Recently, a mining industry-authored bill to fast-track the permitting process for mining operations in Wisconsin….make that for one particular mining operation, narrowly failed to garner enough votes in Wisconsin's Senate, and the doomed bill was pulled by Senate Majority enforcer Scott Fitzgerald, the "Fitz" in FitzWalkerstan, and the mining company/legislators took their promises of jobs galore and sulked away.
At issue were arbitrary deadlines with automatic permit approval when time ran out….or delay succeeded, the termination of any public voice in the approval process, and the state taking a big cut of the tax revenue from whatever locality was torn apart and left with a facade of artificial industrialized nature and water resources unfit for man or beast…or fish…or even microorganisms. The deal turned on one moderate Republican's stand with the people.
And as anticipated, let the political blood-letting begin. From top public officials denied the culmination of their back-room deals with the wizards of industry to angry old men yelling for more particulate-laden skies if only those "activists" stayed off their Capitol's lawn, so much finger pointing you could toss your hat at the news cycle and be sure it wouldn't hit the ground. Then today, into the melee steps the wicked Stepp-daughter of FitzWalkerstan, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, crony extraordinaire.
Issuing a partisan tirade under cover of an official news release from Wisconsin's DNR in bold abuse of a taxpayer-funded agency would seem to most a bridge too far, but this is year 2 of bold, new initiatives in the nation's worst job creating state. Of course, it's far different if a state official submits an editorial in their own name (or signs a petition on personal time), but this is an official release from our own government on DNR letterhead. And just to drive home that politicking on the public dole is official now, the news release is not signed…no name other than "Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources" and its logo at the top.
I found it deeply disturbing that one public official might use the once-good reputation of an entire state agency to personally smear many of Wisconsin's respectable legislators, so I phoned DNR Communications Director Laurel Steffes to verify whether this was Stepp's personal opinion, or a broader DNR initiative. I stated who I was, that I was reading the latest DNR news release, and I was baffled that although the wording in the release was "I was", "I wish", "I think", there was no signature to positively identify who the "I" was.
Asked where I was reading this, I mentioned a link provided by the Wheeler Report, but the document itself was clearly on official Department of Natural Resources letterhead, was titled "Don't Buy the Hyperbole", and there was no name on it, so I couldn't tell if it was the opinion of a single person or the official position of the Department. Ms. Steffes then stated that the release was authored by Cathy Stepp, the Secretary of the DNR.
I continued, asking why then was it not signed by Cathy Stepp. Ms. Steffes seemed baffled at this point, so I asked directly if this news release was the official position of the Department. She answered, "This is the official position of the Secretary." I asked why then didn't the Secretary issue the release with her own letterhead and sign that, instead of using official DNR letterhead without a signature. Ms. Steffes now seemed somewhat alarmed and let slip a little, "Oh, no", then quickly went on to say that she had to go to take care of this matter, that there should be a signature, it would be corrected, then thanked me for bringing this to her attention.
I didn't even have a chance to ask why the news release was dated February 20, 2012, but released on March 9th. Another screw-up? Foresight? Anticipation? Couldn't wait for a chance to nail that "radical environmental" turncoat Schultz and his "Democrat" buddies?
I also missed the chance to ask if it's really part of the DNR's responsibility to officially determine that,
"...the motivation to not allow a potential success for Governor Walker appears to be what really killed the bill"or if it's really true that,
"most citizens of the state trust the DNR to do its job"considering its current partisan leadership.
Minutes later I took another look, and beheld the transformation from a partisan diatribe on the letterhead of a taxpayer-funded agency to a partisan diatribe on the letterhead of a taxpayer-funded agency with a disclaimer! Now it's being billed as a "Guest Column"? That makes it all better now, doesn't it? And the date is corrected, too. That was some really quick updating work.....Or ass-covering, if you will.
Though it gets so routine every day in FitzWalkerstan to feel this way once again, this is so absolutely astonishing!
Finally, a couple lessons from Miss Manners for Ms. Stepp here –
"A good guest offers to help."And of course –
"Guests should not expect to receive *party favors."*My emphasis.
And one more lesson in bad manners –
“Fish and guests stink in three days.”Ms. Stepp, as a "guest" of the State of Wisconsin, I doubt you'll last that long.
Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 3:00 PM PT: Received March 14 from Laurel Steffes:
For the record…Your column is a bit unfair….
This [Word document attached, without letterhead and unsigned] is the original email that was sent to the press list. It was identified in the subject line as a Guest Column from DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.
Trevor at the Wheeler Report wanted to post it on their web page, and asked if we could send him a pdf of it on letterhead.
We used the template for a past press release and missed updating the date. As soon as you brought this to our attention, we corrected it right away.
Laurel F. Steffes
Office of Communication
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources