Opinion

LETS MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN

I’M FED UP, I’ve had it, I want it to end . I want to Make America Great Again. I’m
tired of waking up each morning and turning on the TV news to find out what craziness
happened over night. What new thing this irresponsible president did or said , what city
was ravaged by riots and unrest. I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball to know how it’s all
going to end, but one thing I do know for sure is that it isn’t going to get any better with
the election of Donald Trump to another 4 more years as President! We have seen what it
is like with him at the helm and this country can’t withstand another 4 more years. We
have seen what it’s like...division not unity, ugliness not civility, disrespect for promises
and agreements made. Donald Trump doesn’t believe in science, and he puts no value on
facts. He lies about everything and does nothing unless it is to his advantage.
But, I can’t just blame him. I blame the spineless , cowardly members of the Republican
Senate and House who refuse to rein him in even though they know he is way off base.
They could have neutered him years ago but now they simply cower and feign that they
really don’t know enough about the issue a comment.
I, like you want to Make America Great Again, to go back to a time when I don’t have to
unfriend long time friends and a time when I don’t have to like or dislike my neighbors
based on the political signs on their lawn. It isn’t going to all end with the next election
but it certainly is a place to start. Our votes can tell the world and this country that we are
better than that.
On the last go around I voted for 2 Republicans because they promised me that they were
going to be a different kind of Republican. They were gong to have a concience and they
were going to have courage to buck the party line. Once they won the seat they quickly
found out that if they didn’t want a short lived political career they better just go along
with the party line. I voted for these new kind of Republicans then but I sure won’t do that
this time. I want to make America Great Again. We have the opportunity right now to
vote. I urge you to vote for Democrats and tell the world that Wisconsin voters are ready
to get back to civility and replace Donald Trump and the enablers that are riding his coat
tails.

Jerry MacMillin
1309 Texas St
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Human Rights Watch - US culpability and Genocide in Yemen

Local legislators Rep Joel Kitchens and Congressman Mike Gallagher have praised the "employment opportunities," and touted the contracts with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for enhanced capability LCS gunships built by NE Wisconsin's Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) and Sturgeon Bay's Fincantieri Bay Ship (FBS). 

 

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/21/us-war-crimes-yemen-stop-looking-other-way

 

Sturgeon Bay's common council recently granted zoning variances to allow exceptions to facility height restrictions to accommodate FBS building expansion plans for eventual participation for construction of the new US Navy frigate contracts.  FMM was awarded several million dollars for conceptual design ideas for un-manned US Naval sea-based "drone," vessels, presumably for anticipated warfare against other sovereign nations.

 

US Secretary of State Pompeo was in Madison, WI yesterday reiterating earlier comments by Gallagher about perceived security threats from China to an exclusive GOP state legislative audience, which Gallagher started expressing in a May 7, press release while touting his appointment to an all GOP federal, "China Task Force."  There's been no response from Door County government as to how such irresponsible cold-war sabre-rattling will negatively affect our or a wider Wisconsin's extensive economic trade with the Chinese and not even a response to crushing Door County's Sister City efforts.

 

With a diminishing ability of our local, state and federal governments to deal with the numerous negative pandemic related public health and economic burdens being thrust on a growing and serious majority of US citizens, isn't it about time we as a community start publicly asking the questions of our "leadership,"  about what constitutes the more immediate threats to the survival of our democratic republic than killing Yemeni civilians or starting a new cold or hot war with China would do?  Isn't it about time for a responsible local press corp to pose these questions and demand answers?

 

I'm asking where are the responsible local journalists, the responsible local elected officials or self-appointed civic leaders and where is any sustainable and humanitarian focused private economic sector with even a remote concern beyond short term profit at any cost (in human lives or otherwise) instead taking any public stand for any sort of viable future for any of us?  Door County - Commitments to Cleanliness and Safety?  Really, and for whom exactly?

 

https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/secretary-of-state-mike-pompeo-warns-against-chinese-influence-in-speech-to-state-lawmakers/article_24064695-9ddd-548f-9e56-ca7ad2170821.html

 

https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2020-09-23/pompeo-faces-new-criticism-of-politicization-following-wisconsin-trip

 

Donald Freix

Fish Creek, WI 54212

Village of Egg Harbor Beach project complete

 In 2017, I found myself bouncing down the highway toward Madison, in hopes of receiving grant money to engineer an aspirational beach project, which was not yet fully envisioned. I returned to Egg Harbor hopeful, and for good reason, the Village had received $32,000.00 from the Coastal Management Program. 

