Opinion Archives for 2016-11

Letter To The Editor: Biogas Plant Kewaunee

By Nancy Utesch

On November 15, Governor Walker's appearance and declaration to help Kewaunee County came again in the form of the big industry push for taxpayer monies for both digesters and a biogas plant for our community.


While manure flows most recently from a Luxemburg tap, these technologies are heralded as the silver bullet for Kewaunee, one that is unjustly founded, considering that a number of the mega-farm operations already have digester technologies that have not inhibited their egregious, repetitive, contributions to Kewaunee's pollution and well contamination of 1/3 of the tested wells in the County, poisoned with high nitrates, e-coli—or both.


The Governor did not discuss increased enforcement, an end to voluntary compliance, or an increased role for his dismantled DNR, and his appointed DNR Secretary, Cathy Stepp, who was in attendance.


The industry excitedly applauded the visit which took place at the Heritage Farm, a site evidentially chosen so that celebratory announcements and participants would not be overcome by the toxic emissions of the currently operating digesters, emitting hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane, and dangerous VOC's [volatile organic compounds] into the ambient air surrounding digester operation and those exposed downwind.


Certainly the industries that currently dispose their industrial wastes in northeast Wisconsin hope to further externalize their "industry" waste products used to "stoke" digester and biogas use to our community and its residents.


Many residing around the now industrial farming complexes do not care to bolster the industry's growth through more taxpayer subsidies and the failed promises of addressing water quality issues-- while greatly tainting our already graded "F" air quality in Door and Kewaunee Counties according to the American Lung Association.


Both Door and Kewaunee County residents need to loudly vocalize their opposition to this taxpayer boondoogle, and the continuing massive regulatory failure, and its continued devastation of the air and water of northeast Wisconsin, and the resulting human health threats, plunging property values, and diminished quality of life issues for disenfranchised community members where we live.


Beautiful northeast Wisconsin is not a "sacrifice zone" for industry--- we do not want a Biogas Plant in Northeast Wisconsin!


Nancy Utesch

Kewaunee CARES  [Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Stewardship]

November 21, 2016

Letter to the Editor

By Mike Orlock

It was Nieitzsche who said, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." And the always acerbic H. L. Mencken once observed, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want...and deserve to get it good and hard."


My feelings regarding the looming presidency of Donald Trump lie somewhere between these two cheery bromides. The optimist in me leans to Nietzsche, one of Adolf Hitler's favorite philosophers. After all, following der Fuhrer's administration, look how Germany has prospered in the last half century. Sure, they may have had a few dark years there in the 1940s, but things seem on the uptick these days. Even if "The Donald" turns out to be "The Bust," we may have to wait only a decade or two before we're whistling on the sunny side of the street again, right?


The pessimist in me, however, thinks that Mencken might be closer to the reality of things. Based upon what I have seen and heard in the President-elect's first post-election week, I think anyone who cares about some of those cherished American ideals we love to point to as proof of our "exceptionalism" is in for a serious reaming.


Consider some of the following: In response to questions that his victory in the electoral college but impending loss of the popular vote puts him in the same position as George W. Bush, seeking to bridge a divide in the electorate that might temper some of his more extreme positions, Trump scoffed at the notion that his wasn't a landslide victory. Maybe that's why he intends to leave much of the work in Washington to his "staff" and continue doing rallies around the country, feeling the love of his supporters in his never-ending campaign to make America great again. (Idea for Team Trump: start charging for tickets with prices comparable to the Stones and Beyonce; that way he can actually work on deficit reduction during his proposed 2017 U.S. Tour.)


Speaking of Washington, that "swamp" Trump has pledged to drain, I find it both interesting and ironic that the team he has assembled to accomplish this campaign promise is a veritable Who's Who of Washington insiders and lobbyists. Trump seems to think his logic here is, like every thought bubble emanating from His Imperial Orangeness, brilliant: who better than the alligators to know all the secrets of the swamp? Yes, and who better to trust with protection of the chicken coop than the foxes who routinely raid it?


