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John Scepanski

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  • DAP meeting notes for September 29th

    DeForest/Windsor Area Progressives

    Meeting notes for September 29, 2014


    Next meeting: Monday, October 6, 2014, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Ginny’s house, 3922 Partridge Road, Windsor Hill neighborhood, Windsor.


    JohnSki updated everyone on the distribution of Mary Burke for Governor lawn signs as of last week’s meeting.


    Janet announced that Bradley Whitford is going to be speaking at an event for Mary Burke and the democratic candidates at the Middleton office ( 6719 Frank Lloyd Wright Ave., Middleton)  Friday, October 3rd. He played the character Josh Lyman in the West Wing. The event starts at 9:45 am, but the Middleton team wants people to arrive at 9:30 am.


    We spent a lot of time at this meeting listening to Peg describe how she canvasses her neighborhood for progressive causes.  She does not distribute literature, necessarily.  She prefers to engage her neighbors in conversation about issues and subjects such as education, health care (Peg is a retired nurse), and local controversies like the proposed new gravel pit.  She gets to know them on a conversational basis.  She referred to a speech she had heard Michelle Obama make in Milwaukee, where Michelle noted that so many wards in Milwaukee could be turned around by just getting ten progressive voters out to vote.  Peg is working on her ten in her Windsor neighborhood.  She has been disconcerted to find out that many new residents do not get a welcome packet with information on where to register and where to vote.  Peg refers to these  conversations as “seed planting.”  People are so polarized these days that a casual, conversational approach seems to work better than a lit drop, name drop approach.  She told us a number of stories to exemplify her methods.  So, Peg feels that if she can get ten votes for  Mary Burke and our other progressive candidates, her efforts will have been worth it.  Her information will be added to the “VAN” and other databases.


    Karen brought up the subject of the candidate forum scheduled for October 8th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the DeForest Library, hosted and run by the DeForest Area Chamber of commerce.  Ginny said she emailed The Cap Times and the  Wisconsin State Journal news services.  Liz said the forum will probably be taped by Wisconsin Eye and made available in that format.  All DAP members and associates are urged to attend and make sure you have your questions prepared to hand in.  Several DAP members want to bring information to hand out or perhaps staff a DAP informational table.


    There is another candidates’ forum scheduled for October 9th at 5:00 p.m. at Edgewood College Anderson Auditorium.  All state office seekers (governor, attorney general, etc.) have been invited.  The NAACP will moderate.


    Also on October 9th, there will be a forum at Lake Mills elementary school at 7:00 p.m.  Michele Zahn is going to try to make both the forum in Lake Mills and the one at Edgewood.  Whew!


    AND, there is a rally to celebrate the re-opening of the Democratic office in Columbus on October 5th from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on the corner of E. James and N. Water St.  Candidates will speak at 2:30.


    Janet said that anyone can use the Sun Prairie office of the candidates’ coordinated campaigns.  It is on Main Street just east of the Kwik Trip in Sun Prairie.  Janet urged DAP to make phone calls to all you can to recruit volunteers.  There are 400 names in our DAP area alone who must be contacted and recontacted.  We discussed, too, volunteers to provide rides to the polls on election day, getting voter ID’s for those who do not have them, early voting, and sign placement.

    On the subject of the big, blue-and-white, hand painted “Mary Burke 4 Governor” signs, the ones we produced are being put up in SW Wisconsin, the Richland Center vicinity, and between here and Eau Claire.  Other groups like ours met and did similar painting projects in Eau Claire, Shawano, Maple, Black River Falls, and maybe some other places we do not know about.


    Karen informed us about the dangers of phosphorus laden manure  originating from  CAFO’s (large scale castle feeding operations).  The manure digester at Waunakee keeps spilling.  Other sources of phosphorus runoff that endanger our lakes include large subdivision deveopments such as the ones being proposed west of Fitchburg, also threatening wetlands.  DeForest’s own Sanimax situation was brought up.


    Liz asked, “What’s going on with WGN?”  (Wisconsin Grassroots Network, where several DAP members are very active)  Karen and others mentioned some of what is going on with WGN lately, including the monthly phone discussions among DAP-like groups all over Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District, known as the WGN CD2 Alliance.


    Progressive Partners will be meeting November 8th in Oregon, hosted by the Oregon Area Progressives: 1:00 to 3:30 at the bank.


    SCWMTA is hosting a fundraiser after the election on November 5th.

  • published GOP's vote-suppressing militia in Opinion Blog 2014-09-23 13:31:12 -0500

    GOP's vote-suppressing militia

    TUESDAY, SEP 23, 2014                           Copied from Salon

    GOP’s vote-suppressing militia: Why Scott Walker’s thugs are getting violent

    Scott Walker may want to be president, but he's got to win statewide first. And he's pulling out all the stops

    HEATHER DIGBY PARTON              

    It seems like a long time ago but it’s actually been just a couple of years since a whole bunch of Wisconsin voters had second thoughts about the man they’d elected to the governor’s office and decided they couldn’t wait another two years to be rid of him.  That recall election was a national story, with public employee unions and other progressive types lining up against the conservative majority that beat back the recall. Now Scott Walker is beating back what seems like endless ethics charges and legal scandals and is fighting for his political life. The man who was once touted as the Great Midwestern GOP Hope is rarely mentioned anymore for the presidency. He may even lose his seat in November.

    One of the most interesting stories of that recall election was the extent to which the Republicans were willing to engage in no-holds-barred vote suppression largely led by a national group of vote suppression experts, the “poll watching” group known as True the Vote.  Despite no evidence ever being produced to show that systematic voter fraud exists or that any election has been decided by people who are ineligible to vote, True the Vote has managed to create the illusion that challenging voters at the polls is all that’s saving the republic from an otherwise inevitable coup d’état led by a secret cabal of Democrats rigging elections with ineligible voters. Apparently, this is the only way they can explain to themselves that they are not universally popular.

    All the vote suppressors are just pleased as punch that a panel of three Republican-appointed judges on the 7th Circuit waited until Sept. 12 to overturn an earlier ruling that their pride and joy, the Wisconsin Voter ID law, was unconstitutional — and set off a last-minute scramble to ensure that voters are informed of the new law and have them in hand before Scott Walker faces the music. (Opponents have appealed to have the full 7th Circuit review but in the meantime, voter registration groups and state officials are having to work overtime to deal with the ruling.) And just to make things even more fun, the DMVs in 48 out of 72 counties are only open for five hours a day, two days a week. And that means voters in those areas without an official state ID only have 12 days to get them.


    True the Vote generously noted on its Facebook page that the ID cards are free. Never say they didn’t do these voters any favors. Their followers were certainly thrilled:

    The only people that don’t want this are the people who are trying to cheat the system. The same people that are screaming foul are the people that need an ID to get all their government handouts. I’m proud to show my ID when I vote because it means some union punk from out of state, or some illegal alien won’t be able to steal my vote. It also means that some libtard dumbocrat won’t be able to vote more than once.

    In case you were wondering True the Vote calls itself nonpartisan.

    So, now everyone can relax, knowing that there is no way that the thus far nonexistent voter fraud could ever happen in the future, right? Well, not exactly. It would appear that vote suppression may not entirely get the job done. Just because you have an ID doesn’t mean you should be voting and even if True the Vote is patting itself on the back for its success, there are still some good Americans out there who are willing to make sure that you don’t. This time they are going for full-blown voter intimidation.

  • commented on Dane County could begin routine post-election audits 2014-09-19 19:01:07 -0500
    Given the recent ruling by the federal appeals court allowing the repressive voter ID law in Wisconsin to take effect in time for this November’s election, we must be yet even more vigilant as to how the right wing manipulates our system to their advantage. Election audits are one good way to be vigilant. If we can’t get sound elections in Dane County,Wisconsin, where can we get them?

  • DAP meeting notes for August 11, 2014

    DeForest Area Progressives

    Meeting notes

    August 11, 2014

    Next meeting: Monday, August 18, 2014, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at DeForest library, main floor meeting rooms next to the newspapers


    There were eight people at the August 8th meeting.  John S. reported that as of the end of July 2014, the DAP treasury had $185.01.