     A year later, I found myself headed back to Madison, with a community developed plan in hand. Once again, in front of the Coastal Management Council, I pleaded my case and held out my hat, on behalf of the tax payers of Egg Harbor. The plan touted: a 50% increase in beach frontage, ADA accessibility to the waters edge, recessed beach that would stay above the extreme high water levels, a stone revetment for seating, and more. Little did I know that representatives from the Fund for Lake Michigan (FFLM) were also in the audience. They liked the project and encouraged me to apply for funding from their program as well.  In response to our application, the Fund generously provided a grant of $120,000.00 to assist with construction costs. The contribution was meaningful and provided the catalyst to move the project forward, a project which may otherwise have been acknowledged as a good idea but remained on paper year after year. 

“The Fund for Lake Michigan is thrilled to assist with this exciting project in Egg Harbor,” said FFLM executive director Vicki Elkin. “Providing citizens with access to healthy and safe beaches is a key component of what we do.”  

     The engineers on the project, SmithGroup JJR were as one would hope, wise and professional. The project was not without its problems, not uncommon with projects of this scale, but as issues appeared they were calmly worked through and managed. A kind thank you to SmithGroup, for capturing the Village’s wants and wishes, and manifesting them within the project. 

     And to the builders, the doers, and staff who ensured that the project was built with an eye for detail, thank you for your wonderful work. And a special thanks to Rass Excavating, of Sturgeon Bay, who was awarded the project through a public bidding process.

     Now, the Village decision makers can take pride in a comprehensive plan that received incredible stakeholder feedback, and the Trustees feel empowered, knowing that the vast majority of people support improving existing amenities, especially those that strengthen our connection to the outdoors. Looking forward, all eyes turn toward the Alpine Resort, with the potential acquisition of an acre of property. This purchase would allow for: additional parking, moving a wastewater pump station currently located in the center of the beach, expanded beach area, an improved breakwater pier, and could serve as a trailhead for a recreational path to be designed.

 

 

Letter to the Editor: A Conservative Speaks about Mask Wearing

I was impressed by conservative republican Karen Hughes’ thoughts about wearing masks. The following are excerpts from her opinion piece published on July 1, 2020 in the Washington Post. Hughes was counselor to the president and undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs during the George W. Bush administration.

 

“When leaders said ‘We are open for business,’ too many citizens heard ‘Life is back to normal.’ 

 

A recent University of Washington study projected that 33,000 fewer people will die by October if 95 percent of us wear masks in public. 

 

Yes, we enjoy personal freedom, but we can also choose to do something better for the common good. Wearing a mask should not be a political issue. Calls for masks are grounded not in politics but in lifesaving public health practices and the science behind how covid-19 spreads. 

While wearing a mask is not a political issue, it is a moral one. The choice and stakes are clear: the minor inconvenience of donning a mask vs. potentially threatening other people’s lives. The options are not equal on any scale of duty, honor, citizenship, or service to God and others. Amid a deadly viral pandemic, wearing a mask is the only responsible course of action.” 

 

Dan Powers

Sturgeon Bay

Letter to the Editor -- Agenda Packet, page 12, June 23, 2020, Ken Pabich Memo, re: "Operational Projects"

Dear Supervisors,

As the opportunity for comments have been sketchy recently, I comment by email.

Please refer to page 12 (Memorandum) in the Agenda packet under the heading: “Operational Projects”, Millpond Project:

“Status: Valve is wide open and water levels are coming down with the dry weather”.  Not exactly information overflow, but this statement seems to reflect more wishful thinking than accurate information. 

Actually, during the last 30 day “dry” period the water level has gone up 3 times, several feet each time, culminating in 2 overflows and working on its 3rd one today, while none of these were caused by significant rain falls (all less than 1.7"/day). This emphasizes the massive runoff again.  Also, since the beginning of the drawdown, the Millpond has been flooded more than half the time!

I quote here from the Millpond Report Executive Summary: “An analysis of the land use, as well as computer modeling of sediment and nutrient loads, highlights the  primary driver of pollutant loading as agricultural sources”.

Would it not make sense then that our SWCD department would tackle “the primary driver of pollutant loading” problem?  SWCD's recommended option however, shows otherwise.  The 2 yr. drawdown was never part of the options presented to the public.  This was added later under “Updated Management Options” as a separate topic on the SWCD website, and to show how ineffective this option is, they mention here that it might have to be repeated every 5 - 10 yrs. again!  The execution of this SWCD recommendation (the 2 yr. drawdown) was then later assigned to Facilities and Parks.

