Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. April 10, 2023.
Editorial: Lackluster results don’t justify DNR’s delay
We’ve talked about the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ multiple failures with regard to wolf management several times in previous editorials. Reluctantly, we’re returning to the issue again.
Last week’s release of approximately 3,500 comments received by the department on the subject was the definition of a Friday news dump. The strategy behind such a move is to make an announcement Friday in hopes that, by the time it’s noticed, most people are too far along in their weekend planning to care. In short, it’s a way to bury items you don’t want the public to notice.
And it’s obvious why the DNR would want this to sail past people. They had no option that wouldn’t result in complaints. Some groups advocate for annual wolf culls to reduce the numbers in Wisconsin. Others oppose any such steps. And both sides have some very vehement voices who were not going to be satisfied with anything other than capitulation.
We’re not taking a position on whether annual culls are a good idea for the simple reason that we’re not experts in animal population management. Bureaucratic incompetence, on the other hand, is something we’ve seen plenty of times. We feel fully qualified to comment on that.
Some of the comments released are from thoughtful, considered papers written by people who have clearly spent a great deal of time examining the issue of wolf populations in Wisconsin. Many of those, both from pro- and anti-hunting groups, include significant numbers of footnotes that underscore the time and effort put into reaching their conclusions.
Others, unsurprisingly, were handwritten letters of varying legibility. And a third set of comments, which comprise a bit more than half of the 1,540 pages released by the DNR, were submitted online.
In all cases, the vast majority of redactions were to remove address and contact information for those submitting their comments. That’s simple enough when dealing with the online comments. They were presented in spreadsheet form, so you simply delete columns. We’ll grant that the other submissions required more time for careful redactions, but we have a hard time seeing how that work took six weeks from the cutoff for submissions.
Neither the redactions nor the compilation of the comments into a single pdf seem to warrant the delays the DNR had in releasing the material. That’s especially true, as we noted back in March when the DNR announced the delay, when the department knew the deadline for comments was approaching. How could it not? It set the deadline.
In March, we called that an “unforced error” and argued the delays were problematic. The stated goal of redacting personal information and making the comments easily accessible, were understandable enough. But, while the DNR succeeded in the former, it utterly failed in the latter. Dumping a 1,540-page pdf onto a website makes an archive accessible. It does not make the archive’s content particularly easy to sort or parse.
Nor does the dump make it easier to sort useful commentary from things like the person advocating for the state to “Harvest humans not wildlife.” While such comments should not be deleted (we can only hope they’re facetious), some effort at helping people sift useful comments from nonsense would at least have partially justified the delay. So, for that matter, would any effort on the DNR’s part to allow readers to sort by whether the commenter is a Wisconsin resident.
While the release of public comments is laudable, if belated, we can’t help but think this could have been handled differently. It could have been done in a better and timelier manner. It’s another fumble by a department that has had plenty on this issue already.
Kenosha News. April 9, 2023.
Editorial: Supreme Court race only opening round of in-state politics
In an historic and high-spending race for control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz crushed former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly.
Protasiewicz garnered more than a million votes compared to Kelly’s 818,000 – a margin of 55.5% to 44.5%.
The vote gave liberal justices a slim 4-3 majority on the state’s high court as it faces a lineup of cases that include abortion rights, redistricting and state election rules in the months ahead.
It marks the first time the court will have a liberal bent in 15 years and Democrats were celebrating the opportunity Tuesday night. Protasiewicz made abortion rights the centerpiece of her campaign, implying to voters that she will overturn Wisconsin’s near-total ban on abortion after the state’s 1849 ban kicked in when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
Kelly was backed by pro-life groups.
If ideologies of the two candidates were striking, so was the spending in this race. News reports said spending on the race topped $45 million, three times the previous record for spending on a state judicial race.
But if Democrats were giddy over the Supreme Court swing, they might want to temper that with a look at the 8th Senate District where Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, narrowly defeated Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin. Knodl’s win gives Republicans a supermajority in the state Senate – 22 seats in the 33-member body.
And that gives Republican senators the ability to impeach and remove “civil officers” without input from Democrats, if the state Assembly also votes to do so.
Knodl, who supported false claims that Trump won the 2020 election and signed a letter asking Vice President Mike Pence to not certify Wisconsin’s vote, said during his campaign he would “certainly consider” impeaching Judge Janet Protasiewicz and other judges for being weak on crime. Presumably that would apply only to her job as a Milwaukee County judge – and not to her new post on the Supreme Court which she will assume this summer.
That’s the real political landscape that Wisconsin faces in the months ahead – bitter, rancorous, brass-knuckle battles between the state’s two parties – no matter the results of Tuesday’s Democrat win.
For evidence, we have only to point to Kelly’s “concession speech” Tuesday night in which he said, “I wish that in circumstances like this I would be able to concede to a worthy opponent, but I do not have a worthy opponent to which I can concede.”
“My opponent is a serial liar. She’s disregarded judicial ethics; she’s demeaned the judiciary with her behavior. This is the future that we have to look forward to in Wisconsin. I wish Wisconsin the best of luck, because I think it’s going to need it.”
Tuesday’s election may have reshaped the makeup of the state Supreme Court, but it also kicked up some dust and triggered a whole new round of political battles.
Buckle up, Wisconsin.