Tag Archives: staff

Wisconsin DNR: CAFOs could write own pollution permit applications

Large farms could hire experts to craft their pollution and construction permit applications under a reorganization plan the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced this week.

The agency has been working on reorganizing since July 2015 to deal with a growing workload and the state’s tight budget constraints. DNR officials issued a news release this week announcing the plan, calling it a “strategic realignment effort,” but the release contains very few details.

The cornerstone of the plan would allow concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs, to hire qualified consultants to craft applications for manure handling and construction permits.

The idea, DNR Deputy Secretary Kurt Thiede said, is to reduce the back-and-forth DNR staff currently engage in with farmers to get their applications up to speed, freeing up staff to perform more frequent permit compliance checks in the field.

Developers looking to perform shore stabilization work and pond construction also would be allowed to use consultants to help craft their permit applications as well. “They’re writing the information to help inform that permit,” Thiede said.

The plan mirrors a controversial approach DNR has used for wetland building permit applications for a decade — engineers and other consultants are allowed to help craft developers’ applications, said Jeffrey Voltz, deputy administrator of the DNR’s external services division.

The DNR plans to speak with stakeholders in the coming months to determine what qualifications CAFO and shore consultants will need.

A state audit in June found the DNR wasn’t following its own policies for policing pollution from large farms and wastewater plants.

The audit also found that the agency had been extending permits without review for years and that staffers lacked time to thoroughly monitor large livestock operations. Environmental groups were outraged by the findings.

Amber Meyer Smith, government relations director for environmental advocacy group Clean Wisconsin, said it’s unclear how allowing outside consultants help with permit applications might change things for both farms and the DNR.

“There are certainly efficiency measures included in today’s announcement, but a lot of questions remain,” Meyer Smith said.

Paul Zimmerman, executive director of government relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, said the move would reduce duplicative work for farms and the DNR.

“You’re hiring a licensed professional to do his or her job,” Zimmerman said. “Those licenses have to mean something. The idea is to free up staff time.”

The overall reorganization plan will affect about 5 percent of the DNR’s 2,549 full-time employees, according to the news release.

Changes will range from position descriptions, reporting structure and division assignments as the agency moves from seven operational units to five, including Forestry; Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Environmental Management; Internal Services; and External Services.

The Bureau of Science Services’ remaining 19 researchers will join other programs as well as a new Office of Applied Sciences.

A new bureau will focus on real estate and property planning and staff working on water-related sediment cleanups will be combined with staff working on soil cleanups. Thiede said the move would allow managers to more closely monitor researchers’ work.

The state budget Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed last year eliminated 19 researchers from the Bureau of Science Services. The scientists had been working on a number of politically charged issues, including climate change, pollution and mining. Democrats blasted the cuts as political payback.

The reorganization plan also calls for shifting 33 ranger positions into warden positions. Thiede said rangers spend little time on law enforcement. The move would still leave more than 100 rangers in state parks but they wouldn’t have law enforcement credentials. Some of the 33 rangers whose positions would disappear could apply for warden jobs or elect to stay in the parks without law enforcement powers.

The news release said the plan would be implemented in phases with final changes anticipated by early 2018. Thiede said some portions of it may require legislative approval.

Milwaukee LGBT center makes new hires

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center recently announced a series of new hires.

They include:

• Tom Hanley as director of programming and operations. He is a former principal of Golda Meir School.

“Tom has a reputation as a strong leader and facilitator of excellent teams,” said interim center Karen Gotzle. “He brings great ideas and enthusiasm to the position.”

Hanley’s duties are to manage the center’s daily operations.

“Tom has a very strong commitment to the LGBT community, and we are thrilled that he is bringing that commitment and his extensive skills to the center,” said center board co-chair Jennifer Morales.

Hanley said, “I am very excited for the opportunity to help develop an organization that operates effectively, efficiently and with unmatched accountability, in order to provide additional program offerings that are of high interest and importance to a broader LGBT community.

• Public ally Syd Robinson, who has lived and worked in Milwaukee for 10 years. A news release said Robinson is a public ally with Americorps. Robinson is skilled in e-marketing, graphic design and branding in social media and will serve as the center’s communications coordinator.

“I’m thrilled to be here and truly appreciate being placed at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center,” Robinson said. “Identifying as a transgender man has not always been easy; especially at the workplace. Now that I feel totally comfortable in my surroundings, with my co-workers, and with my fellow allies, the sophistication of my productivity has increased by being free to be my whole self. This positive change has shown through my work and I’ve already jumped into some new developments that are happening at the center. This is a very exciting time for me.”

• Carmen Barnes is the third addition to the staff, joining the center as a youth program coordinator.

Barnes, according to the news release, “believes that everyone experiences special challenges in their lives and may benefit from the therapeutic value that counseling offers in order to heal. She sees counseling and therapy as an opening for individuals to receive support and guidance as they find their own unique paths back into happiness and recovery from an addictive past.”

The center is at 1110 N. Market St., Milwaukee.

For more, call  414- 271-2656 or visit www.mkelgbt.org.



Baptist school loses staff over anti-gay pledge

A private university has lost at least 50 staff members since last fall, when it began requiring that employees pledge to “reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality.”

Shorter University, a Baptist school in Rome, Ga., forces employees to sign a “personal lifestyle” statement that contains four principles of conduct:

• The employee be loyal to the Christian-based mission of the university, which is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.

• The employee not engage in the use, production or distribution of illegal drugs.

• The employee not consume alcohol in the presence of students, including in restaurants, theaters and other venues students might visit.

• The employee “reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality.”

New hires must sign the pledge as a condition of employment, and current employees must sign the pledge as a condition for contract renewal.

The mandate from the university president states, “Failure to adhere to this statement may result in disciplinary action against me, up to and including immediate termination.”

Numerous civil rights groups said that Shorter may be a private institution with the right to require the pledge, but that doesn’t make the pledge acceptable.

Georgia civil rights advocates called the statement an anti-gay loyalty oath similar to the pledges teachers and other public officials were required to make during the Red Scare of the 1950s.

Since the school began requiring the pledge, about 50 people have resigned.

Others have formed a group called Save Our Shorter or SOS, which has a website and Facebook page where resigning staff to post their statements. The most recent post is from a tenured professor who rejected her contract.

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