With regard to some of the ugly incidents that have taken place throughout the country following this incredibly negative campaign (which Trump, by the way, doesn't regret one iota because he won), protests in major cities and some vile attacks on Muslims and immigrants, Trump's take is that it's unfortunate but some of it might be the fault of "professionals." The people who are doing these things should (and I quote) "stop it." Enough said. Now that he's unified the country, he can get busy preparing to govern the world's most complicated economy and culturally diverse society with the same flair and authority that made him a star on "The Apprentice."


He still maintains that "The Wall" between Mexico and the United States will be built, although he's no longer sure that Mexico will pick up the check. He's also not sure if it will be a wall or a fence, but believe him, it will be beautiful, folks, this is what he does for a living. However, some of his surrogates have recently suggested that The Wall "The Boss" is talking about is more metaphor than mortar: think Roger Waters as architect and Pink Floyd as construction company. (Another Idea for Team Trump: Roger Waters and Pink Floyd, reunited, as the opening act for the 2017 Keep Making America Great Again Tour. You can probably double ticket prices and get to that balanced budget and deficit reduction in half the time.)


As for such mundane things as healthcare reform (of the reform known as Obamacare), banking reform (of the reform known as Dodd-Frank), infrastructure renovation (which has languished in Congress since President Obama had the audacity to propose it), foreign policy, terrorism, poverty, racism, climate change, pollution, disease, etc, etc, etc...don't sweat it. He's all over those things, big league!


Yeah, these next four years are going to fly by. To quote Trump's own campaign anthem, "It's the end of the world as we know it..."


Mike Orlock

Sturgeon Bay, WI

Letter To The Editor: My Response To The Mayor's Letter

By Dan Collins, Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront

Dear Editor,
I believe the Mayor's recent letter has promoted some falsehoods. I appreciate the opportunity to address some of them briefly.
The Mayor obscures the fact that the DNR's Ordinary High Water Mark concurrence was made for only a part of one parcel, number 100, and implies it should somehow cover both parcels, numbers 92 and 100. The hotel development requires both parcels 92 and 100. To be clear, the City knowingly has not asked for, or obtained, an OHWM determination for the hotel parcel at 92 East Maple Street. To say otherwise suggests a lack knowledge of the facts or an intention to deceive.
Contrary to the Mayor's speculation about the Friends' dissatisfaction with the DNR, the suit is directed solely and specifically at the City for its transgressions in failing to defend the State Constitution by its attempts to sell public trust land for private development and for acting outside of their authority.
In an attempt to resolve the dispute after unsuccessful negotiations with the City, the Friends met productively several times with the Developer. The Developer suggested a new hotel location at the West Waterfront. This new hotel location was acceptable to both the Developer and the Friends. At one meeting, the Developer and Friends were joined by Representative Joel Kitchens. That new location was embodied in a letter sent to the City and also informally presented to the City by Representative Kitchens. The new location supported development potential for both the hotel and a brewpub on the West Waterfront property within the TIF. The Mayor's statement that this offer is "a worse outcome... than if the City lost the lawsuit." defies logic. We implore him to reconsider his rejection.
It seems the Mayor is either intending to mislead, or absent knowledge when he says the legislation enacted for Milwaukee is nearly identical to Sturgeon Bay. The Milwaukee Legislation is predicated on a prior existing agreement from 1913 which created a foundation for the legislative action. No such prior agreement exists to guide legislation here in Sturgeon Bay. If legislation succeeds in Sturgeon Bay, look out Egg Harbor, look out Fish Creek, look out
miles of waterfront towns and villages for public shores being filled and then commercially developed in Door County.
The City has several courses of action. They could ask the DNR for an OWMH determination on Parcel 92. They could come back to the negotiating table to discuss the waterfront location approved by both the Developer and the Friends. Alternately, they could keep their head in the sand, waste more time and money while they continue blaming the public for defending our public trust rights found in our State Constitution. A map of the proposed location and more can be found at http://www.friendsofsturgeonbaypublicwaterfront.com/ .
Dan Collins
Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront

