Dom’s Domain Politics: Pervasive Walker Budget Leads Every County to Search for its own ‘Downer Woods’

Dom Noth of Dom’s Domain Politics has an excellent writeup of just how pervasive Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is when it comes to changing policy in Wisconsin.

Here’s a snippet from Noth’s piece, which I’d encourage you all to read in its entirety for yourselves.

The growing community anger over Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to delete conservation and architectural protection for Downer Woods — a beloved nature haven and historical beacon of the UWM campus– could quickly radiate statewide.

Legislators in 71 counties outside Milwaukee are only now becoming aware of serpents within the thousand or more deletions and adjustments in Walker’s two year budget proposal. But their own residents are already there in blogs and bothersome questions to local editors and officials. They are worried about their own backyard, from absence of regulation on frac sand mining to manure dumped directly into nearby rivers.

That search for their own hidden “Downer Woods” problem is engaging citizen researchers, the everyday citizens who more quickly uncovered the assault on Downer Woods.

Their exposure of how Walker was trying to delete laws on the books under Gov. Tommy Thompson stirred noted historian and influential writer John Gurda to comment even ahead of local media, local politicians and UWM’s denial of any involvement.

“For well over a century, Downer Woods has survived threats from developers, overzealous university administrators and invasive species,” Gurda wrote me. “It would be a tragedy if this remnant of our ecological past fell victim to a governor who’s entirely willing to sacrifice long-term beauty for short-term gain. Scott Walker literally can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Minutes later on March 3, UWM spoke out to the state citizens.

“UWM did not ask for the changes to state law that remove the legislative protection for the Downer Woods property and buildings,” said Tom Luljak, the vice chancellor of university relations and communications and also a popular moderator on WUWM radio, Milwaukee’s home for NPR. “The University has no plans to develop or sell the Downer property or buildings and is presuming that the current protections for Downer Woods would be maintained by the Public Authority that is being proposed for the UW System.”

But Walker would appoint the majority of the “Public Authority” under his budget proposal. So the UWM hands are technically tied. Madison holds the purse strings that affect the fate of the “distinguished survivor” — as Gurda calls the Downer Woods.

Downer Woods is an early crack in the mammoth Walker budget glacier creeping over the state. What precious resource or family heritage is under threat in your town? In counties west, north and south of Milwaukee, questions are being raised that could turn “Where Is Your Downer Woods?” into an investigative mantra.

Already being discussed are  power grabs involving campus energy plants, friendly greenery suddenly opened up to unwanted retail, wetlands and grassy knolls your kids play on vanishing in shaky land deals as Walker freezes conservation purchases for 13 years, research parks closed, community zones removed from local control,  voucher and charter schools expanded with taxpayer money  regardless of what parents want or children need,  under-reported removal of fiscal oversight on private for-profit colleges.  
Few local citizens, however, have the time and resources of those well funded minions of ALEC and the Walker bureaucrats who concocted so many incursions that can’t be explained away as “drafting errors.”


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2 thoughts on “Dom’s Domain Politics: Pervasive Walker Budget Leads Every County to Search for its own ‘Downer Woods’

  1. Great post.

    How about an article on the budget provision that would require the county to be the responsible party for ANNUAL property assessment rather than the seven year cycle normally done by the local municipality? This change is proposed by the DOR as a “bold new plan” to streamline state government. But the reality is that it will eliminate 5 state DOR positions, yet create a need for each county to add staff to get the work done. In our rural northern county it will require us to hire 6-7 staff, plus about $800,000 a year in expenses. All the state municipal associations are opposed, but I have seen nothing in the press.

    Happy digging.

    1. How many ways can Walker screw local government? If he isn’t seizing power, he’s expanding their costs and thereby increasing local taxes.

      It’s enough to make one pull out his hair!

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