Wisconsin Gov. Doyle Calls the Question on Great Lakes Restoration

He took the podium as one man. But Governor Jim Doyle spoke for millions of Midwest citizens, 78 electoral votes, and eight states - including key battlegrounds like Michigan, Ohio, and his home state of Wisconsin - when he called today on the presidential candidates to make restoration of America's Great Lakes a top campaign priority.

"We are at a crossroads," Gov. Doyle said in a letter to the presidential candidates. "The next Administration will have a key role in determining the fate of the Great Lakes."

"I ask whether you endorse the Great Lakes Restoration and Protection Strategy and, if so, to articulate your implementation plan," the governor continued.

With just under one year to go before the 2008 election, Gov. Doyle's call illustrates how hungry the people of the Great Lakes are for a reasoned agenda to reverse decades of economic, environmental, and civic decline. His remarks also gift wrap a highly strategic, no-brainer issue for the presidential contenders, several of whom - Clinton, Giuliani, and Obama - hail from the Great Lakes region.

The Great Lakes restoration plan could be an incredible economic, ecological, and social improvement tool for the nation's heartland. The program will not only begin to reverse a century of environmental abuse.

It will also generate tens of thousands immediate short term job opportunities; leverage private investment and accelerate urban revitalization; secure existing water-dependent industries and promote long-term job retention and growth; elevate quality of life and position the region to attract top talent; and spur technological innovation in the promising water sector.

Indeed, investing in the proposed $20 billion initiative - properly executed - without doubt will lead to far-reaching benefits that not only outweigh the cost of the cleanup program, but ultimately strengthen the Midwest and the nation as a whole.

"Protecting, preserving, and improving the Great Lakes is not just a Wisconsin issue or a Michigan issue, it must be a national priority,” said Gov. Doyle, who chairs the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

Which ambitious candidate will be the first to answer the governor's call?