Congressman's constituents seeing green
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan visited Baraboo on Tuesday during a six-stop, two-day listening session tour of the counties in his district. The Democratic congressman, who formerly served for more than a decade in the state Legislature, heard from more than a dozen area residents on issues ranging from the environment to the Benghazi attack.
“It’s extremely helpful to come out and hear about not just issues that are important nationally but specifically to the region and to the county and making sure that we’re addressing every single constituent’s needs and concerns while I’m in Washington,” he said.
Many area residents brought up environmental concerns ranging from climate change to the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant.
“There’s one overriding issue that this country has to do something about, and that’s climate change,” Don Kalscheur said.
Kalscheur discussed his support of a “carbon fee,” which he said would encourage responsible investment in alternate power sources.
“Everything else is actually minor,” he said. “Because if our grandchildren don’t have a reasonable atmosphere to live in, I think it’s all for naught.”
Pocan said politicians from both parties have started coming together to address climate change. “Climate change is real,” Pocan said. “It’s science, and the carbon fee, I think, is a really strong option.”
He advocated more research and development on green energy technologies.
Gail Lamberty, a board member of the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance, and Laura Olah, executive director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, appeared to talk about the future of the former Badger plant.
“There has been an agreement between the National Park Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that said, ‘We have a future vision for this land determined by the consensus of the community,’” Lamberty said. “We want to see conservation and low-impact recreation. That’s very
critical. We expect that to be followed through by all parties, federal and state.”
Lamberty thanked Pocan for his interest and commitment to the site and invited him to visit Badger.
Pocan said he realizes the importance of environmental remediation and has recently been working with others to address that through legislation.
Scott Frostman, a Baraboo Republican who ran against state Rep. Fred Clark, spoke out about the IRS and energy issues.
“It’s interesting because the word ‘global warming’ has been worked into ‘climate change’ because the Earth isn’t getting any warmer,” he said, citing natural phenomena such as blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes, which he doesn’t believe have been affected by climate change.
Frostman said he supports the Keystone XL pipeline and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration and drilling.
“I really think we can’t continue to rely on fossil fuels,” Pocan replied. “I just don’t think it’s a sustainable policy — economically, environmentally, sustainably.”
Other concerns raised at the session included outsourcing, health care reform, sequestration, veterans’ issues, preservation of historic sites.
One overarching issue is the nation’s budget, said Pocan, who serves on the House Budget Committee.
“The House has a budget, the Senate has a budget, the president has a budget,” Pocan said. “But until we sit down and have a budget, there really is nothing in place, and so far the Republicans in (the U.S. House of Representatives) have refused to appoint conferees to do that.”
Pocan said there are 12 million unemployed in the U.S., and millions more are underemployed. According to the Congressional Budget Office, he said, three quarters of the nation’s deficit is caused by “economic weakness.”
“To me, that tells me any of the issues that we’ve got to deal with in the long term, unless you deal with in the short term – getting people back to work, getting the economy going — we’re really not going to be able to address those issues as reliably as we need to,” he said, citing important areas such as infrastructure, research and development and education.
Pocan said he’s been talking about the budgeting process everywhere he goes.
“On the floor of the House, I’m often talking about why we need to get rid of the sequester, why we need to have a budget. I mean, we’re just trying to continue pushing about it by talking about it. Whether I’m in Baraboo or I’m in Madison or I’m in Washington, D.C., I often talk about the same thing because until we have that roadmap, you really don’t know where you’re going, and it’s an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. And I’m supposed to be a good warden of those dollars, and part of that is making sure that we have a good process.”