    Marcia will be gone visiting family in Washington during the end of August and beginning of September.  Karen and JohnSki will chair the meetings during that time.  Others are welcome to chair if they wish.  Items for the agenda are welcome and should be addressed to Karen and John.  A new format will be tried, beginning each meeting for about fifteen minutes with an open topic of discussion for all.  Stay tuned for further information.

    There was much discussion and reporting on various members’ canvassing for candidates: Mary Burke for governor, George Ferriter, Mary Arnold, Dianne Hesselbein, and Michelle Zahn for the state legislature.  Marcia expounded on the options for campaigning: canvassing, phone banking both as a group and at home, letter to the editor writing, etc.  Peg said she is interested in engaging her neighbors, especially on the issues of schools and town incorporation.

    Liz asked what is going on with the sign project coordinated by the Wisconsin Grassroots Network (see  She has some signs at her house ready to go up.  Ginny also has some signs and painting materials.  Karen said she will take over coordination of signs as part of her responsibilities managing the “Messaging” work group for WGN.  She will learn what is going on and report back to DAP.

    We should all start to think about what questions we might like to ask candidates at the September (?) candidates’ forum we expect to be held at the DeForest library.

    Liz said that Mary Arnold is asking for supporters to write letters to the editors of the newspapers in her district.  Liz also recommended to Mary that she attend the River Fest in DeForest on September 13th.  DAP members should go to River Fest to support Mary Arnold there, as well as Michelle Zahn and George Ferriter.

    Carol G. Mentioned that she had gone to a web site that she thought was for Mary Burke for governor, only to find when she read the fine print that it was a fake web site.  Marcia said that there are some unscrupulous web sites like that out there, and we should be careful when we go to web sites.

    It was asked of members that we all think about members who have not been to a meeting for awhile and try to get them active again.

  • DAP meeting notes for August 4, 2014

    DeForest Area Progressives

    Meeting notes for August 4, 2014

    Next meeting: Monday, August 11, 2014, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Macchiato's, 605 S. Main Street in DeForest

    There were nine people at the August 4th meeting.                  

    We began with some free-flowing discussion on the topics of Social Security, pensions, and retirement philosophies.  Peg shared information on a recent court victory for nurses’ pensions.

    As co-chairs for the Mary Burke campaign in DeForest/Windsor, Janet and Marcia briefed us on upcoming events.  Besides Mary Burke for Governor lit and messages, canvassers will carry with them lit, in areas where relevant, for our other candidates: George Ferriter, Dianne Hesselbein, Mary Arnold, and Michelle Zahn.  The idea is an organized campaign for our slate of progressive candidates.  It would be good if we could do some door knocking, lit drops, etc., each weekend between now and the November election, or if there is none in our district to help similar efforts in other districts.  We could have a “corps” of canvassers dedicated to canvas, canvas, canvas and phone-bank, phone-bank, phone-bank.  This Saturday’s (August 9th) canvass is scheduled: meet at Janet Mills’s house, 4054 Gray Road, Windsor (enter off Portage Road) at 9:30, 12:30, or 3:30 (your preference) to receive instructions, lit, and a walk list of Dem voters.  This time around we are targeting “sporadic voters” – those who usually vote only in presidential elections.  We want to get out the “sporadic” vote.  Those voters have been identified from a database (the “V.A.N.” – I forgot just what V.A.N. stands for) developed specifically for this purpose.  In future canvassing we will target other selected groups like this for our walk lists.  Marcia and Karen will compile data from the various canvassing efforts and report to central HQ in Madison (whence come the V.A.N. and walk lists).  Note too that if “doing doors” is not your thing, you might want to volunteer to do some phone bank calling either from the comfort of your home or at one or more of the scheduled group banks.  Let Janet or Marcia know.

    Janet said that she had contacted Assembly Rep. John Jagler (Mary Arnold’s competition) for his comments on Move-to-Amend, but Jagler had not returned her calls.  This might be a good topic for letters-to-the-editor regarding his lack of interest in the issue of money in politics.

    Marcia is offering one-on-one tutoring in how to “Twitter.”  She and Karen learned much about the use of social media to get our messages out and multiply their effects by such means as “retweets” and Facebook “sharing.”  Marcia is eager to do this and charges nothing for it.

    It is fun meeting at Macchiato’s, the new wine and coffee restaurant in town.  Remember, you don’t have to buy anything or you may buy a drink or a whole dinner or snack.  The music last Monday was sixties and seventies R’n’R and folk/rock.  See you there Monday and at the canvassing at Janet’s house Saturday!  DAP rocks!

    John Scepanski, unofficial DAP notetaker and reporter

  • published Rail Moves Frac Sand in Environmental Blog 2014-07-15 18:48:05 -0500

    Rail Moves Frac Sand

    As rail moves frac sand across the Wisconsin landscape, new conflicts emerge

    July 14, 2014 5:30 am • TAYLOR CHASE | Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

    Wisconsin’s boom in production of sand used for hydraulic fracturing has fueled a large increase in rail traffic moving the commodity to other states, causing conflicts and raising safety concerns.

    While the number of Wisconsin car-train accidents has remained relatively steady in recent years and derailments actually are down, some residents who live near train tracks used for transporting sand — primarily in western and northwestern communities — complain about noise and traffic delays in addition to safety worries.

    Chippewa Falls resident Patricia Popple, an activist opposed to frac sand mining, recalls that train traffic in the area was once much less frequent, and that the trains were shorter.

    Now, she said, "They go through here any hour of the night and day … and have to sound whistles every time they go through an intersection."

    Jeff Plale, the state’s railroad commissioner, confirms that more trains really are chugging through Wisconsin. He said there is "no question" that a 63 percent increase in state freight rail revenue between 2002 and 2012 was caused in part by the rapid growth in frac sand mining in western and northwestern Wisconsin.

    Rail transportation of frac sand is fueling another increase in train traffic in Wisconsin. Last week, The Associated Press and the La Crosse Tribune, citing newly released figures, reported that three dozens trains loaded with flammable crude oil extracted by fracking now rumble through the state every week.

    The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism examined concerns surrounding rail transportation of frac sand in Wisconsin and found:

    ● Railroad tracks that had not been used in decades now are being used daily by freight trains.

    ● Although the rapid growth in rail traffic means the likelihood of accidents has increased, there has been no jump in highway-rail collisions in the past 10 years.

    ● Overcrowded rail lines have led to delayed trains and stalling on roadways.

    ● Noise from train whistles now disturbs what were once quiet communities in western and northwestern Wisconsin.

    ● The increase in train traffic has brought wholesale improvements to the state’s rail infrastructure, paid for with tens of millions of public and private dollars.

    Wisconsin is the nation’s No. 1 producer of frac sand, with an estimated output of about 26 million tons annually, more than double what it was in 2012. The sand mined in Wisconsin is injected into oil and natural gas wells in the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

    As of this May, there are 125 permitted or operational mines, processing plants and rail loading facilities in Wisconsin, according to a tally by the Center. Sixteen more are proposed. Many have clustered near rail lines.

    Yet while residents like Popple view the increase in traffic as worrisome, those within the frac sand industry are reveling in good times.

    Rich Budinger, president of the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association, argues that more rail means a better Wisconsin.

    "Overall, the economy looks like it’s improving," Budinger said in a phone interview as he described watching trains full of sand, oil and agricultural products go by in Menomonie, a Dunn County community.

    Train accidents fluctuate

    According to the Federal Railroad Administration, over the past 10 years, the annual number of highway-rail crashes in Wisconsin has varied widely, from a high of 84 in 2005 to a low of 33 in 2010.

    Plale said the number of accidents tends to fluctuate each year, similar to those involving cars and trucks. At the same time, the number of train derailments in Wisconsin also has varied, ranging from 35 in 2008 to 15 last year, with steady decreases since 2011.