This ill conceived project has already ruined our recreational opportunities and destroyed the fish and wildlife for many years, polluted the waters of our neighbors downstream and added serious health risks to residents and visitors. 

The Board approved this project without a plan in place of how to manage it. That came about 8 months later, and following that plan has been full of flaws as well.

The so called “Stakeholders Meetings” as part of the decision making process did not include any of the most important stakeholders!

 

Time to reconsider this project and bring the REAL stakeholders on board during the decision making process, meaning establishing a twin Door County/Kewaunee County Ahnapee Watershed Management Plan.

Thank you,

Robert Sijgers,

FOFD, Inc.

OUR FESTIVAL IS CANCELLED, OUR PRIDE IS NOT

To Our Friends and Allies,


Out of concern for the health and safety of all members of our community, Open Door Pride has cancelled our fourth annual festival, scheduled for Saturday, June 27th, in Martin Park. We know we are one of many organizations needing to cancel major events, and our hearts go out to all those impacted.


While the Pride Festival is the most visible of Open Door Pride’s events, it is just one aspect of who we are and what we do. While the Festival will not go on, our care and support of our community continues, as it always has, 365 days a year. We are here as a resource for those seeking information about LGBTQ+ issues, as a community connector, and as a compassionate listener. We take to heart every day our mission: to promote diversity through inclusion for all.


During this time of safer-at-home and social distancing, we know that many in our community, especially our LGBTQ+ youth and elders, may not feel safe at home. To all of those quarantined in unsupportive homes, we see you surviving day by day and we are so proud of you. We are here for you. Reach out to us at info@opendoorpride.org; visit our website and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected with a supportive community. If you know of an LGBTQ+ person who may be feeling particularly isolated right now, please reach out to that person via a phone call, an email or a text message. It’s amazing how much a friendly hello can do in the lives of those who feel so alone.


We have been so grateful for the community’s response and encouragement for our annual festival. We want to acknowledge that many local businesses that have supported us so generously since our first Pride Festival in 2017 are currently hurting. Now more than ever, it is important for us all to shop local, and to support those businesses so they can continue to make us a diverse, strong and vibrant community. 


Though the festival is not taking place, we are working on alternative plans to celebrate and support the diversity of our wonderful Door County community. We look forward to you joining us.


Gratefully,

Open Door Pride 


signed by members

Cathy Grier, James Champion, Cynthia Germain, Steve Makovec, Jerod Santek, and Sandy Brown

Your Right to Know -- Pollution records must be open

Just shy of two years ago, this column explored the heightened importance of open government when public health is at risk. Multiple examples showed the government was not sharing timely information with the public, or even other branches of government, on issues such as clean drinking water and chronic wasting disease.  

Some progress may be on the horizon, however. A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill, AB 700, which would require the state Department of Natural Resources to notify counties within seven days when a water discharge permit-holder has violated groundwater quality standards. It also directs the department to create a notification system for other interested parties, such as residents, regarding the same violations.

Known as the Water Pollution Notification Act, the bill aims to prevent what happened in La Crosse in 2016. Then, La Crosse County health officials worked in vain for months to get information from the DNR about potential groundwater pollution from a local Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). It turned out that pollution had been ongoing for years.

The bill’s co-author, Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, worked with county and DNR officials to draft the bill. “The intent of this legislation is not to go after farmers,” Billings told Wisconsin Public Radio. It merely ensures that people who live near problem wells be notified “so that they can test their wells and make sure that they have clean water.”

This makes sense, and it is in keeping with the ideal of maximum transparency. As one county official expressed, “We make decisions based upon the best information that we have available at any point. So there cannot be a decision made to notify the public if we’re not aware of a problem.”

The bill is not limited to farm contamination; it would require disclosure of contaminants from industrial or other sources as well. The bill is co-authored by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, whose district has experienced groundwater pollution from a class of contaminants called PFAS, and who has criticized withholding information about groundwater pollution.

A similar bill was proposed in early 2018 but failed to pass. Let’s hope this bipartisan effort fares better in 2020.

Sadly, not everyone agrees that sharing information about groundwater contamination is a good idea. Officials in Lafayette County were roundly criticized in November for proposing to prosecute media and discipline board members who reported results from a three-county groundwater study in a manner not favored by county officials. While that sweeping proposal did not pass, a scaled-back version received approval from a county committee, and some county officials still supported releasing results only to local media.

Scientists working on the study pushed back against the county proposal. 

