Dr. Tanner was DNR director under Governor William Milliken, and hes utterly disgusted with whats happened since John Englers first day as governor. And what I most often hear about Governor Granholm is that at least shes not as bad as Engler, he said.
Last week, Tanner spoke to a huge crowd, a record crowd, in fact, for the annual Earth Day celebration pulled together by the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council.
Sounding more like a revolutionary than a retired fisheries expert. Tanner fantasized how he would save the Great Lakes if he could just be appointed czar of Michigan.
Tanner told the environmentalistsusing rather blunt languagethat although they have done well fighting their isolated battles, they must now unite in order to sway the folks in Lansing.
Being a fisheries guy, Tanner is most concerned about the vitality of the Great Lakes and their ability to support the fish populations. The sport fishery on Lake Huron has collapsed. Lake Michigan is headed the same way, he said.
Heres why thats happening.
Five hundred million pounds of Quagga mussels (a bigger version of the Zebra mussel) are thriving in Lake Michigan and eating up plankton and bacteria (fish food) and pooping water-warming phosphorous. Scientists worry the mussels are upsetting the lakes food web.
Millions of Asian carp are lurking 40 miles away from Lake Michigan and quickly advancing. These carp are the sumo wrestlers of the fish world. They are huge (weighing up to 100 pounds), they are prolific, and they eat more than your teen-age son. Their numbers would positively explode in the Great Lakes if they found their way here. You can guess how the carp would affect other fish species. Tanner said the DNRs attempts to prevent infestation are feeble at best.
Five years ago, a viral disease causing fish to bleed to death arrived in the Great Lakes and caused massive die-offs in Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. A brown trout in Lake Michigan was found with the viruscalled viral hemorrhagic septicemiain May of last year. The disease arrived here either by ship or bird, no one knows for sure.
At a time the natural resources are at the breaking point, the DNR and DEQ remain split (despite the promise of Governor Granholm to bind them together again). And their budgets have hit rock bottom.
I am very critical of our state government, Tanner said. Before I unload, I know that in the morass of failure and non-function, there are a few good and able elected officials. But overall our state government doesnt work.
He then listed the ps of state government. Prancing, prattle, posturing, pontificating, and procrastination.
Everything but progress! I am sick of it! As a citizen of Michigan, I am humiliated! Above all, I am outraged. The truth is, I want to be CZAR! Not senator, not supreme court judge, not governor. BUT CZAR! I want to rule by edict. Ill fix it and I wont be term limited!
He paused. Enough fantasy. I wont be czar.
He then reminded the audience, perhaps for the fifth time that evening, that government is created by the people, and owned by the people. Its time to unify and take it back.
One way or another we created the state government, and it exists the way it does because of our inattention to what is going on there.
So back to the fantasy of Czar Tanner. Heres what hed do immediately.
1. Ban phosphates in dishwashing machine soap. (He hinted this would be a great ballot referendum.) He also noted there is phosphate-free dish soap that works just fine, and we should all use it.
2. Make water bottles and fruit drinks returnable at 10 cents apiece. Another good ballot referendum. Collecting signatures, anyone?
3. Put the DEQ and DNR back together and find a way to fund them with a secure, steady stream of money.
4. Create a citizen policy commission to give people a stronger voice in responding to the decisions of the DEQ/DNR.
5. End term limits.
6. Increase taxes to replace the eroding tax base. Use a graduated income tax.
7. Cut off access of ocean-going ships from the St. Lawrence Seaway. (Only 94 ships came from saltwater bodies last year, so its not as drastic as it sounds. His view is that the cost of decimating our lakes with alien species greatly exceeds the benefits of commerce.)
8. Strengthen the doctrine of public trust. In other words, put some muscle behind our legal obligation to protect our public resourcesair, water, and land.
9. Be conscious of where your food comes from, and buy accordingly.
10. Get involved with Phil Powers new group, Center for Michigan, which has growing clout with Lansing lawmakers.
Tanner said he is not our chosen leader, but did leave the audience with a closing battle cry.
We the people!