    Wisconsin has seen some fatal rail accidents in recent years, a number that also has fluctuated from four in 2009 to 11 in 2011. So far in 2014, there have been five train-related deaths.

    In February, a 41-year-old man was killed by a train in Chippewa Falls. Police say it appears that the man, Donald Dreke, was trying to get past a stalled frac sand train when it began moving. The train had been at a standstill for several hours while waiting for a new engine.

    In police interviews, a friend described Dreke as a "nice guy that would help out a friend whenever needed." Relatives expressed shock and confusion upon hearing the news. An autopsy revealed high levels of alcohol in Dreke’s system, but the medical examiner concluded the cold temperatures made the results unreliable. The Union Pacific engineers were not cited.

    Fatal train-related accidents are uncommon, but they serve as a reminder that as thousands of train cars haul frac sand from western and northwestern Wisconsin, the chances of dangerous encounters with freight trains are increasing.

    Frac sand fuels freight boom

    There has been a substantial increase in freight rail due in part to the rapidly growing amount of frac sand moving out of state to hydraulic fracturing sites in North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

    "Volume has increased dramatically, and the rail industry has just blossomed," Plale said.

    Plale estimates that Progressive Rail, a short line which runs from Chippewa Falls north to Cameron, has increased from one train a week to two or three a day — which would be about 15 to 20 times more traffic. A representative from the rail line declined to provide exact numbers but did confirm the growth was due in part to frac sand. The larger Union Pacific railroad has reported that transporting frac sand in Wisconsin has helped it offset a 14 percent decrease in coal shipments.

    And Canadian National saw even more benefits from the frac sand industry. The company reported that it earned $200 million in revenue in 2013 by hauling more than 55,000 carloads of the commodity.

    Professional Logistics Group Inc., a consultant company based in Chicago, found in 2012 that transportation is 58 percent of the cost of frac sand. It is no wonder, then, that companies have begun investing in cheaper modes of moving their goods. And frac sand industry executives say rail is the best mode of transportation available.

    "Rail is four times more fuel-efficient than a highway truck," said Dave Fellon, president of Progressive Rail. "You can move a ton of freight over 425 miles on just one gallon of fuel. That’s an amazing statistic."

    Using more trains not only benefits frac sand companies, it also indirectly benefits some communities, according to local officials.

    Bruce Stelzner, Chippewa County highway commissioner, said that in the past, businesses in Chippewa County had "significant issues with moving their goods by rail." But because of the frac sand boom, railways are making investments in the county, updating infrastructure and increasing the number of rail cars available.

    "Area businesses that are dependent on rail transportation are growing, providing jobs and economic benefits to the community," Stelzner said.

    Budinger, who also works as a regional manager for Fairmount Minerals in Chippewa County, agrees that the relationship between frac sand and rail is mutually beneficial. Mining companies are building spurs to reach main rail lines to lower transportation costs, he said, which in part determines the final cost of oil and natural gas.

    Rail boost draws opposition

    But not everyone is happy about the blossoming relationship between the frac sand industry and railroad companies. Since the increase in rail traffic, residents have expressed concerns regarding noise, safety and traffic disruption.

    "Some people can live with the noise, other people cannot," said Popple, who lives a block and a half from a Canadian National track. "Their health is affected because they need continuous sleep. Maybe that’s why I feel so tired all the time … you hear these whistles all the way through the city towards Eau Claire at all hours of the night and day."

    Chippewa County resident Wayne Schindler lives near the EOG Resources Inc. mine in the town of Howard. He said in the beginning he was "not four-square opposed" to frac sand mining, but since the increase in rail traffic he worries about whether existing tracks can handle the heavier loads.

    "One of these (derailments) could happen at a road crossing and cause serious damage," Schindler said.

    Plale, the railroad commissioner, said there’s always a risk of harm when people, vehicles and trains interact. In addition, the large increase in freight rail is putting train cars where residents are no longer accustomed to seeing them.

    "Now trains are on lines that hadn’t seen a train in 25 years or more," Plale said.

    Fellon said while safety and noise concerns are understandable, residents need to have more information as to why things work the way they do. By law, for example, most trains must sound their horns upon coming to an intersection. And while getting rid of the horns may alleviate noise concerns, it would increase safety hazards, he said.

    "We’re running at high speeds and we’re doing it the right way," Fellon said.

    Officials in frac-sand country and rail officials say they are listening to residents’ concerns. In Chippewa County, for instance, a local traffic safety commission meets quarterly to discuss safety issues.

    The state also has programs to improve rail safety and capacity. The Freight Railroad Preservation Program offers grants to railroads that qualify to update and expand infrastructure. The 2013-15 state budget sets aside $52 million toward the program.

    In many cases, individual rail companies also have boosted investment in rail infrastructure to meet customer demand. Fellon said Progressive Rail, for example, has updated its line with new cross ties, heavier rail and upgraded bridges. Larger railways have also been upgrading; in 2012 Canadian National spent $35 million to rebuild 40 miles of track west of Ladysmith.

    "The one thing that’s nice about frac sand is that the volume has justified a lot of upgrades," Fellon said. "It’s really nice to see that influx of business. And it’s been a huge win for northwest Wisconsin."

    Obstructing traffic

    One of the largest concerns among residents, however, remains train-caused traffic jams.

    Horror stories describe trains stuck for hours before moving off major roadways. Before Dreke was struck and killed, the train had been stuck for over five hours. Plale also recalls a train that broke down near Sheldon in Rusk County and was stuck for 27 hours in March, forcing at least one ambulance to take a different route.

    "Blocked crossings happen because we’re just at capacity with moving trains through the state," Plale said.

    Wisconsin law says railroads can be fined if trains obstruct a roadway for longer than 10 minutes. But the law is difficult to enforce in the small towns where train traffic has become prevalent and resources are scarce.

    According to Popple, trains in Chippewa Falls are regularly stalled over intersections, and signals sometimes malfunction, but she claims little is done to alleviate the problems right away.

    "I have personally seen one Sunday the flashing lights are on with the bells at a crossing and everyone was crossing the railroad and I stopped and watched for a half hour before a police car came and never stopped to see if there was anything wrong with the signal," Popple said. "I bet it went on for a couple of hours."

    Stelzner, the Chippewa County highway commissioner, said enforcement of the law is being stepped up in Chippewa Falls, where complaints about stalled trains have been growing.

    Backed up rail lines are affecting other industries, too. Amtrak’s Empire Builder passenger line, which runs through six Wisconsin stations, has experienced delays lasting several hours due to sharing lines with major freight trains including BNSF and Canadian Pacific. While Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari could not say if the backups were directly related to frac sand, he did say it was due to an overall increase in volume.

    Trains part of state’s ‘fabric’

    Fellon, of Progressive Rail, is confident that the increase in train traffic has done more good than harm.

    "There’s always concerns about change," Fellon said. But railroads are the reason many of these communities formed, he argues. "Railroads are the fabric of northwestern Wisconsin."

    And there’s more to come: The Wisconsin Department of Transportation estimates that between 2007 and 2030, overall rail freight tonnage in Wisconsin will grow by about 16 percent.

    Steps are being taken to reduce the impact. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education has found that unit trains, which are chains of cars all with the same product going to one place, are becoming more popular, increasing efficiency and reducing the number of stops trains have to make. The traditional manifest train, in contrast, has different types of cars with different products, forcing the train to stop at multiple loading locations.

    Regardless of how the relationship between freight rail and frac sand evolves, residents should get used to them being around.

    "The state was built on railroads. We have railroads older than the state here," Plale said. "It’s not like trains are a totally new thing to Wisconsin, it’s just a matter of peaceful coexistence. They’re not going anywhere."


    Former Center intern Alison Dirr contributed to this story. The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

  • DAP meeting notes from July 7, 2014

    DeForest Area Progressives

    Meeting notes for

    July 7, 2014


    Next meeting: Monday, July 14, 2014, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., at the DeForest Library, Room C (downstairs)


    There were seven people at the July 7th meeting.