“We are public employees and our work is public work,” said state geologist Ken Bradbury. “We cannot choose to release some data to some parties and not to others.”

That’s the spirit. Information about clean drinking water and clean air is of fundamental importance to the public. That alone is reason for proper communication about testing results, instead of trying to withhold studies that taxpayers are funding.

We hope policy makers resolve in 2020 to bring additional transparency to matters of public health.

Letter to Editor: WARD'S WOOLEN MILLS WORKING OVERTIME

With a seeming intent to craft a thick and opaque blanket, to “pull the wool” over the public eyes on the west waterfront development at the December 17, 2019 regular common council meeting, City of Sturgeon Bay taxpayers might want to chime in very soon to protect their pocket books.
Mayor Ward, since the “acceptance,” of Ad Hoc West Waterfront ADVISORY recommendations, has repeatedly pushed his unilateral plan, outlining “four steps,” defining how to implement the still unapproved ad hoc waterfront concepts.   Another $30K is now heading out the door for estimates to hurriedly implement one single aspect of an enormously complex and still unapproved plan, an arguably unnecessary and ill-advised piecemeal approach, cart-before-the-horse decision that will undoubtedly waste significant taxpayer money.  You correctly might ask, why the rush?
Individuals quick with making jokes about a “granary,” annual bridge crossing festival shouldn’t need reminders that the City currently has a binding development agreement with the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society.  Until such time the common council majority has the political courage, fortitude and conviction to legally alter that SBHS development agreement, Lot 92 is the final destination for the granary.  The mayor, city administrator, city attorney and common council majority need to officially act with legal remedies, or they should quit public whining about supposed problems with the SBHS.    
Anyone without Ward’s woolen blanket tightly wrapped over their eyes yet, recognizes that his hasty push to build an unapproved waterfront promenade also becomes the hasty push that could immediately cause relocation of the iconic tugboats.  The waterfront promenade becomes the false flag project “requiring,” immediate city action to force removal of the tugs.  City leadership could claim they no longer have any choice in the matter and invoke plausible deniability. “We didn’t see this coming.”     
Considering Ms Reeth’s breathless one-liner concern over attorney fees spent in regard to waterfront litigation, she will undoubtedly separate the costs for which she, along with alders Bacon, Nault and Williams voted to incur, to employ Madison-based attorneys to seek leave for filing an Amicus Brief with Judge Gill’s court over the recent Wiese, et.al., appeal, challenging the WI DNR ordinary high water mark ruling for city lot #92.  
Reeths should inquire whether the mayor and city staff instructed these attorneys, or did these attorneys “advise” the “city,” to seek leave to file their Amicus Brief on a topic entirely outside the legal purview of the actual ruling before Judge Gill’s court?  She will undoubtedly be informing city taxpayers about why that money was spent for legal work not explicitly approved by her common council vote. 
Reeths surely will report the potential legal fees to be incurred, should the city desire to quit making veiled insinuations about “problems” with the current SBHS development agreement and vote to officially change that agreement.  She’ll also undoubtedly inquire about the legal costs that will be incurred if the city is forced to defend any alleged breach of the current SBHS development agreement.  
Deliberately misspelling one word (for civility sake) in the familiar colloquial admonition, “Sit or get off the pot,” here directed to majority city leadership and some city staff, please, enough with public opinion manipulation, and please, enough of the divide and conquer tactics and misdirection over the issues of the tugs remaining on the waterfront, the ultimate location of the granary, and on the pretense that an advisory ad hoc plan has already been approved.  Very few people are falling for this city government majority charade. 

 

Your Right to Know -- Don't block anonymous requests

You can walk into City Hall asking to see records without ever having to give your name. 


You can mail or email an open records request to any public entity without giving any indication of who you are.


You don’t even need to submit a written request. You can make the request orally and still remain anonymous.


That’s because, while there are a few exceptions, Wisconsin’s open records law states: “No request … may be refused because the person making the request is unwilling to be identified or to state the purpose of the request.”


The law’s chief author, Lynn Adelman, a former state legislator who’s now a federal judge, has said that provision was so important to him that he would have scrapped the legislation entirely if an amendment to remove it had passed.


Yet, in at least two recent cases, that right has been challenged. 


An anonymous requester sued the Madison Metropolitan School District in November for refusing to release records unless the requester revealed his or her identity. The person, according to the suit, made 26 requests between July and October. The school district ignored some of them. It responded to others by saying it needed to know the requester’s name to ensure he or she posed no threat.


