Door-knockers, mailers try to make impression as mining vote nears in Oneida Co.Submitted: 11/01/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Door-knockers, mailers try to make impression as mining vote nears in Oneida Co.
ONEIDA COUNTY - Pete Zambon and seven other volunteers have done it more than 500 times in Rhinelander in the last three weeks.

Knock on a door, and start a conversation about mining.

Zambon and volunteers in the Protect the Willow organization in Oneida County feel confident next week's vote will go their way. They're hoping people will vote "no" on an advisory referendum on sulfide mining in the Town of Lynne.

Zambon had never canvassed before this fall. He now likes it.

"I found it was really fun, talking to local citizens, local community members who I didn't already know," Zambon said Thursday.

His message to voters?

The county's water, wildlife, and recreation are too precious to vote yes on considering a sulfide mine in Lynne.

"When you can talk to somebody, and give them your personal reasons why you care, and they can see that you're being genuine, and they see that you're a real human being, it makes a different kind of an impact," Zambon said.

As Zambon walks and knocks, he sees blue and white yard signs made by his group, telling voters to Protect the Willow. They're all over the county.

"I'm seeing signs line the roads and it's a very good feeling," said Jeff Brown, another group member. "People are becoming aware of what the concern is, and how what happens in Lynne might affect their neighborhoods in another part of the county."

There are few yard signs supporting the referendum. But there are plenty of mailings.

The mailers are from the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Issues Mobilization Council. They tell readers state law protects the environment from irresponsible mining. In one ad, deer stare into the camera, with text telling the reader to vote "yes."

Sugar Camp's Taylor Pitlik doesn't need convincing. She's sure about her support.

"A lot of people have come to me asking, 'What do you think, how does this work?'" Pitlik said Thursday.

They ask her because Pitlik just graduated from Michigan Tech University with an engineering degree and studies in mining.

"I think it's helpful knowing that a girl from the Northwoods and [who] moved back here is interested in hearing the options. It kind of opens their mind to, 'oh, maybe, what is the modern mining industry like today?'" she said. "People fear that, yeah, the next day, a company will come in, start digging, things like that. That just doesn't happen."

Pitlik wants the door to stay open to mining. She'd like to hear the options. After all, it could mean a job for her in the future.

"I think it would be a great opportunity for me and other young adults in the area for a job," Pitlik said.

The referendum will be on ballot next Tuesday for Oneida County voters. The county board is not bound to follow the wishes of voters.

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