    John Stanley told the anecdote about his presentation of the bowl to Ginny for her surgery, contributed by DAP for Ginny's exceptional service.  Good luck, Ginny.


    JohnSki presented $25 each to Karen and Marcia for their Netroots conference trip to Detroit, contributed by a donor toward the matching $200 (see previous notes).  The donor enclosed a card that said, "Hi John and DAP, / Thanks for all the work you do in DeForest and Wisconsin.  Please use the enclosed money for the challenge grant or anything else you see fit. / I wish I could be more involved with your group, but my 9 & 11 yr. old keep me busy, especially on Monday nights. / Thanks for keeping me updated on e-mail. / I know this goes back a couple years, but I was able to help clean out your 1st office on CV/Lake St and take a load to the dump.  I got to meet some of you that day before heading to the Capitol. / Thanks again for your efforts and keep up the good work! / Corey King"


    There are going to be four meetings at the WindsorTown Hall in the coming four weeks on each Wednesday at 5:30 to discuss the potential change of the municipal structure of the Town of Windsor.  Some of us will attend with an eye to promoting a community bill of rights, as well as learning about what is going on and maybe helping to shape the discussion.


    DAP participation in DeForest's big 4th of July celebration was a big success.  The parade float was constructed on Nate's pickup and Nate drove.  Some rode in the bed of the truck, while others walked and handed out information on voter registration.  The theme - Let Freedom Ring - was carried out by ringing bells around a foil construction of a bell.  Karen suggested maybe renting a truck next year, rather than sponging off Nate.  John St. suggested next year we have a theme of "Democracy Float," punning on the truck float and designing a display round ice cream, "I Scream (Ice Cream) for Democracy!"  Er, thanks, John.  Parade participants included John St., Ginny, Jan Moore from SPARC in Sun Prairie, Marcia, Emily, Peg, Karen, and Leonardo.  John St. and Ginny also helped in the Bingo games and helped the day after with cleanup in the park, as a gesture of relationship with the Chamber of Commerce.  Good going, guys and dolls.


    There is a possibility that we might be able to get a new office in an old paint building not being used by the Village of DeForest.


    Marcia and JohnSki attended a meeting of the Friends of the Upper Yahara River Headwaters (FUYRH) on July 1st.  JohnSki will be attending those monthly meetings, as he is hosting them in his condo complex clubhouse.  The FUYRH was founded in 2006-7 to clean up the river where it runs through DeForest and to participate in other river improvement projects.  Its mission is, "Mission: To enhance and protect the quality of the Yahara River headwaters while educating the community and providing sustainable recreational opportunities."  FUYRH manages several grants such as one that reimburses riparian owners for improving the land edging up to the river.  They sponsor the annual Riverfest, which is September 13th this year.  They run fishing clinics for kids at the Sunfish Pond off Windsor Road: "The kids were catching fish."  There will be the usual fall river cleanup (which DAP has participated in in the past).  Also, a fundraising movie night and beer tent is planned for October 3 or 17 at WesternGreenPark in DeForest.  There is going to be a contract project with Taylor Conservation, Inc., to review past activities of the FUYRH and develop goals and objectives for further future activity.


    Karen, Marcia, and John St. attended another community rights meeting in Viroqua, accompanied by Nate Timm of Wisconsin Grassroots Network and Mary Lou Sharpee from Columbus.  This meeting brought together about sixty people who had already attended some of the training put on by CELDF.  They attempted to answer the questions, Where do we go from here? and How do we work with CELDF?  Many jurisdictions around the country are at different stages of activity.  There are different ways to get a Community Bill of Rights ordinance passed by county or municipal ordinance or petition.  Rights have been whittled away over the decades by legislation and court rulings.  CELDF is one of three legal teams poised to do legal work for communities who qualify.  We had much discussion on this topic that I fail to report here.  This will be a continuing item on DAP agendas.

  • followed Community Bill of Rights 2014-07-25 16:57:16 -0500

    Community Bill of Rights

    July 4, 2014


    DeForest Times-Tribune

    Dear Editor:

                It is my wont this time of year to reread the greatest of our foundational documents.  If you decide to join me in rereading The Declaration of Independence, resolve with me to do so slowly and with understanding.  You will find that it has everything to do with the natural rights of man and woman, flesh-and-blood human beings.  You remember the rights: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  Later, then, when the Constitution came about, they further enumerated more of those inalienable, flesh-and-blood human rights: religion, speech, assembly, self-protection, and others.  At our last local election, we passed two community referendums, reaffirming that the rights we speak of as natural and inalienable are the rights of flesh-and-blood human beings, men and women, not the rights of made-up entities like corporations and unions.  "We the People," we reaffirmed, means "We the People."

                The time has come to build again on that assertion.  The time has come to enumerate further what we mean by God-given, natural human rights and to further protect those rights in law.  There are those who would subordinate our natural human rights to exploitation for economic gain.  For that reason, there has come to be in some political subdivisions around the country a legal instrument known as a COMMUNITY BILL OF RIGHTS.  That new bill of rights aims to protect by law and ordinance all human beings' access to clean water, clean air, clean soil, sustainable energy, sustainable local economies, public schools, livable incomes, decent housing, health care, healthy food, modern communications systems, natural ecosystems, and decent workplaces.

                We need to remember our human roots, planted on The Fourth of July.  We need to pass ordinances that state plainly our sacred values.  We need those community rights ordinances in place, before our current ordinances are co-opted by powers whose motivations would subordinate the rights of flesh-and-blood human beings to the blind and bloodless forces of the market place alone.

                Planning and zoning are good ways to protect our sustainable natural communities, ecosystems, and individual local residents.  However, planning and zoning are in danger of co-optation by economic interests.  It is not the fault of the economic interests, for profit is the motivation, and the quest for profit gives rise to many good things in the good life we enjoy.  We must make sure, though, that in the quest for the economic good life, we do not sacrifice the natural good life defined in the fundamental and inalienable rights of natural communities, ecosystems, and local human residents.  We must enact new bills of rights, adding to the older existing ones.  We need new, legally enforceable ordinances that supersede any that might jeopardize the inalienable rights of flesh-and-blood human beings.  We need a COMMUNITY BILL OF RIGHTS in every community in Wisconsin.


                                                    John Scepanski

                                                    DeForest, Wisconsin, USA


  • published Community Bill of Rights in Opinion Blog 2014-07-07 10:46:47 -0500

    Community Bill of Rights

    July 4, 2014


    DeForest Times-Tribune

    Dear Editor:

                It is my wont this time of year to reread the greatest of our foundational documents.  If you decide to join me in rereading The Declaration of Independence, resolve with me to do so slowly and with understanding.  You will find that it has everything to do with the natural rights of man and woman, flesh-and-blood human beings.  You remember the rights: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  Later, then, when the Constitution came about, they further enumerated more of those inalienable, flesh-and-blood human rights: religion, speech, assembly, self-protection, and others.  At our last local election, we passed two community referendums, reaffirming that the rights we speak of as natural and inalienable are the rights of flesh-and-blood human beings, men and women, not the rights of made-up entities like corporations and unions.  "We the People," we reaffirmed, means "We the People."

                The time has come to build again on that assertion.  The time has come to enumerate further what we mean by God-given, natural human rights and to further protect those rights in law.  There are those who would subordinate our natural human rights to exploitation for economic gain.  For that reason, there has come to be in some political subdivisions around the country a legal instrument known as a COMMUNITY BILL OF RIGHTS.  That new bill of rights aims to protect by law and ordinance all human beings' access to clean water, clean air, clean soil, sustainable energy, sustainable local economies, public schools, livable incomes, decent housing, health care, healthy food, modern communications systems, natural ecosystems, and decent workplaces.

                We need to remember our human roots, planted on The Fourth of July.  We need to pass ordinances that state plainly our sacred values.  We need those community rights ordinances in place, before our current ordinances are co-opted by powers whose motivations would subordinate the rights of flesh-and-blood human beings to the blind and bloodless forces of the market place alone.

