August 28, 2003
Citizens of Horicon win!
A grassroots group named Citizens' Committee for the Preservation of Horicon (CCPH), was formed to stop a proposed ethanol plant within the city limits of Horicon and to protect the health and well-being of the citizens. As usual in these battles, one of the major promoters of the plant was someone who would make a lot of money off it. In this case it was Bill Gardner, owner of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, who would profit from transporting the fuel.
Gardner tried to scare the city council, the plan commission and the local businesses by threatening to organize farmers as well as his employees to boycott Horicon businesses if they did not approve the plant. He organized free dinners under a big tent just a few blocks from where the planning commission and the city council meet. Chicken one night, steak the next and always hot corn and plenty of butter. With help from his consultants he formed his own citizen's group in support of the plant. Unfortunately for him, nearly all of his supporters lived miles from Horicon. But they would come to meetings and Gardner would literally stand in front of the room and gesture for his group to raise their pro-ethanol signs or applaud. (One might conclude that he never really left the Big Tent.)
On Tuesday night of this week, from 7:30 p.m. to 1:00 in the morning, the battle was joined. The Horicon City Council took up the issue and heard testimony from 74 people, and all but 11 opposed the plant. More than 900 citizens had signed petitions in opposition to placing an ethanol plant in town because it would jeopardize the health of the citizens, as well as the internationally renowned Horicon Marsh, with chemical fumes and smell.
Gardner further endeared himself to the citizens by testifying that Horicon is a dying community. Proving that local citizens can indeed take back their own town, the city council listened to the residents of Horicon and voted 5-1 not to permit the plant's construction.
The crowd was ecstatic. Joining the Town of Elba, Augusta, Menomonie, Cambria and Arlington, the high-priced consultants have met their match---the people. As one of the leaders said, "We have our town back."
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