That’s one of the exceptions to the anonymity provision of the law — if there’s a safety concern that outweighs the presumption of disclosure. Another is that if student or health records are requested, the custodian should confirm the requester is authorized to receive them.


The requests in the Madison case are for routine documents, such as school board updates and a school improvement plan. As the requester’s attorney, Tom Kamenick, notes in the suit, the records are “not focused on any individual, and they contain no information that would put any person’s safety in danger if revealed.”


There are circumstances in which the exemption can be legitimately applied — for example, a request by a domestic abuser for records about the abuser’s victim. This isn’t one of them. 


In a second case, the village of Ashwaubenon refused an anonymous request in March. The requester had asked for the billing records of an outside law firm the village had hired to conduct personnel investigations. 


The requester used the pseudonyms Mr. M or Richard Marven, a Navy officer who was a whistleblower in the Revolutionary War.


The village’s attorney responded in April by asking the requester to make an appointment at city hall to access a copy of the records. 


After several email exchanges didn’t lead to a resolution, the requester filed suit in June, contending the village and its attorney refused to provide copies of the records by mail or email and required the requester to appear in person to inspect them.


In October, the case was settled and the requester, who was not required to reveal his or her name, said the records were made available.


The presumption of openness in Wisconsin government means there should be as few obstacles to openness as possible. Requiring records requesters to identify themselves is an obstacle. 


Citizens would be less likely to make requests without the right to anonymity. That’s why the law was clearly written to prevent governments from denying public information to people for whom this is important.


The anonymity provision is crucial to the state open records law. Our governments need to understand that — and obey the law.

 

Your Right to Know is a monthly column distributed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council (wisfoic.org), a group dedicated to open government. Council member Larry Gallup is the digital news director for USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

Letter to the Editor:  End Plastic Waste

In recent years, the issues of disposable waste, recycling, and sustainability have become concerns for many. Seeing acres of plastic containers floating in the ocean is haunting. Although local units of government in Wisconsin (including Door County) are tasked by laws and regulations to manage municipal solid waste,  State law 66.0419 (Section 1) was passed in 2015 restricting the authority of local government to regulate reusable or single-use disposable containers, including waste plastics. As it stands now, municipalities may not choose to create local laws for regulating plastic - or any other one-time use materials. 
Fortunately, this year a bill has been introduced in the state legislature to address the growing problem of plastic waste pollution by simply repealing the statute passed in 2015. AB177 returns local control to those interested in pursuing more environmentally sustainable practices and in finding local solutions to waste pollution. In April 2019 the bill was assigned to the Assembly Committee on Local Government, headed by Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville). It is critically important that this issue get the attention of lawmakers, and AB 177 deserves to be passed. The first step is for Rep. Novak to schedule a hearing on AB 177. 
To effectively address and manage plastic waste pollution will require manufacturers, businesses, governmental and consumer policy-makers to work together.  It is a large, complex and thorny problem, getting worse by the day, and includes industrial wastes.  But according to the Center for International Environmental Law, “the petrochemical industry is poised to invest billions to expand plastic production by 40 percent in the next few decades. If they succeed, plastic will outweigh fish in our oceans by 2050.”
The people of Door County are proud of our environmental awareness and of being good stewards of the fragile beauty entrusted to us.   Businesses and individuals often go above and beyond minimum requirements for keeping our peninsula beautiful for so many who visit, as well as for those of us who call Door County “home”.  We should have our power restored to choose locally how we manage waste and encourage sustainability.  
 If you want to help with the effort to pass AB177, please do two things: Contact Rep. Todd Novak,  Rep.Novak@legis.wisconsin.gov  or (608) 266-7502  insisting that he schedule a hearing on AB177; and contact Rep. Joel Kitchens, Rep.Kitchens@legis.wisconsin.gov   or  (608) 266-5350 to ask that he co-sponsor  AB177. 

League of Women Voters of Door County
Shirley Senarighi, Chair

 

Civil Discourse: High Speed Rail Would Have Been Better Bet Than Foxconn

Wisconsin turned down more than $800 million in federal stimulus money in 2010 that would have created high-speed rail corridors between Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis. Turning down that money will cost Wisconsin far more than it will ever gain from Foxconn.

Former Governor Scott Walker made high-speed rail a loser and Foxconn a winner. He promised more than $3 billion in subsidies to Foxconn in return for a commitment to invest $10 billion and create up to 13,000 jobs in southeast Wisconsin.