Letter To The Editor

By Thad Birmingham

Dear Editor,
Recently a letter written by Dan Collins dated October 25, 2016 on behalf of the Friends of the
Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront was delivered and printed by several media outlets in Door
County. Mr. Collins' letter is very misleading and outright erroneous. The letter relates to the
issue to the proposed hotel development on Sturgeon Bay's west side. In it he states that the City
has not received an Ordinary High Water Mark determination from the DNR. That is incorrect.
The DNR has reviewed the development plan in relation to the ordinary high water mark. In fact,
the City was required to make significant adjustments to the plan to accommodate the DNR's
determination. There are no objections to the project from the DNR. Clearly, the Friends group is
dissatisfied with the decision of the DNR regarding where the new development can occur, but to
imply that the DNR was not consulted or aware of the situation is ridiculous. The Friends group
acknowledges that the DNR is the authority in matters pertaining to the ordinary high water mark,
yet they chose to sue the city, not once but twice, while never pursuing DNR with their claims.
It is important for the people of Sturgeon Bay to know that the redevelopment plan for West Side
enhances public use of, and access to, the waterfront. The proposed sale of land for the hotel
development amounts to less than an acre and is less than one-quarter of the overall site. The
largest portion of the site is proposed to be developed into a public park and promenade,
including all of the land fronting on the water. If the site is developed as currently envisioned by
the City, there will be more publicly owned land after the project is complete than before the
project started.
Mr. Collins' letter brings up a recent act of the legislature to define a section of the ordinary high
water mark in Milwaukee and he contends it bears no resemblance to the Sturgeon Bay situation.
On the contrary, the Milwaukee situation is nearly identical to Sturgeon Bay's. Both involve a
parcel that has been dry land for decades, both involve the sale of land for private development,
both have the approval of the local government and acquiescence from the DNR, and both
involve basing the ordinary high water mark on an historical documents (in Sturgeon Bay's case
on the shoreline from the state-approved bulkhead line ordinance along with other maps and data
frequently used by DNR in making such determinations). One difference between the two cases is
that in Milwaukee the subject site was publicly owned and used for quite some time, while in
City of Sturgeon Bay 920-746-2900 (Voice)
421 Michigan Street Thad Birmingham 920-746-2905 (Fax)
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235 Mayor sbmayor@sturgeonbaywi.org
Sturgeon Bay the majority of the property to be sold for the hotel has been owned by the city for
just a few years. It was purchased for the purpose of spurring development and creating a public
park and was privately held for over one hundred years prior.
Finally, the Collins letter states that an alternate location for the hotel was rejected by the City.
The City has not formally reviewed or made any decision on any alternate hotel sites. It did,
however, review and reject a settlement offer from the Friends group relative to the location of
the ordinary high water mark. The offer was deemed to be a worse outcome for the city, and those
that live here, than if the City lost the lawsuit. Furthermore the alleged compromise sought to
bind other property that is not a part of the Friends complaint.
With its redevelopment effort, the City is trying to remediate and improve a blighted property,
(remember the old CO-OP buildings?), increase the economic vitality of the west side downtown,
and improve public use and access to the waterfront. While some are opposed to the specific hotel
project, it will be a catalyst for accomplishing those worthy goals. Why the Friends and listed
plaintiffs see these objectives as contrary to the public interest is beyond me. In my time on the
Council, and as Mayor I have always thought it a good outcome when public access to the water
ways can be improved while removing blighted property without an impact on local property
Mr. Collins, the named plaintiffs and Friends are free to issue as many statements, press releases,
Facebook posts, websites and other forms of communicating their disinformation in an effort to
justify their position and actions as they see fit. Unlike the Friends group, the City has an
obligation to act in the best interest of, and on behalf of, all the residents of the city and the city as
a municipal corporation. The Friends and Mr. Collins, only have the burden of acting in their
interest and serving their own point of view. Fortunately for the residents of the City of Sturgeon
Bay this matter is before a judge and the issues will be resolved as a matter of law, not opinion
and misinformation.
Very truly yours,
Thad Birmingham
Mayor, City of Sturgeon Bay

Letter To The Editor: Oppose Flawed Legislation That Would Give Away Public Lands

The City of Sturgeon Bay has informally requested that elected officials enact a state law that would impact Sturgeon Bay's public waterfront and permit a sale to a private developer. This is based on multiple sources from an event this fall.


The Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront find this idea flawed in concept and structure.


The conceptual flaw is self-evident. If legislation is needed to sell a filled lakebed to a private developer, then doing so without legislation is outside the law. The Friends see the requested legislation as the City's fundamental admission of its own transgressions.


Structurally this idea is flawed, as well. The beds of navigable lakes are public lands that generally cannot be developed for private usage. This is according to the Wisconsin Constitution's public trust doctrine. Artificially filled lakebed remains public trust property, regardless of how long ago the fill was placed, and is prohibited from being sold or developed for private purposes. This constitutional principle has been upheld by courts in cases spanning over a century.


Asking for legislation from Madison is an unnecessary overreach. The mechanism is already in place to allow DNR professionals to make an Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) determination using appropriate analysis based on local conditions. The City has not asked for, or obtained, an OHWM determination for 92 East Maple (one of two parcels the hotel plans to build on).

This legislative action would set a problematic precedent. It is an overreach available to those that are politically connected. If successful, it could upend the existing DNR process. Once used here in Sturgeon Bay, such legislation could allow developers to build on other lakebeds in Door County and elsewhere, lakebeds which should be held in trust for the public.


Using legislation to take public lakebeds for private development is a conservation issue that will activate significant opposition from Wisconsin's bipartisan conservation community. Conservation of public resources has broad support and a proud history in Wisconsin.


The State Legislature is charged with not only preventing the endangerment of the public trust, but it must also take affirmative steps to protect the trust. The public trust language clearly states that any legislation that would alter the provisions of the trust must be done only to enhance or improve the public benefit. The proposed development in Sturgeon Bay's West Waterfront clearly does not meet this constitutional litmus test.


The legislature has acted only once in the recent past to redefine the OHWM. In the Milwaukee Transit Center case the legislature acted to reaffirm a 1913 contract with the railroad, where the historic agreement drew a boundary that the legislature recognized as the OHWM. The Sturgeon Bay hotel development bears no resemblance to this. There is no historic agreement that could be recognized as a basis for the legislature to find that the Westside Waterfront property is not part of the public trust. Legislation would remove public trust lands at no gain to the public, in areas that have always been devoted to navigation-related and harbor improvements.


The Sturgeon Bay hotel development also bears no resemblance to the Milwaukee Harbor or Monona Terrace cases. Unlike Monona Terrace, the hotel will not be owned by a public body, will not provide or enhance public access to Sturgeon Bay, and is primarily a for-profit commercial enterprise, not a recreational facility providing public access for enjoyment of natural scenic beauty.


The legislature's approval of the Sturgeon Bay private commercial development on filled lakebed would, for the first time, sanction a giveaway of public property for a private purpose with no corresponding benefit to the public. The City's rationale that development is needed to fund a tax increment is completely untethered from any navigation-related public purpose; it is simply a broad "public welfare" argument. If the legislature accepts this rationale, not grounded in recognized public trust purposes, there will be no principled basis to refuse any claim by any municipality that selling public trust lands is necessary for local development objectives.


Finally, another hotel location option that was acceptable to both the Friends group and the developer, was proposed to the City but has since been rejected by the City.


The City's idea that now, while they are on the losing end of a lawsuit, a legislative "fix" is needed is wrong-headed on many levels.



