Sunday, January 17, 2010

Flip-flopping Doyle on Major DNR Issue

Here is an interesting article from the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune about how Governer James Doyle quickly changed his position as soon as he removed himself from the re-election running.  Some would say that this isnt a surprise.

MADISON -- Question: When can an elected official ignore his constituency at no risk to his political career?

Answer: When he no longer is a candidate.

Thus, Gov. James Doyle -- a lame duck in political parlance -- has vetoed Assembly Bill 138, which removes authority to appoint the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources from the governor's office and returns it to the Natural Resources Board.

Doyle announced this past summer that he would not seek re-election, then proceeded to veto the bill, irritating supporters of the legislation who have fought for years to take DNR leadership and decision-making out of the political arena.

"This is a bill that has been sought by hunters, anglers, trappers and others interested in the outdoors for the last 14 years," wrote George Meyer, head of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, an umbrella group encompassing more than 120 outdoor-related citizen organizations throughout the state.

Even more frustrating to the bill's proponents is that Doyle switched sides on the issue, even using his early support for restoring Natural Resources' Board control to his political advantage.

"Remind the governor that he fought to change to a governor's appointed secretary in 1995 when he was attorney general," Meyer urged his constituency in an e-mail.

"Also remind him that when he ran for governor in 2002 and 2006, he ran for office indicating he wanted the Natural Resources Board to appoint the DNR secretary."

Meyer pointed out that 85 percent to 90 percent of those voting at the state's annual fish and game spring hearings favored Natural Resources Board control of the secretary position.

"The governor has repeatedly appeared before the Conservation Congress and many other groups indicating that he would sign the bill," Meyer added.

So why has Doyle backtracked?

Apparently the view from the governor's chair does not provide the same perspective as a seat outside that arc of power.

Doyle has said the DNR is better off under gubernatorial control and that returning the secretary a Natural Resources Board position "harms a strong environmental agenda."

Proponents of the bill contend that when DNR's key administrator serves at the discretion of the governor, that official is subject to being swayed by initiatives likely to keep the governor in office.

It's no secret that DNR personnel feel less secure commenting on fish and wildlife issues than they did in the past. Agency personnel worry about offending key legislators, causing the governor to lose political capital.

Prior to gubernatorial control, it was common for the DNR secretary to take the lead role in addressing legislative initiatives affecting the agency or the hunting and fishing public. Rarely is the secretary heard these days.

Before the position became a gubernatorial appointee, the DNR secretary typically had a strong background in the natural resource field.

Since becoming governor, Doyle has appointed two DNR secretaries with little training in natural resources. His first selection was from the publishing industry and the current choice was an administrator in the criminal justice system.

Now we have a huge brouhaha over the DNR's deer management policies, which resulted in a 2009 gun deer season buck kill that is the lowest in nearly 30 years.

Deer hunters are upset. Should some of their ire be directed at the governor? After all ... he's been in charge of the agency for the past eight years.

Author: By Jim Lee • Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers • January 17, 2010

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