No, we're not talking about a place out in the Lakes where ships and planes mysteriously disappear.
The late President Eisenhower's phrase "the military-industrial complex" is famous. He referred to "an immense military establishment and a large arms industry" sometimes unduly influencing policy.
A well-known concept in political science is "The Iron Triangle," referring to the entanglement of Congressional committees, bureaucrats and interest groups. It typically refers to the effect of powerful, well-paid special interests on Congress, which in turns limits the regulatory powers of agencies. The recent banking and finance scandals are an example.
What follows is not a parallel. Nor are the motives of those involved, or the effects of their actions on public policy and the public interest. They will not benefit commercially and do have the interests of the Lakes at heart. But given that to date, most of the speakers and attendees at meetings on the proposed $475 million Great Lakes plan have reportedly been people paid to advocate on the Great Lakes or people paid by those who are regulated by Great Lakes agencies, one has to wonder how and whether "the public" will actually participate in the funded recovery of the Lakes.
EPA's e-mail response form is one way, and commendable. But still -- as with thousand-page appropriations bills or health care reform bills -- it's unlikely more than a handful of citizens will wade through and understand the restoration plan and the spending plan.
It's time for innovation in our democracy -- matching ecosystems and political systems and truly engaging the public. Here's more on that.
Yes, I am a paid environmental advocate and have been for the last 19 years.