                Planning and zoning are good ways to protect our sustainable natural communities, ecosystems, and individual local residents.  However, planning and zoning are in danger of co-optation by economic interests.  It is not the fault of the economic interests, for profit is the motivation, and the quest for profit gives rise to many good things in the good life we enjoy.  We must make sure, though, that in the quest for the economic good life, we do not sacrifice the natural good life defined in the fundamental and inalienable rights of natural communities, ecosystems, and local human residents.  We must enact new bills of rights, adding to the older existing ones.  We need new, legally enforceable ordinances that supersede any that might jeopardize the inalienable rights of flesh-and-blood human beings.  We need a COMMUNITY BILL OF RIGHTS in every community in Wisconsin.


                                                    John Scepanski

                                                    DeForest, Wisconsin, USA


  • The Steep Costs of Koch-backed Mining

    JUN 21, 2014

    It’s a hard-rock life: The steep costs of Koch-backed mining

    The industry threatens to displace Native American populations along the iron belt -- and that's just the start


    This originally appeared on Earth Island Journal.

    The cab of Bill Heart’s Ford Ranger is cluttered with pamphlets and fishing gear, and as we pull out onto Highway 77, just north of the high ridge formed by Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills, a warm August wind rushes through the open windows and whips up patches of fur left behind by his pack of dogs. “My wife has a habit of collecting strays,” he quips. It’s summer and Heart would rather be out fishing. Instead, he is taking me to Harvest Camp, an ad hoc village of makeshift tents, wigwams-in-progress, fire pits, and a sweat lodge that has been established by the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe, one of six bands of the Lake Superior Chippewa.

    Usually, harvest camps are simply a meeting place for tribal members to share their knowledge of local plant life and its medicinal applications on land they ceded through treaties, but on which they still retain hunting, fishing, and gathering rights. This camp is different. It has become a de facto base camp for protestors – people from both within and outside the tribes – who want to block a massive, $1.5 billion-open pit iron ore mine nearby.

    The Penokee Hills span Iron and AshlandCounties in Wisconsin’s iconic Northwoods. The hills are the headwaters of the BadRiver that flows into Lake Superior, which by surface area is the world’s largest freshwater lake. But there’s also an estimated 3.7 billion tons of iron ore underneath the mountain ridge. In total, the deposit is roughly 20 percent of all remaining US iron ore reserves. Gogebic Taconite (GTac), a subsidiary of the Cline Group, owned by Florida coal magnate Chris Cline, has its sights set on this iron ore. Mining the ore body would start with a mine roughly 4 miles in length and 800 feet deep, making it the largest open pit mine of its kind in the world. The full ore body is 22 miles long, so the long-term potential for changing the landscape is astounding. If the vein were to be completely dug out, the hole in the ground would be big enough to contain the largest open pit iron mine in the US five times over.

    Heart is secretary-treasurer of the Penokee Hills Education Project, and that puts him at the frontlines of a big battle pitting Native Americans and other environmentalists against mining companies and their political allies. As the Wisconsin representative of Trout Unlimited’s national leadership council, Heart is well-versed in river hydrology and fisheries, and says the proposed mine would be an ecological disaster for a region that is defined by its water bodies.

    “I’ve spent so much time trout fishing and exploring the Penokees, it is so obvious that this mining project would have huge impact on the coldwater resources of this headwater region,” Heart says. “There are hundreds of acres of intact wetlands, which produce plenty of cold water to make it possible to have a healthy brook trout population. A mine will destroy these crucial wetlands.”

    Having lived in AshlandCounty for 40 years, Heart also knows that the divisions among those who do and don’t want the mine are well-worn from previous battles over hardrock mining, which drove the economy of the Upper Midwest from the late-nineteenth and into the middle of the twentieth century. These stark divisions are reemerging in northern Minnesota, where several companies are seeking permits to mine a range of metals found precipitously close to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, one of the most visited wilderness areas in the United States.

    Seven large, iron-rich veins span the Upper Midwest, stretching across northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. During the beginning of the mining boom in the 1800s, many Finns and Swedes, Poles and Germans moved to the Upper Midwest to make a living blasting through veins of high-quality iron ore. The boom times lasted through the Second World War.

    “In World War II, we were an economy driven by the wartime effort,” says Christopher Tuck, mineral commodity specialist at the US Geological Survey’s NationalMineralsInformationCenter. That translates into an economy driven by steel. Miners in the iron range of the Upper Midwest could hardly keep up with the work, but if they found it hard to rise in the pre-dawn dark, they were buoyed by the notion of helping to equip the troops. After the war, Tuck says, “We had a steel industry that was four or five times larger than we could support, so the mines naturally aged out. They would close the mine, reclaim the land, and move on to another venture.”

    Following this, the price of iron ore remained flat for decades and the global iron-mining industry went through a major consolidation. For many of the towns that were born through mining, the mine closures were a hard blow, and the sting has lasted decades. Today Michigan has only two active iron mines, one of which is slated to shut down this year. Minnesota has six. (The two states still supply nearly all of the roughly 55 million tons of iron ore produced in the US each year.)

    In Wisconsin’s iron belt, the impact of the mine closures is obvious. IronCounty had the highest unemployment rate in Wisconsin – 13.1 percent as of April. The state has not had an active iron mine since 1982, not because the ore is tapped out, but because Wisconsin enacted strict environmental safeguards around metallic mining in 1997 via a law that locals call “the mining moratorium.” But the rising price of iron globally, coupled with the anti-regulatory politics of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, has created a new opportunity for a mining comeback.

    In 2010, GTac purchased options to lease mineral rights on 22,000 acres of the Penokee Hills. By early 2011, with iron prices reaching a record high of $187 a ton, GTac submitted an application for a metallic mineral exploration license with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The ore body that GTac is eyeing, called the Ironwood Formation, is taconite – a low-grade iron ore, found mostly around Lake Superior. Since it’s near the surface, extracting it will require an open pit. And since the taconite is mixed with other minerals in the ore body, it must be extracted onsite in a pelletizing plant, itself a massive industrial plant that will require a lot of power to run. In its pre-application to the Wisconsin DNR, GTac said it will likely need to upgrade power lines, build a substation, and bring a natural gas line to the mine.

    The Ironwood Formation has been prospected many times in the past, but for decades global demand for iron was not high enough to justify the tremendous cost of digging it up, let alone for a mine that could satisfy the environmental standards of the 1997 mining law, which essentially required the developer to prove no environmental harm would be done. But rising demand for virgin iron – currently holding steady at around $120 per ton – has been a game changer.

    In early 2013, Governor Walker signed a new state mining legislation, Wisconsin Act 1, which revised the 1997 mining moratorium to allow for ferrous mining, and removed many key environmental protections designed to safeguard the state’s wetlands and water sources. The revision was wrought by Gogebic Taconite, which lobbied state legislators for years in order to get them to water down the longstanding mining law.

    For many in Wisconsin, the possible return of mining spells jobs and revenue. But to those who live downstream of the proposed mine – especially the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa, whose reservation is six miles from the mining site – the short- and long-term potential for devastation is staggering.

    “There’s the upper watershed, the PenokeeMountains, where the proposed mine would be situated. Then there is the lower watershed, which is like the bottom of a bowl,” says Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins, Jr. “That lower bowl is essentially our tribal nation.” The reservation is home to the Ramsar-designatedBadRiver and Kakagon sloughs that harbor 40 percent of Lake Superior’s wetlands and wild rice beds, which tribal members harvest using traditional methods. “We are in the crosshairs,” Wiggins says, “set to endure the bulk of the environmental impacts in terms of groundwater pollution, surface water degradation, and air pollution.”

    Mine opponents, including some who initially felt neutral on the topic, say Gogebic Taconite has been dishonest in its dealings with residents of Iron and AshlandCounties from the beginning. In April 2011, after holding initial meetings saying it could develop the mine under existing regulations, GTac told a panel of local stakeholders and state regulators that it would have to “reform” the mining law to accomplish its mission.

