Letters: May 16, 2024

Trouble in ‘the little town on the big lake’

“But America is mostly the speech of the people” (John dos Passos).
Whether a natural area that contains a historic walking trail deserves a continued place at the center of a Lake Superior community’s waterfront is a question different residents of “the little town on the big lake,” Washburn, Wisconsin, hold different ideas on. 
My own view on the matter was expressed by the following words (“Guardians,” 2006): I trust that what we want is a community so lovely to be in that people will want to come here to enjoy it with us, but mostly that it be a joyful, healthy place to live and raise children…we have a rare, nearly extinct resource in our still open, and green municipally owned frontage on the world’s greatest freshwater lake. Yes, it is a miracle that it is still there and pristine—and a chance for the community to do with it something more than practically any other community has, that is, preserve it!

But these were far from the last words on the matter.
A plan adopted by the City in 2015, the Thompson’s West End Park Expansion Plan, includes a “glamping” (glamor camping) area. Several yurts and accouterments are sketched in that plan for a some two acre areas on Holman Lakeview drive immediately to the east of 6th Avenue West and the Lakefront Walking Trail’s entrance. The Expansion Plan’s chief proponents called it “the lesser of two evils.” That is, they viewed glamping sites there as means to occupy and therefore “protect” that land, sixteen acres in total, from larger scale projects such as were proposed in 2003 (condominiums) and RV sites (2022).

In 2024 however, another solution began to emerge. This spring a group of residents circulated a petition for direct legislation and succeeded in placing a proposed ordinance on the ballot. Adopted by residents on April 2nd by a 476 - 205 vote (a 5 - 2 margin), the Lakefront Property ordinance basically says:  

Any development proposal converting to alternative (commercial) purposes the some 16 acres of city-owned Lake Superior frontage bounded by 6th Avenue West and Holman Lakeview Drive and extending to the east edge of the ravine at the foot of Washington Avenue should go to a direct vote of  the people of Washburn.

Not surprisingly, the Washburn administrator and a few other city officials challenge and would repeal the ordinance at the earliest possible opportunity (two years from its April 2nd adoption). Apparently, these officials see the ordinance as adding another and inconvenient step in the process of local governmental decision-making. Again however, the ordinance concerns just sixteen acres, or 1/19th of Washburn’s overall holdings of parks and open lands. Regarding this vital city land, whether proposed there is a glamping or other commercial development project, the Lakefront Property ordinance gives all residents an equal voice on the decisions.  

In the final analysis, the land on Holman Lakeview Drive is and always will be Washburn’s focal point, its fulcrum for long-term development. Placing proposals for the commercial development of this land on the ballot places them in the sunlight of public scrutiny, the appropriate place for them. The decision regarding how to develop this land, by far the biggest one facing our community, is pivotal; it’s one that will affect our community and its growth and development for the next century and longer. 

In short, the underlying question is as follows: Should a vital piece of Washburn’s past retain the public character and accessibility that’s defined the heart of our lakefront and our community since the 1976 creation of the city’s jewel, its Lake Superior Walking Trail? Whether you believe the answer is yes or no, as long as the Lakefront Property ordinance is in place, you are assured a vote on the question. 
Roth Edwards
Washburn, Wisconsin


Sen. Baldwin gets things done

Senator Tammy Baldwin joined the Democrats in the U.S. Senate and worked to pass the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  Nineteen Republicans also voted in favor of the Law.  Unfortunately, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin voted “No.”
President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act November 15, 2021. 
Two years after the passing of this historic legislation, Wisconsin has received over $5.1 billion to kickstart over 300 new infrastructure projects. Some of these projects include repairs to Wisconsin’s major airports, lead pipe replacements, power grid enhancements, improvements to our roads, bridges and waterways, cleaning up legacy pollution in our Great Lakes, and statewide broadband expansion. 

It also includes money for people to update their homes to be more energy efficient. Two family members have benefited from this. 
$1.6 billion from the Infrastructure Act will be used to replace the Blatnik Bridge that connects Superior, Wisconsin to Duluth, Minnesota—The Twin Ports. The Bridge opened in 1961 and has reached the end of its life. The new bridge will be safer and boost the regional economy. 
About 33,021 cars per day travel on the Blatnik Bridge. 265,000 trucks transporting nearly $1 billion of goods travel across the bridge annually.
In September of 2023, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn), Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn), and Rep. Slauben (R-Minn) sent a letter to President Biden urging him to fund the Project.
Representative Tom Tiffany who represents Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District voted against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 
On January 25, 2024, President Biden traveled to the “Twin Ports” to announce his commitment to invest in American Infrastructure and Jobs creation as a cornerstone of his Administration.
Hundreds of jobs will be created for Iron Workers and others. These jobs will boost the area economy.
This link breaks down how the estimated $5.1 billion of the infrastructure Act and Jobs Act will be used in Wisconsin:
We can thank Senator Tammy Baldwin for all that she has done for the people of Wisconsin since she was elected in 2012. Senator Tammy Baldwin works for the people of Wisconsin. Senator Tammy Baldwin works with Republicans for the benefit of all of us!
Joyce Luedke
Weston, Wisconsin