Busloads of locals are heading from Hurley and Ashland to make the long trip to Madison Wednesday. (1/23) They’re making the ten-hour round-trip hoping they’ll get to testify at the public hearing on a new iron ore permitting bill.
It’s more than the ten hour round-trip. It’s also a public hearing that’s expected to last 12 hours. All that and no guarantee they’ll be able to speak. There’s the “pro-mining bus” leaving Hurley. Kelly Klein will be on that bus. He’s the director of the Iron County Development Zone: “Yeah, I think it’s worth it. There have been several in our area that have been paying close attention. They’re interested in seeing it through. They would like to see something happen here.”
Charlie Ortman is boarding his 56-seat bus chartered by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. It’s worth it to him too: “Oh yeah, absolutely. This is the most important hearing to me. It’s another opportunity to have another huge count of opposition, overwhelming opposition to this bill, whether they listen to that or not.”
Retired from the Air Force, Ortman says he can get the time off. But it won’t be easy for others, but they’ll make the trip. He says a lot of people are upset with the bill and the process that he says ignores the far north: “Not transparent. Not open. Not taking the concerns of citizens on hand. So, I’d walk on glass to get to this hearing.”
Klein’s bus is also a 50-seater. He says there’ll be people onboard who hope to someday get a job at a Penokee open pit mine, “We’re not just there to say ‘Yeah, we want the jobs’. We understand that we want the jobs but we also understand something about this industry. We’re not afraid of it.”
Both buses were scheduled to leave around 5 a.m.