    By the end of that year, the first iteration of the mining law revision was moving through the legislature. Facing a vocal opposition from across the state, it failed. “At that point, GTac said they could see they weren’t welcome in Wisconsin. They turned their lights off and threatened to leave town,” says Paul DeMain, CEO of, a news organization based on the nearby Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Reservation. But instead of leaving, he says, GTac and its lobbyists started “pumping a lot of money into the state legislative process, through political contributions to Scott Walker and a number of other people in strategic positions.”

    Christopher Cline and GTac employees have contributed nearly $25,000 to Governor Walker and Republican legislators since 2010, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a campaign-finance watchdog group. Add donations from groups in favor deregulating mining in the state, such as the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce lobbying group, and that figure swells to $15 million. Based on that larger figure, pro-mine contributors have outspent mine opponents by more than 600 to 1.

    “We are in the crosshairs, set to endure the impacts in terms of groundwater pollution.”

    The mining bill was reintroduced in January 2013 and moved quickly through both houses. It was approved on February 27, and a couple of weeks later Governor Walker signed the bill into law. “The whole political process was poisoned by money and lack of process,” DeMain says.

    While the previous mining law required the state Department of Natural Resources to deny permits if proposed mines were likely to have lasting negative impacts, language in Act 1 makes wetlands damage a given, qualifying them as “necessary” for the development and production of a mine. The biggest changes to the mining law include: allowing mining companies to dump mine waste in water bodies; and eliminating the need for a public hearing during which companies had to testify, under oath, that their mining project is in compliance with the state’s environmental standards. Under the new law, the state DNR has only 420 days to study the impacts of a proposal and decide on whether to issue a permit. (The US Corps of Engineers has already stated this timeline will be inadequate for its review of the GTac mine.)

    Despite GTac’s savvy political maneuvering, its efforts to mine the Penokees remain fraught with battles, including a verbally violent confrontation last summer by a crew of protestors who threatened mine workers who were drilling ore samples. GTac reacted by hiring a security detail armed with semi-automatic weapons. Months later, the legislature passed a law requiring the public to stay at least 600 feet away from fixed sampling equipment as well as 600 feet from either side of a road used to access the a site where testing is being conducted.

    During a meeting with journalists in late August, it was clear that the intensity of the controversy was starting to wear on GTac spokesperson Bob Seitz. His comments ranged from measured – “People want to separate economic from environmental concerns, but a positive environment comes with a sound economy” – to irked – “People are receptive, but only if [they] believe in science” – to agitated – “Some people are just looking for a fight, we’re looking for the facts. A lot of what we have today is coming from rhetoric and scare tactics.”

    The company estimates the mine would employ around 700 people directly, and support more than 2,000 jobs in surrounding towns for its 35-year lifespan. That’s appealing to many locals who are eager for the financial stability a mine could bring. It’s not hard to find a local whose father or grandfather was a miner, and who sees the mine as at worst, a lifeboat, and at best, the seed of a better life.

    “We are not new to the bust economy,” says Mitch Koski, the mayor of Montreal, a small town in IronCounty, where median household income is $37,000. “We’ve tried so many things. It’s tough for us to hear ‘Can’t you just be happy with what you’ve got?’” Bob Walesewicz recalls that when he asked his grandfather if the constant rumble of ore trains bothered him, he would respond, “That is the sound of men working.”

    Koski and Walesewicz are members of IronCounty’s Mining Impacts Committee. Critics allege the committee is now entirely pro-mining. Richard Thiede, a retired business owner who used to be the committee’s secretary, says the county board disbanded the committee after a contentious meeting with GTac in January 2012 during which a couple of committee members asked company president Bill Williams some hard questions.

    “The committee [members were] replaced by basically five mine cheerleaders,” Thiede says. “That made me really angry. So being retired, and having time, and having a background in engineering and science, I started digging into it more.” In April, Thiede, who is against the mine, ran for the Iron County Board, but lost. The county board elections are usually low-key affairs with few contested seats, but this year the fight over the mine had pro- and anti-mine candidates duking it out for 10 of the 15 county seats. In the end, two incumbents were ousted by “anti-mining” candidates.

    All politics might be local, but the Penokee Hill mine proposal has been attracting national attention. In March, a few weeks before the April 1 elections, Americans for Prosperity, a Super PAC funded by oil barons Charles and David Koch, sent fliers to IronCounty residents that read: “IronCounty, and the iron mines that drive our economy, is being targeted by wealthy environmental groups from outside of Wisconsin.” It also called seven of the candidates – including one who has remained neutral on the issue – “anti-mining radicals.”

    Last year, as the tension around the mine proposal began to heat up, business owners who support the mine posted signs that read: “Stop the whining – start the mining!” I asked Bad River Chairman Wiggins how a slogan like that made him feel. “Determined,” he said, after taking a moment to consider his response. “Determined to continue educating, talking about the mining issue. Just like many BadRiver people and just like many non-tribal people around the watershed are saying, the message is: Water is life, water is sacred.”

    The Penokee Hills region is defined by its rivers, streams, and wetlands, which are a key source of clean water for the BadRiver watershed and Lake Superior. Apart from hosting a diverse array of wildlife – including the federally protected bald eagle, rare plants, songbirds, and a variety of fish – these water bodies provide drinking water for the nearby cities of Ashland, Mellen, Highbridge, Marengo, Odanah, and Upson.

    Environmentalists say large-scale taconite mining in the region would produce massive volumes of waste rock containing sulfides, which when exposed to air and water transform into sulfuric acid that can leach into the surrounding waterways and turn the water acidic. This phenomenon, called “acid mine drainage,” is responsible for massive water pollution problems at mine sites throughout the world. The United Nations Environment Program calls acid mine drainage “acutely toxic to aquatic ecosystems.”

    The DairyState hadn’t enacted stringent mining safeguards back in 1997 merely on a whim. As in many parts of the country, decades of hardrock mining left a dire legacy in the iron ranges of the Upper Midwest.

    Generally speaking, sulfides are not associated with iron ores. Acid mine drainage is much more closely associated with extracting copper, nickel, and zinc – which are often called “sulfide mines.” The 1997 mining law was, in fact, the product of a protracted battle over a proposed zinc-copper mine in Crandon, Wisconsin. It pitted Exxon and Rio Algom (a mining company now owned by BHP Billiton) against the Mole Chippewa Tribe whose rice beds were downstream from the proposed mine. Backed by four other tribes, labor unions, environmental groups, and sport fishermen, the resistance to the Crandon Mine led to the mining moratorium.

    Were ferrous mines unfairly swept up in that 1997 law? That was one argument for Governor Walker’s new mining law. Act 1 makes a distinction between ferrous and non-ferrous mining, and applies myriad regulatory changes – not just with respect to environmental law but also permitting, taxation, and enforcement – only to ferrous mining. The new law does not mandate a process for preventing the harm from the sulfide minerals that mining would unleash.

    But several geologists, including Tom Fitz, a professor of geoscience at nearby NorthlandCollege, have tested rocks from the proposed mine site and found the presence of pyrite, a mineral that contains sulfide. Fitz has also found grunerite, a highly carcinogenic asbestos-form mineral at the site. He is certain this represents a health hazard to mine workers.

    When queried about these toxic minerals, GTac said that a lab test it performed came up inconclusive. There is no use talking about possible “bad actor” minerals until the core sample tests are done, Seitz said. He said the mineral content is proprietary, and refused to disclose any information about it.

    GTac president Bill Williams has talked about mitigating the possibility of acid mine drainage through a tailings treatment called dry stacking. Dry stacking is generally done in arid climates where tailings ponds are more difficult to create. Using this approach could have benefits in the water-rich environment of the Great Lakes, because having no tailings pond means no possibility of a catastrophic breach. But Tim Myers, GTac’s manager of engineering, admitted the company has no experience dry stacking iron mine tailings – let alone in a water-rich environment where failure to keep the tailings dry could produce run-off containing sulfuric acid.

