Let’s give Wisconsin two green thumbs again

“Our elections are free–it’s in the results where we eventually pay.”

-Bill Stern, sports announcer

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters released its list of endorsement for state races last week. Voters concerned about how Wisconsin can both mitigate and adapt to global warming and climate change would do well to study the league’s picks.

Here in southwest Wisconsin, Democrat John Simonson of Mineral Point garnered the endorsement for Assembly District 51. During his more than 40-year career teaching at UW-Platteville, Simonson developed a course titled “The Economics of the Environment.” In 2004 he was named a UW System Wisconsin Idea Fellow for his dedication to building connections between universities and farmers, local businesses, governments, and industries to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness. He sites clean energy jobs as one of the main reasons he chose to run for State Assembly. Simonson would continue much of the fine work that retiring State Senator Steve Hilgenberg, who also endorses Simonson, started. Hilgenberg made the WLCV’s Honor Roll this year and received a perfect score (100%) from the Sierra Club on its legislative scorecard.

Photo by Rick Chamberlin

Perusing the league’s Web site, I was struck by their conservation scorecard maps. They’re color coded to show how green each Assembly and Senate district is (or isn’t) based on the voting records of the representatives currently holding office.

Except for isolated pockets of brown in north central, northeast and southeast Wisconsin, the assembly map is a study in emerald. The senate map, too, is awash in green — except for the “thumb,” the peninsula encompassing Door County and parts of Kewaunee County. It’s an almost unbroken streak of brown, stretching from Rock Island at the tip of the peninsula down to the Illinois border (Wisconsin’s wrist?).

That’s not Fall color on Wisconsin’s thumb. It’s more like gangrene, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors, and it got that way because Republican State Senator Alan Lasee, who will retire this year after 33 years in the legislature, has a lifetime conservation voting record, according to the league, of only 39 percent. This year alone, Lasee voted the wrong way on four pieces of legislation designed to reduce pollution and promote energy efficiency in the state.

All three of the Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to fill Lasee’s seat don’t believe global warming is based on good science.

Fortunately, 1st District voters have another choice: Monk Elmer.

Montgomery “Monk” Elmer, a Democrat, is a family doctor in Kimberly. Elmer has long record of service to his community. He is a fisherman who believes decisions about Wisconsin’s natural resources should be made without political influence. And as a long-time active member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, he’s tuned in to environmental health threats and will be a good watchdog of the two nuclear power plants operating along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Both Assembly District 1 and State Senate District 1 contain all of Door County, which seems appropriate since the county is also first in the number of miles of shoreline–in the entire country. In addition to being a showcase of natural beauty for our state — Door County contains five state parks and numerous land trusts and conservancies — it’s also one of the most biologically rich parts of Wisconsin. Which means it’s highly susceptible to climate change. And because of the tourist dollars spent there, it’s worth billions to Wisconsin’s economic future. I’ll be camping in Door County next week and savoring it’s charms. That conservation values have been so poorly represented there in one branch of our legislature for so many years is nothing short of a shame.

It’s time Wisconsin had two green thumbs again. Mark your calendars. Wisconsin’s partisan primary election is next Tuesday, September 14th. The general election is Tuesday, November 2nd.

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