Saturday, March 29, 2008

Endorsements for April 1, 2008 Election!

We have lots of ideas about how the county can be made more sustainable, and self reliant. We wish that local citizens could implement these ideas on their own, but unfortunately, most of us do not have the financial resources and wherewithal to push these on a larger scale. The cost of land alone precludes the preservation of open space and groundwater, let alone investing in the infrastructure of sustainable transportation, development, and renewable energy without either lots of private monies or a tough, progressive regulatory environment from local and state government that pushes these policies.

Currently, we have a system by which the powers that be, public and private, profit from a status quo system that fails to acknowledge local ecological and resource limits (groundwater, physical space), as well as global issues such as peak oil and climate change. Most of the big money is on big boxes and auto-dependent sprawl type developments such as Jackson Creek in Delavan Township and the Mirbeau-Hummel development on the south side of Lake Geneva (the latter has made a few concessions to some green development principles due to citizen pressure). Therefore, unfortunately, we have to pay attention to the officials we elect and the referendums we vote for to get some change and push us away from becoming Crystal Lake and Lake in the Hills North (without commuter trains and transit buses).

That brings us to Sustainable Walworth's endorsements for the April 1 political contests. These include county board, local village, township and city offices as well as the statewide governor veto referendum, the Mirbeau-Hummel development referendum for Lake Geneva, and the Supreme Court race.

First of all, our endorsements for the statewide races:

Louis Butler for supreme court: His opponent Gableman is bankrolled by the most reactionary big money lobbying outfit in the state, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), staunch defender of powerful economic interests, increased corporate power, and the fossil fools in state and national government. Gableman has also run a dirty campaign based on innuendo, half truths and race baiting, with some of this invective paid for by WMC. Therefore we endorse Louis Butler.

Governor Partial Veto: We advocate voting NO on this referendum, keeping the power of the veto pen as it is. Reactionaries in the state Assembly want carte blanche to push through their disgusting legislation and derail commonsense items such as the Great Lakes Compact. Its funny that they wanted the partial veto when Republicans, including Tommy Thompson controlled the governor’s office and blew up the budget (anyone remember Klauser and his bloated department of administration?)

Local Referendum:

Mirbeau-Hummel – The developers of this project, upon considerable public resistance, have tried to make this project more green by clustering, open space, and some natural area restoration. However, there are too many other things wrong with this project, including lack of specificity in state of the art green building and landscaping practices, likely increases in water usage and runoff, and increased traffic and pollution impacts from what is likely to be several thousand new cars in the area. There is also not enough mixed use – where are the local food sources? Layouts that require significant auto usage. The project projects full build out in 25 years, at which time our oil resource is projected to be severely constrained as we will be past peak in oil production worldwide. Therefore we advocate voting NO on Mirbeau Hummel. Send it back to the drawing board and redesign it for the realities of peak oil.

County Board Races:

District 1 – No enthusiastic endorsement. Neither candidate seems to be addressing sustainability issues. Mr. Muzatko appears to be supporting the status quo. His opponent Rick Stacey wants to streamline zoning and regulation, which could lead to even more sprawl and inappropriate development.

District 2 – Joe Schaefer. He supports protection of natural areas and open space. His opponent Bill Norem supports expansion of large businesses and industry into the county, which could be problematic depending on which businesses come in and whether they would take the tax breaks and run. We are pro-good jobs and economic development, but only where there are environmental and conservation benefits as well (green industry).

District 3 – Ann Lohrmann – Endorsed for desire to address cheap labor economy in the county, bringing in high tech, emphasis on educational issues, and preservation of rural areas.

District 4 – No endorsement – Both candidates seem to want to support status quo – expand tourism (cheap labor and more traffic – I would be more enthusiastic if we had trains or other public transit to bring in the tourists) and liable to decline with peak oil, and “increasing the tax base” without specifics as to how. We all know that many forms of development, while creating short term increases to the tax base, create many costly long-term environmental and economic externalities.

District 5 – No endorsement. Lukewarm candidate platforms.

District 6 – No clear endorsement. Both candidates both want growth to be controlled and responsible, and appear to be open to suggestions on this topic and on keeping/making the county more sustainable.

District 7. Sonja Berg-Schlesner – Clear endorsement here. The incumbent David Weber appears to be supporting the same old status quo stuff, which is the creeping transformation of the county into the typical Chicago sprawlburb. Ms. Schlesner is clearly thinking outside of the box, which is refreshing. She is the only candidate who specifically is advocating for bringing in renewable energy development, and tackling environmental problems in particular. The economy of the future is in addressing these areas. She has a scientific background in conservation biology, which is a refreshing change in government over the same old myopic small-town boosters that typically enter local government.

District 8- Dan Kilkenny. He has expressed interest in smart growth, serving on the Smart Growth Tech Advisory Board and with water/sewer issues, being involved in the Delavan Lake Sanitary District. His opponent Jerry Waelti was a vice president of the Wisconsin Asphalt Pavement Association, standing for Auto-Petroleum industrial complex, Status quo. Kilkenny for District 8.

District 9 - No endorsement. Both candidates fall short. One (Bob Carlson) is a lawn care company owner, which is not a sustainable industry. The second (Jim Van Dreser) says we need growth in residential (demand destruction from no local jobs and peak oil) and retail development (again not future-sustainable and a cheap labor base). Nothing very exciting here.

District 10- Pauline Parker. Not a clear cut difference between the candidates; however she seems more concerned with the environmental aspect of the county and preserving agriculture, which is critical when long-distance food transport becomes uneconomic due to the effects of peak oil.

District 11 – Nancy Russell. Advocates for our water resources, which is highly critical in this lakes region. Her opponent is running for both County Board and Mayor of Lake Geneva. Lake Geneva residents should vote for her opponent, Spyro (Speedo) Condos for mayor of Lake Geneva (not County Board) over his mayoral opponent Bill Chesen, since he is opposed to Mirbeau-Hummel and rampant annexation and expansion of the city boundaries (read cancerous growth). Chesen appears to be firmly within the box of conventional wisdom, a position we cannot afford to take these days.


In our next post, we will tackle an analysis of Mirbeau-Hummel and why we oppose it. This analysis can be also used as a method to critique other large-scale mixed development projects.