    Regardless of whether a taconite mine in the Penokees would generate significant acid mine drainage, there are other environmental problems associated with it, especially with respect to the production of taconite pellets. Taconite pellet production, mostly in northeastern Minnesota, is the largest source of airborne mercury pollution in the Lake Superior basin. Bacteria that feed on sulfates are linked to production of methylmercury, which is another threat to fisheries, as well as to those who consume the fish. Ditto for selenium, a bioaccumulative fish toxin associated with taconite mining.

    Despite all the opposition, GTac has already begun bulk sampling iron ore at the mining site. In early March, a group of citizens sued DNR for allowing GTac to remove 2,400 tons of rock from the site without obtaining a stormwater runoff permit.

    Anti-mining groups worry that the DNR may not use enough scientific rigor in its review of the mine proposal. So a handful of tribal and environmental organizations have begun running independent monitoring programs to attain baseline data on air and water quality in the BadRiver watershed. Local opponents might not have the power to overcome Governor Walker’s “open for business” style of governing, but the low cost and accessibility of sensors means they’re empowered in ways unimaginable before the 1997 mining moratorium was enacted.

    Meanwhile, at the Lac Courte Oreilles harvest camp, the tribe was making every effort to draw attention to how the mine would violate its treaty rights, as well as to highlight sustainable alternatives to mining. When I visited the camp with Bill Heart, tribespeople expressed anger over how the mine would impact the Penokee Hills. “Native Americans look seven generations ahead,” one of the campers, Mel Gasper, told me. “I’m up here to look seven generations ahead. We’re not here to take over the mountain, but to save it.”

    The tribe occupied the forest for 11 months, harvesting wild edibles to supplement their diet and documenting the different resources in the forest. They even toughed it out through a painfully cold and snowy winter. In early spring, more than six months after my visit, county officials ordered them off the site, saying the group had well surpassed a 14-day camping limit on the public land. Not people to give up easily, the tribal activists moved parts of the camp to an alternative site on private land nearby and began rotating people in and out of the original campsite to remain in compliance with the 14-day limit.

    “A lot of our treaties ceded land to non-tribal people in exchange for hunting/fishing rights, but that is predicated on clean air and water,” Wiggins says. “We understand the bounty and the fact [that] the cleanliness of the water, and this big beautiful Lake Superior, these are the economic foundations that will carry us into the future for hundreds of years. The mining company said ‘unless you have this mine, you’re never going to live into the future.’ That idea of scarcity they are trying to convey, we reject it.”


  • DAP meeting notes from June 16, 2014

    DEFOREST Area Progressives

    Meeting notes

    June 16, 2014


    Next meeting: Monday, June 23, 2014, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at Ginny's house, 3922 Partridge, in the Windsor Hill neighborhood.

    There were seven people present at the June 16th meeting at Peg's house.

    There was some pre-meeting chatter about using electronic media, including the storage of documents in Google Drive, which stores the documents in the "cloud."  That means that the document you might be working on is stored at Google, not in your personal computer.  Others can view the document and even work on it with you simultaneously, if that is your desire.  If you look in the upper right hand corner of Google, you will find sixteen dots.  Click on the dots, then click on a ribbon-like triangle for Google Drive.  (I think I got that right?  John)

    Ginny reported on the painting party held that Saturday, June 14th , at DeForest Firemen's Park.  John said he thought there were about twenty people or more there.  Ginny said she handed in expenses to Nate for Wisconsin Grassroots Network to reimburse.  WGN had lots of boards to paint, and Bob Crego supplied more.  Assembly candidates Margo Miller, George Ferriter, and Mary Arnold painted signs for their campaigns.  Incumbent Assembly candidate Diane Hesselbein paid a visit too.  Chris was there from Sun Prairie.  Eric was there from Reedsburg.  Lots of people brought food, and Edy excelled, as usual, in putting on the buffet style meal.  We painted both candidate election campaign signs and message signs.  One example of a message sign was "NOT ONE MORE," including a stylized figure of an assault rifle, painted by Peg on the subject of gun violence, quoting the father from Santa Barbara who had lost his son in the shooting there.  John sketched "LIVING WAGE FOR ALL," another example of a message sign.  The Ferriter signs included a symbol of a gear, building on George's credentials as a mechanical engineer.  The weather was good.  The food was good.  The company was as good as it gets, and a good time was had by all.  Thank you again, John Stanley, for thinking up this event.

    It was not known whether anyone from the DeForest and Windsor area had attended the voter registrar training June 11th   in Fitchburg (?).  We debated whether or not to do voter registration at the DeForest-Windsor 4th of July celebration, that it might not be appreciated by some.  It was decided to go ahead with it, since simple voter registration is nonpartisan, and stop if asked to stop (i.e., "it's easier to apologize than ask permission").

    The scholarships for Marcia and Karen to attend the Netroots conference in Detroit in July now total $300, spurred by the original matching donation of $200 from an anonymous donor.  John will get a check from the DAP treasury for half to each Karen and Marcia at the next meeting.

    There was much discussion on the community rights initiative.  Karen handed out samples of various communities' Bills of Rights, a Community Bill of Rights Ordinance, and a handout, "Remember: Democracy Is a Verb, you don't achieve it; you practice it!"  Some of the rights listed in some communities' Bill of Rights are these:

    • Clean air
    • Clean, pure water
    • Clean soil
    • Good public schools for all
    • Maintenance of land-line communications to rural areas
    • Expansion of low cost broadband internet communications infrastructure
    • Sustainable energy future
    • Scenic preservation
    • Health care
    • Veterinary services
    • Public libraries
    • Safe places for kids to play, walk, shop
    • Hand marked, paper ballots hand counted in public
    • Easy access to voter registration
    • Easy access to voting
    • Minimum wage & living wage
    • Local control over environmental health and welfare issues
    • Weapon free zones


    These and other points of interest can be "sewn into" individual town, village, and county ordinances from individualized bills of rights.

    Members present agreed to study the handouts and the websites for further discussion at future meetings, as DAP moves forward on decisions as to how to participate (or not) in the community bill of rights movement that has gained so much ground in other states.

    We brought up the matter of limits on how long a DAP member may submit receipts for reimbursement from the DAP treasury for expenses incurred on behalf of DAP.  Some thought one month, others thought two months.  In the end, consensus was reached that reimbursement must be claimed within two months of incurring expenses.  Also, there was a consensus that before expenses are incurred for reimbursement, permission should be received from the group at one of the weekly meetings, or if that is not feasible, the treasurer (currently JohnSki) may authorize expenditures for later reimbursement.  Of course, it's always okay to spend money on behalf of DAP and then just "eat it," the reimbursement, that is.  J

    Ginny is having surgery on July 8th, so she will have to slow down her DAP and other activities for awhile.  Some of us wondered how DAP will be able to function without Ginny at 100%, given the enormous amount of work she undertakes.  Thank you, Ginny, and be well.

    Marcia is speaking along with John DeMain on June 18th at the ResiliencyBuilding.  Details can be found on several websites, including

    Pat Popple has alerted folks about a session being held by the Wisconsin DNR, the Wisconsin Towns Association, the Wisconsin Counties Association, and the League of Municipalities on mining.  I did not take thorough enough notes to elaborate further on this item.

    Those of you who are going on the Save Our State expedition, be safe and have fun.


    John Scepanski

    Unofficial Notetaker

  • Meeting notes for June 9, 2014

    DeForest Area Progressives

    Meeting notes

    June 9, 2014


    Next meeting: Monday, June 16, 2014, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Peg's house, 4397 Memorial Circle, Windsor (Wolf Hollow Neighborhood, enter just off Windsor Road across the street from WindsorElementary School).


    There were twelve people in attendance at the June 9th meeting.  Note that of late, meeting attendance has been up!


