’re not kidding.) The offer was made to stimulate homeownership by removing some of the financial barriers in a neighborhood that’s up and coming. More financial incentives are available to help residents build singlefamily homes. For more information, go to www.mkedcd.org/bronzeville/index.html.

Stop E-Waste from Clogging Our Landfills: The state Senate will take up a new measure that would prevent e-waste— such as old computer and TV monitors— from getting into our landfills, where they can leak toxic substances. Under the bill, a manufacturer would be responsible for taking back the old monitors and recycling them properly. A state Senate committee will hear the bill on Thursday.

He’s Back!: Sen. Russ Feingold will hold his Milwaukee County listening session on Friday, Jan. 25, at 4 p.m. in Centennial Hall of the Milwaukee Public Library, 733 N. Eighth St. Feingold has completed 15 years of his 72-counties-a-year listening tour. The Milwaukee stop will be his 21st of 2008, and his 1,101st since 1993.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com.

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