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Friday, April 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 33.0° F  Fair
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MADISON.GOV

Brett Hulsey's green sheen questioned
Longtime environmentalist draws flak for past consulting work

Hulsey says the criticism 'pains me deeply.'
Hulsey says the criticism 'pains me deeply.'
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It makes sense that anybody hoping to replace Spencer Black in the state Assembly would try to position himself or herself as the environmental candidate. Black, who is not seeking reelection, has for years been the Legislature's preeminent environmentalist.

As the owner of a consulting group called Better Environmental Solutions, county Supv. Brett Husley would seem to have a great résumé. But Hulsey, one of several candidates who have declared interest in Black's 77th district seat, is getting blowback from some prominent environmentalists over his consulting work.

"Brett worked for the Sierra Club for a long time, did a very good job. Then he changed jobs and that's fine," says Steve Hiniker, of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin. "You've got to do what you've got to do to make a living."

But Hiniker says he's bothered that Hulsey, whom he considers a longtime friend, "takes the work he did and says it was for environmental gain. That's just not true. He worked for the coal plant in Cassville." (See Madison.gov, 10/23/08.)

Between 2006 and 2008, records show, Hulsey's company made $192,970 consulting on the project, which was ultimately rejected by the state Public Service Commission.

Mark Redsten, executive director of Clean Wisconsin, is also concerned by Hulsey's lobbying for the coal plant.

"As a paid consultant for the utility, Brett became a significant voice and face for Alliant Energy in a multimillion-dollar campaign to win state approval for the plant," Redsten says."Brett focused his comments on the plant's ability to burn biomass, but our analysis, supported by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission staff, showed that the utility intended to burn all types of coal, and even refinery waste, and only a small amount of biomass."

Redsten adds that the plant design would have released "significant amounts of nitrous oxide" and "generated more greenhouse gas emissions than existing coal plants in Wisconsin."

Hulsey counters that while lots of politicians talk about fighting for the environment, he has actually worked on projects that reduce pollution and energy use. He says that his company is developing a 3.2-megawatt solar energy plant and that its Green Grocer program helps reduce energy use.

And, as a county supervisor, Hulsey says he's fought to preserve land, clean up lakes and reduce truck emissions.

"I'm clearly the front-runner here," he says, calling Hiniker the "Dick Cheney" for one of his primary opponents, county Supv. Dianne Hesselbein. "He's doing the hatchet work, and it pains me deeply."

No environmental group has yet made an endorsement for Black's seat. Hulsey says those endorsements are important, but adds, "The endorsements of the neighbors are most important to me."

Not lovin' it

The McDonald's restaurant at 3051 E. Washington Ave. wants to move down the street, because the pedestrian bridge that stretches across the road is hurting business.

"Basically, the construction of the bridge and the road construction have dropped the volume considerably at that location," says Mike Mangin, vice president of Missoula Mac, which owns 42 McDonald's restaurants, including this one. "The entire site is completely hidden. You don't even know it's there until you're in front of it, and then you can't get back to it."

And so the restaurant wants to relocate to the parking lot in front of Madison East Shopping Center, in the 2800 block.

But the proposed move has neighbors upset. Area Ald. Larry Palm says residents "bent over backwards" to approve the McDonald's reconstruction two years ago at the current site, only to have the restaurant change its plans.

"A lot of people are like, 'What the heck's happening? What does this all mean?'" he says. "It looks like a project being rammed down our throats."

Dan Melton, president of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Association, says some residents see McDonald's as not quite fitting in.

"A lot of neighbors here wouldn't dream of going to a McDonald's," he says. "I'm 61 years old, and I haven't been to one since high school. We get our food from [Willy Street Food Coop] and Jenifer Street Market. But that's not how everyone lives."

On the plus side, Melton thinks there's potential for the old McDonald's site, possibly with urban agriculture or a job-training center.

But, he adds, "Civilization isn't going to rise or fall with any of this."

New parking meters 'a pain'

When you park downtown these days, it may be tempting to pull out your credit card and use one of those fancy new parking meters that take credit cards as well as cash. Not so fast: Some three months after they've been installed, none of the 14 meters are operational.

Bill Knobeloch, the city of Madison's parking utility manager, says that's because of a glitch with the new meters. The first time a card is swiped yields an error message. The second time's the charm, but that's not good enough. "We don't want to have to have people swipe their card twice," he says. "It's just a pain."

The vendor that supplied the meters, Metric Parking, is working on fixing the problem, which Knobeloch says is "probably a mixture of software and hardware." And the city won't pay the company - $8,000 per meter - until the meters are working.

Knobeloch hopes the problem can be fixed. But if that doesn't happen soon, he plans to set a deadline: "We don't want to do that because it took us a long time to get to this point and because we like the machines."

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