Hurley Listening Session Fueled By Blame

Rep. Nick Milroy (D-Superior) and Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) hold a listening session in Hurley Wisconsin to listen to citizens speak about the recent mining bill.

On Saturday March 31, Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) held a listening session at the Hurley High School. The purpose was to allow citizens to air their views about the recently stalled legislation that would make it easier for mining companies to do business in Wisconsin. Rep. Milroy (D-Superior) was also in attendance, and they were later joined by Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland).

Sen. Jauch led off the session by carefully walking the public through his bill and SB 488, the Senate version of the bill that was originally AB 426, which included several new amendments attached by Joint Finance Committee Co-chairs Rep. Robin Vos (R-ALEC) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-ALEC). In a press conference earlier in March, Jauch explained why SB 488 was actually a less desirable version of what had been considered by even mining supporters to be a bad bill.

On Saturday in Hurley, Jauch also laid out his attempts to bring consensus to all players involved, including catering to the mining company’s demand for a shorter time frame for permitting, as well as the public’s need for contested case hearings. He then opened the floor to the public to speak without a time limit.

Citizens attending the listening session were allowed as much time as they needed to express their views, and could hold large signs protesting Jauch’s decisions without fear of getting arrested. No one was gavelled off, as so many have been at other mining hearings.

Of the 150 people who attended, the large majority appeared to support the Recall Jauch campaign kicked off by Shirl LaBarre of Hayward on March 19. LaBarre did not speak at the hearing on Saturday, but John Sendra, chairman of the Iron County Republican party, who accompanied LaBarre to the GAB to file recall papers, repeated his disdain for Jauch’s decision to vote to send SB 488 back to committee. Sendra spoke to WCMC reporters at the filing of Jauch’s recall papers about his concern about the prices he can charge at his restaurant because of the poor economic conditions in northwest Wisconsin.

The crowd was often hostile towards Jauch, and booed when Rep. Janet Bewley arrived later after attending a dairy breakfast with 4-H kids in Ashland. Much of the sentiment expressed by the angry crowd was the feeling that Jauch did not represent their best interests in the mining debate.

Bob Walsh, Town Chairman of town of Carey, expressed that the citizens of the area who support a mine in the Penokee Hills feel betrayed. “I’ve made trips to Madison, talked to legislators. We just listened to you speak for 45 minutes. You’re in trouble. We keep hearing the same thing. We saw an opportunity to pass SB 488. We feel so betrayed; we felt like the process was so close. Knowing full well the legislation would give us a chance, now it’s been ripped away, along with jobs and investment dollars. Mining legislation has to be changed and we need an investor. Without an investor, we have no hope for a mine.”

Most also expressed their view that the scientific evidence predicting massive amounts of sulfuric acid producing waste rock was “scare tactics.” But the overwhelming sentiment was this: Because Jauch signed a petition to recall Scott Walker which was circulated by his wife, he was not able to negotiate unbiasedly with Governor Walker. The crowd demanded that Jauch insist the governor call a special session to pass a mining bill. Jauch explained that in his recent meeting with the governor, Walker stated he would not call a special session unless state Republicans and Democrats reached an agreement beforehand. This did not appear to influence the crowd’s responses that Jauch was to blame for the entire failed efforts to mine the Penokees.

Some participants came from Michigan to show their support of recalling Wisconsin Sen. Bob Jauch (D-25)

The only person to speak in support of Jauch was Jim Oakley, candidate for Ashland County Board. Appealing to reason, Oakley, who spent much of his childhood near Mellen, called for cooperation and understanding. “I am concerned about a lot of the division we feel. We are all in this together. There seems to be very few calm voices in the middle that we listen to. I hear talk about ‘us vs. them’ and people on that side or the other side, but we are all in this together. We are all going to live with the decisions that are made. We need more people in the middle like Jauch and Schultz.” Oakley was promptly booed off the mic.

The clear message from the crowd in Hurley was that Jauch is unable to represent them because he could not get a mining bill passed. Despite three public hearings that revealed a majority of citizens against the new mining bill, the scientific evidence of environmental dangers, and the fact that the mining company was deceiving the public, according to the Hurley crowd, Jauch is solely to blame for the economic loss of G-Tac leaving the state. Without consideration for all the other complex variables, the people at the listening session overwhelmingly supported the idea to recalling Jauch.  Even though most expressed their disdain that he signed a petition to recall Walker, almost all advocated to recall him.

Several who spoke also blamed the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians for derailing the mining bill by exercising their right to co-manage the ceded territory. AB 426 was passed through the Assembly January 26 without consulting the tribes, as is directed by the US constitution, and in Executive Order 39, which recognizes the sovereign nations of Wisconsin as equal partners in managing ceded territory.

Jauch listening session Hurley WI March 31, 2012 PART I

Jauch listening session PART II

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