Dan Collins

Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront


Sturgeon Bay: The HeART of Door County

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Civil Discourse An Occasional Attempt To Restore Civility To Our Civic Discourse

By Roger Utnehmer

Civil Discourse

An Occasional Attempt To Restore

Civility To Our Civic Discourse




President and CEO

November 3, 2016

"Sturgeon Bay:  The HeART of Door County"


Sturgeon Bay has no problem listening to a local brain trust can't make better.

Retired  marketing genius Tom Jordon is an example.  His recent books, which are pictorial histories of Door County, show the rich traditions, personalities and natural resources that create character and charm.  During Tom's developing love affair with all things Sturgeon Bay and Door County he recognized the arts as a potential economic development turbo-charged engine of growth.


And now for the genius part.


Tom suggests that Sturgeon Bay be marketed as "Sturgeon Bay:  The HeART of Door County."  That verbal and visual image could unify every area arts organization and the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Bureau and make the county's largest city it's "Arts Heart."


After a thirty-year career, capped as CEO of one of America's best advertising agencies, Jordon has become an active contributor to a better community.  His first book, "The Secret Treasures of Door County: Sturgeon Bay," is available for purchase at the Door County Community Foundation, with all proceeds donated to the foundation. (Hint...buy a copy for Christmas.). His second will be out soon.


To expand on the suggestion that Sturgeon Bay be marketed as "The HeART of Door County," the local arts community, comprised with a significant millennial component, does have potential to become an economic development turbo-charged engine of growth.


By working to foster celebration of artists, Sturgeon Bay can bring people together.

With a focus on becoming more millennial-friendly, young artists can be made to feel welcome and respected.


Just look to the recently-formed Steel Bridge Arts District.  Composed of Popelka Trenchard Glass, The Holiday Music Motel and Margaret Lockwood Gallery, these art entrepreneurs are generating tax dollars, creating jobs and becoming a tourist magnet.


Sturgeon Bay has an under-utilized band shell in Martin Park.  Making it available to near-adults and young adults for performances could foster a better relationship between a generation in Sturgeon Bay that often expresses a sense of estrangement from the power structure.  Creating an expanded role for city government to bring millennials into the fabric of our community can start with artists.


Other communities successfully reduced the paperwork and fees to rent facilities, promoted "plug and play" opportunities for musicians, welcomed young chalk artists with "ChalkFests," and promoted a "Year of the Arts."


What suggestions do you have to connect under-employed artists, ranging from poets and authors, to glass-blowers and painters, to song-writers and performers with the many under-utilized facilities available in what could become the HeART of Door County?


Visionaries like Tom Jordon see promotion of the arts as an economic development turbo-charged engine of growth.


That's my opinion.  I'd like to hear YOURS.

Letter To The Editor: The Kitchens File: Willing To Compromise

After overhearing a comment made by a Door County supervisor, who stated a preference for re-electing Joel Kitchens to the state Assembly and the reason was because, "Joel was willing to compromise," that caused me to review two meanings of the word.  Obviously, this person was under the impression that Mr Kitchens, in being, "willing to compromise," meant that our incumbent representative was someone functioning in this elected office as a go between, a broker, or a mediator,  in order to resolve situations to the MUTUAL benefit of two or more interests, on any given issue.

Aside from my personal dismay that someone serving in our county government, in my view, is irretrievably delusional in holding that particular view of Mr Kitchens, I would offer that there are several reasons that squarely place Mr Kitchens' legislative performance predominantly under another definition of the phrase, "willing to compromise."  The other definition is the negative form of compromise.  Unnecessarily sacrificed, short changed, rendered unsafe, exposed to danger, handed over without consideration of the publics' best interests or attaining reciprocal advantage, describes negative compromise.

Not from Rep Kitchens alone, but from our entire current GOP state majority we see a continuous self-interest fed, "willingness to compromise."  In other words, short change us all except for their political interest toward retention of power and for the special interests of large corporate campaign donors.  Deleterious compromises made to our constitutional rights, to public health, to public safety, to environmental protection, to future state financial viability, against living wage issues, against public schools and universities, disrespecting our military veteran concerns, and compromises made to our state's former national prestige, against past model good government and civic leadership, unfortunately is the present and foreseeable GOP normal.