    John Scepanski reported on his attendance on behalf of DAP at the 2014 Annual Membership Meeting of the Friends of the Yahara River Headwaters, Inc.  Officers and Board of Directors were elected for 2014.  The FYRH will be meeting this coming year monthly on the first Tuesday of each month at 717 DeForest Street, DeForest.  John will be hosting them at his condo complex clubhouse.  DAP members are urged to attend, since water quality and environmental quality are precisely compatible with DAP aims.  The group heard a presentation from Rachel Fossum, Rural Initiatives Coordinator for Yahara Pride Farms and the Madison lakes area Clean Lakes Alliance.  They are working with area farmers to reduce the amounts of phosphorus runoff that goes into the watershed and lakes.  The Village of DeForest has granted them $10,000 to 1) help farmers plant cover crops, 2) provide field demonstrations, and 3) provide education in leaf management.


    George and Sue Ferriter were in attendance to report on George's campaign for Assembly in the 42nd District.  They will inform DAP of opportunities to assist in the campaign.  George has been attending town and village board meetings in the district to get his name known and allow people to get to know him and what he stands for.  We discussed the Wisconsin Conservation Congress and how it exemplifies the "Wisconsin Idea" of citizens and government working together.  George noted that he is learning that issues like water quality cross party lines.  At a Wisconsin Conservation Congress meeting he attended, the group supported repealing the mining law.  When that happened, George's opponent, current 42nd District Rep. Keith Ripp, walked out of the meeting.  Ripp is known to be solidly in the camp of Governor Walker and the large corporate interests favored by the Walker camp.  A further discussion ensued on the corruption of the Wisconsin DNR under the Walker administration.  The DNR seems now to be merely a permit granting agency, no longer the watchdog for the environment that it once was.  Another big issue that interests George Ferriter is the deterioration of our roads and highways.  One thing that could have been done is to put some of the big budget surplus toward road repair, rather than simply sending it back to taxpayers.  George feels there are other areas of responsibility where government is falling down on the job because of the neglect by Republicans in charge.  Margaret Worthington said that we need a candidates' forum in DeForest like the one we had before at the library.  George will be at the sign painting picnic at DeForest Firemens Park Saturday the 21st.


    Speaking of the sign painting picnic, Ginny reported on preparations.  All seems to be set.  See you there 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  Brats and soft drinks will be provided; being a dish to share.  Bring your painting supplies.

  • commented on Wisconsin's Third World Mine 2014-06-05 17:35:49 -0500
    I think this is a good example of the need to fight back with local communities’ BILLS OF RIGHTS. We need to get CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund – see their website) working in Wisconsin. We need to prepare for the big business and corporate onslaught. We the people have the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water and not have trucks full of sand and railroad cars full of low grade iron ore running up and down our roads and highways twenty four hours a day, seven days of the week.

    The motivation for big businesses like mining companies is profit, and the profit motive does not make for good human values.

  • commented on A LITTLE HUMOR FOR A SUNNY DAY 2014-06-05 17:28:43 -0500
    Yeah, Karen, toss the bums out.

  • Meeting notes for June 2, 2014

    DeForest Area Progressives

    Meeting notes

    Monday, June 2, 2014


    Next meeting on Monday, June 9, 2014, at Ginny Brokish's house, 3922 Partridge in the Windsor Hills neighborhood: 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

    There were seven people in attendance at the June 2nd meeting.

    Next Wednesday there will be a Special Registrar Deputy (SRD) training in Fitchburg.  Janet will email the details.  There is a possibility that we might register people to vote as part of our DeForest Fourth of July participation.  A problem, though, is that the sponsor of the events in the park and the parade, the DeForest Area Chamber of Commerce, forbids political activities at the celebration.  We will have to see if there are ways around that complication.  We do not want to create any hard feelings.

    Mary and Janet are interested in "lobbying" Assembly Rep. John Jagler.  Suzanne at South Central Wisconsin Move To Amend (SCWMTA) is interested in pinning Mr. Jagler down on his opinions about the Constitutional amendments to codify the rules that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

    Karen briefed us on the upcoming "Tailgate to Save Our State."  Check the Federation of United Tribes website for details.  The event's purpose is to promote renewable energy and save the environment.  The kickoff will be on June 18th in Madison.  A caravan of energy efficient vehicles will leave Madison that date and wend its way northward to BadRiver.  Then it will go to the annual Alternative Energy Fir in Custer, Wisconsin (yes, there IS a Custer, Wisconsin).  The events are hooked in with  Don mentioned something called the Skeptical Science app on his phone.  It debunks many of the erroneous objections to the science of global warming.

    Marcia announced that Mary Arnold has achieved the 200 signatures she needed for nomination for Assembly.  In fact, she got 280 signatures.  A number of DAP-pers helped gather those signatures.  Thank you, gatherers.

    A number of us are going to the state Democratic Party convention June 6th and 7th in Wisconsin Dells.  We will be there on the 6th especially at the Rural Caucus to help re-elect Nate Timm to the Chair and to help staff the Wisconsin Grassroots Network information table.

    Karen and Marcia reported on their attendance at the CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund) training session in Viroqua.  Frank D. and Mary Lou S. also went.  Karen said she was excited and energized by the two day event, and she looks forward to continuing further action on this issue.  She will put further information on the DeForest Area Progressives website.  She has study guides on the evolution of corporate power in the United States.  The increase in corporate power in the U.S. started long before Citizens United v. FEC.  Much of the march of corporate power has been accomplished by judicial fiat.  We have to act to make sure that local governments and the people they represent learn how to protect themselves by means of local BILLS OF RIGHTS, the rights being the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water, among other quality of life natural rights.  Go to the CELDF website for further information.  In the future, DAP will be exploring how we wish to get involved in this effort and bring it to more fruition throughout Wisconsin, as it has been implemented in other states and localities.

    Marcia also told us about her new babies, chicks, that is.  John forgot to bring his rhythm tie, so there was no obnoxious rendition of "You Are My Sunshine" this meeting.  We will continue to talk about a fun open mic at future meetings.  See you all next Monday at Ginny's.

    John Scepanski



  • commented on Faith Spotted Eagle Testifies about KXL to U.S. Dept of State Hearing, 2014-06-01 14:04:52 -0500
    Marcia, this beautiful woman cites “our aboriginal rights.” Why haven’t we listened more carefully to these people and others like them?

    I get the feeling — maybe I’m a cockeyed optimist — that we are going to get more direct action from President Barack Obama on this and other issues as his terms of office approach their close. One of those direct actions, I think, will be a rejection of permission for the KXL pipeline to enter the United States. Leave the tar sands where they are – in the ground. John

  • August 2014 meeting/picnic in Sun Prairie!

    You're invited to the Progressive Partners Picnic!

    Please click this link for details, and to RSVP:

    Then, forward this invitation to your progressive friends 
    and members of your groups.  

    Friends and families welcome!

    SPARC is excited to host this event  - we've got some great surprises
    planned and look forward to seeing you there!

  • A Sign of Hope from The Brookings Institution?

    Maybe there's a new generation better than ours on the horizon, maybe some hope for a less materialistic, more idealistic future?        John

    Friends and Colleagues, 

    A recent Intelligence Group study found that 64% of millennials would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring. 

    By 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce. As such, understanding the generation’s values can offer a window into the future of corporate America and Wall Street. In a new paper, "How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America," Morley Winograd and Mike Hais take a closer look at millennials and their potential impact on Wall Street’s business-as-usual:



    Not only do millennials focus on corporate social responsibility, but their lack of trust in the financial sector indicates that Wall Street may be in for a “millennial reckoning”—especially if it continues to lose touch with a changing society. 

    You can get a brief intro to the paper and learn more on our FixGov blog. 


    Elaine Kamarck
    Founding Director, Center for Effective Public Management
    Senior Fellow, Governance Studies


  • published Values in Opinion Blog 2014-05-29 17:56:56 -0500


    "...the idea that the private sector, the free market, on its own has all the solutions is just a myth."

    "When it's just about the money, there are no values."

                                            - Tim Wu

  • commented on Dollarocracy: John Nichols - May 22, 2014 2014-05-27 19:55:49 -0500
    John Nichols is something else, Tim, isn’t he! We could use about a hundred more like him. Thanks for this video. John