Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Should Wisconsin Get Ready for War?

By - Aug 20th, 2001 12:31 pm

You may feel very safe and protected, living in cozy Wisconsin, far from America’s seacoasts. But what if the Badger State did get attacked? That’s something that’s been worrying Major General James G. Blaney, Commander of the Wisconsin National Guard. “We’re trying to get our assets together in case there is a terrorist strike or weapons of mass destruction strike,” he says.

“We’re trying to get our assets together in case there is a terrorist strike or weapons of mass destruction strike,” says James G. Blaney, Wisconsin National Guard Commander.

It was Blaney who came up with the proposal that was first included and ultimately
removed from the state budget, which would have created a “Wisconsin naval militia… for the defense of the state during war, riot, natural disaster or public emergency.”

“If there was a terrorist attack in the state, the National Guard would be very involved,” notes Blaney, a veteran with 40 years experience in the military, all of it served in this state. And Blaney feels the guard needs more back up.

“We ran a study to find out exactly what was available in the Navy and Marine Corps,” Blaney says. “I had to find out what was available in the area of weapons of mass destruction.”

The “study” is apparently not a formal report. “I don’t know if it was a written report or not,” says Tim Donovan, Public Affairs Officer for the Wisconsin National Guard. “It may have just been an oral briefing.”

The briefing or study was done by a retired Naval officer, and it offered good news to those worried about protecting the citizens of this state. “The Navy was very receptive,” says Blaney. “They want to get involved with weapons of mass destruction.”

So, apparently, does Governor Scott McCallum, who included the proposal for a Naval Militia in his version of the budget. The Republican Assembly version left this in and the Senate Democrats cut it out; the conference committee version agreed to delete it.

The proposal was merely enabling legislation, but once written into law, Blaney then intended to go after funding for the Naval Militia. Still, since the measure had no cost figure attached to it, its inclusion in the state budget makes it seem like a back-door attempt to avoid a discussion of its merits.

According to Blaney, the Wisconsin constitution allows for a naval militia, and the state operated one from the early 1900s until the 1950s. “It operated a couple sub[marine] chasers on the Great Lakes,” Donovan notes.

So now, 50 years later, Blaney wants to bring it back. But he notes, “we’re not looking for navy ships. We’re looking for land personnel. The Navy and Marines have personnel for medical, for decontamination and for chemical testing of equipment.”

How is it that 46 states have found no need for a naval militia?

“Say there’s a big explosion in Milwaukee,” Blaney explains. That’s when Navy and Marine personnel could be brought in to help out the guard.

And why can’t the federal government protect Wisconsin from terrorists and weapons of mass destruction? “If it was a federal emergency, they could be called to federal service,” Blaney says. But with this legislation, the governor operating on his own could call in personnel.

“New York has a naval militia,” Blaney notes, “and New Jersey, Alaska and Ohio.”

How is it the other 46 states have found no need for this? “They can probably get along without it,” Blaney says. Some, he notes, do not provide for this in their state constitutions. As for the others, “they may have it in their constitutions and they just haven’t done it.”

But Blaney is still hoping Wisconsin will someday join the short list of those who are pro-actively preparing for terrorists and other things that go bump in the night. “We traveled to New York to look at their operation,” he reveals. “They use some on the water and we don’t want that.”

As it is, the Wisconsin National Guard is rarely activated for emergencies. The last one was in 1977, when personnel were brought in as possible replacements for striking state employees. As for handling weapons of mass destruction, do we really need a state militia on tap for this? Blaney has no doubts on the matter. “I think it would be a benefit to the State of Wisconsin,” he says.

The Brewer’s Newest Ballpark

Taxpayers may not have realized that in paying for Miller Park, they would also be paying for a new ball park for Little Leaguers. The Miller Park stadium board recently revealed it would be spending $3.1 million to create a youth baseball park with 500 bleachers and an adjoining, 1,200 square foot building.

According to Evan Zeppos, spokesperson for the stadium board, the goal is to help “draw people to Miller Park and make it a little more community oriented.” Little Leaguers will be able to play in a ballpark right next to the one where major leaguers play. So who could object to this?

Perhaps only a nitpicker would note that the state legislation funding Miller Park made no mention of a youth ballpark. The stadium authority board has so far allocated $1.5 million in tax money for this. How much of the remaining $1.6 million gets raised through private donations remains to be seen. Some might wonder why there was no public discussion of this addition to Miller Park. As with past increases in the stadium board’s spending, it often seems as though the board operates a slush fund of tax money it can increase when it so desires.

Then there is the question of what the Brewers gain from this. Zeppos says the primary use of the facility will be for Little League baseball teams, but the Brewers will be able to lease the facility to companies for meetings, parties or softball outings. Since the Brewers will make no monetary contribution to this project, that seems like a curious arrangement.

Zeppos says the Brewers will manage and handle the upkeep and maintenance of the facility, but the team’s lease, which covers the stadium and all the adjoining area, requires the stadium board to repay the Brewers for 64 percent of all maintenance and upkeep. The contract does have a $3.85 million cap on the board’s annual payment, so it may turn out that the Brewers get nothing additional for upkeep of the youth ballpark.

But there’s little doubt the Brewers will gain considerable good will and free publicity for providing Little Leaguers with a really cool place to play, even though the team paid nothing for it and can make some money renting it out. Not surprisingly the team is very supportive of the project.

This article was originally published by Milwaukee World.

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