So when you hear Rep Joel Kitchens criticize his opponent Lynn Utesch, as he did during the recent LWV forum at Southern Door, telling the audience that Mr Utesch was unsuitable for governing because Lynn Utesch had stated he was, "unwilling to compromise," carefully think twice before reacting.

Keeping in mind how detrimental this GOP majority, including Joel Kitchens, has been to Wisconsin with their being, "willing to compromise," just about anything Wisconsinites have always held dear, from open government and a sustainable natural environment, to our real hope for an imaginative and decent, productive future for most of us and our children, there is no viable alternative.   Please vote Lynn Utesch for Assembly on November 8.  Our very survival as a state we can call home, depends on it.

Donald Freix

Fish Creek

Letter to the Editor: Do not vote for Mr. Kitchens

Joel Kitchens, should not receive our votes for re-election to the Assembly, reasons why:


Governor Walker's proposals to cut public school funding have been supported by Mr. Kitchens. Yes, as typical, the Governor proposes conservative BIG cuts and as an appeasement image the Republicans "restore" a pittance to curry voter favor.  But, what matters is the actual amount of dollars going to kids through time.


Mr. Kitchens supported the statewide private school voucher program increases each of the next ten years, after which enrollment caps are removed altogether.  He said at the League of Women Voter Debate: "Voucher schools are not a problem here; we have no voucher schools."   The truth:  $800 Million will be taken away from the education of children attending Wisconsin public schools to fund voucher schools, affecting their lives and their education.  Mr. Kitchens is complicit in these thefts from Wisconsin's Constitution guarantee of access to public education.


Mr. Kitchens rejected the latest of three Department of Public Instruction "Fair Funding" proposals by Secretary Evers, plans that can hold property taxes and provide needed funds to Public Schools.  Nor has he told us of a DPI report in September of 2015 that reported 53 Voucher Schools received $139, 617, 701 of State Taxes and spontaneously closed / causing mid-year chaos to the rescuing public schools and these children and parents.


The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (August 12, 2016) reports that net general aid payments to school districts declined nearly $200 million between the 2010 and 2015-16 school years. The vast majority of school districts received less state aid in 2015 than in 2010.  As state aid decreases, districts are forced to rely more and more on local funding.  Mr. Kitchens does not tell us that time consuming and expensive local public school referenda, in effect, pull more hidden tax $$ from local taxpayers.  Nor does he reveal that referenda hurt economically challenged areas the most. Nor has Mr. Kitchens told us he supports sustaining yearly tax deductions of $4,000 / elementary pupil and $10,000 / high school student tuitions.   A $60,000 tax escape for private school tuition payments.


Mr. Kitchens does not tell us that per pupil revenue also declined the last 5 years.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports Wisconsin with a 14.2% reduction in per pupil revenue, the 8th largest cut in the nation between 2008 and 2014.  These cuts have caused incalculable damage to the teaching profession; teachers leaving because take home wages declined, UW Oshkosh revealed a 26% decline in Education majors.


Higher Education: The legislature cut $250 Million from the University of Wisconsin, one of the nation's leading research institutes and a major driver for Wisconsin's economy. The cuts forced layoffs and dampened salaries across-the-board. Top faculty are being lured away. In February 2016, the University Extension—nationally recognized for bringing business and agricultural research to rural communities around the state—announced a new round of layoffs,


Mr. Kitchens' policies have undermined support for public schools.  The voucher system will further drain resources away from public schools in the years ahead.   Mr. Kitchens has not fulfilled his promise to protect public education.  This is the overriding issue confronting our state and does, today, and in the future will cause continuing weakening of our local public schools.  Mr. Kitchens' claims about support for specific projects to help public education are ill-funded and deceptive diversions that hide this larger truth.


How to fix this?  Vote for a true advocate for Public Education who will support public schools, Lynn Utesch, for Assembly.


Wayne Kudick, Fish Creek.

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