Today Foxconn has a record of missed construction dates, missed employment levels and a missed product mix. In fact, the first production looks like it will be coffee machine robots rather than high-tech screens, as promised. So much for Foxconn and legislators who were led along a route of job-creation fantasy.

Southeast Wisconsin could have been boosted by the economic development that fills in high-speed rail corridors all over the world if the federal stimulus money had not been rejected. And misguided political leaders not only took a pass on federal stimulus money, they also failed to comply with a contract with Talgo, the Spanish train manufacturer. Talgo created jobs in a poor part of Milwaukee and could have been a major employer for years. The company had contracts to build two trains for Amtrak and additional trains for a proposed Madison to Milwaukee line when Wisconsin pulled the plug. Walker and Republican legislators lost a lawsuit for failure to honor the Talgo contract. It cost taxpayers $10 million.

And Wisconsin lost much more in economic development that could have occurred but will not. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, writes frequently about the fill-in factor. He demonstrates the increase in employment, home values and additional economic development that “fills in” along high-speed rail corridors.

But that will not happen in Wisconsin where Walker and Republican legislators put their money on Foxconn instead.

Today you can take a high-speed train the 350 miles from Rome to Milan in about three hours. Free high-speed internet and speeds of up to 180 miles an hour mean Italian train travelers ride in comfort and efficiency.

What Wisconsin lost abounds along rail corridors throughout Italy. Hotels, resorts, and restaurants create jobs that follow rail passengers. In the small remote villages of Cinque Terre trains arrive every fifteen minutes. That’s job creation that will be far in excess of whatever Wisconsin will see from Foxconn.

Wisconsin would have been better off with high-speed rail than we ever will be with the Foxconn promises.

That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.

 

THE PUBLIC RECORD – FACEBOOK

The Wisconsin City/County Management Association (WCMA) defines two of the many duties of a Mayor with an Administrator form of government thusly:


-The mayor shall serve as the chief representative of the city in relations with the media.


-The mayor shall serve as the chief executive officer of the city, performing executive
responsibilities by monitoring the activities of the administrator and the various departments
of city government to see that city ordinances and state laws are enforced.

 

Prompted by a public comment during the Sturgeon Bay common council meeting on September 3, I looked at the City administered Facebook page. Posts and comments ran the gamut from excellent city department summaries such as those from the city engineer and other department heads, to anonymous “City of Sturgeon Bay,” responses in the comment section, to abusive and potentially libelous comments from individual citizens.

 

 

The City administrated Facebook page is an official city media publication and is also subject to open records request discovery, and the city is potentially liable to suffer legal and financial damages by allowing abusive and potentially slanderous and ill-informed public comments such as some of those comments allowed by the Sturgeon Bay FB page administrator in the August 23, 2019 West Side School
“informational,” update.

 


An extended comment containing the phrase “…The Friends of Sturgeon Bay and Sturgeon Bay Historical Society…” represents an unconscionable lack of mayoral and city administrator oversight and such an abusive comment hopefully would never be tolerated during common council public input, but it squarely puts the city at risk of being named as a willing party to future legal action.

 


And because that comment had been allowed to appear and to remain, nearing a second week so far, one assumes that the Mayor and the City Administrator totally miss the damage being done or simply agree or approve of the misinformation and self-interested, abusive attitude expressed by the commentator.

 


Commenting on Facebook requires submission to third-party terms and conditions that are
unacceptable to many and this creates a condition of literal discrimination against citizens unwilling to acquiesce to a third-party terms of service in order to participate on a city administered digital public forum.


With clear neglect of city monitoring of their own social media page and inherent discrimination against equal public participation with this social media platform, this reasonably amounts to failure of due diligence, potentially voiding city liability insurance coverage along with needlessly encouraging legal liability suits, also fostering the appearance of official partisan policy favoring certain comments, which is contrary to any actual public interest.

 


Thankfully, the good Alderwoman from the 4th has asked for an examination of current city policy regarding digital social media use. With regards to the Mayor’s campaign platform of furthering “civility,” sadly that plank is still floating somewhere out on Lake Michigan and inexcusably, the City Administrator appears “blues clueless,” to very crucial issues at hand putting the city in avoidable jeopardy.

WFIC Column: The scourge of privacy

I like privacy as much as the next person. I don’t want anybody tapping my phone or peeking through my windows. I’m even irked that whenever I go online to shop for, say, chainsaws or hiking boots, every other web site I go to afterward reminds me of my interest in these products.

But as an advocate for open government, I am troubled by the extent to which public officials are using privacy in order to shut down access to public information. They say it’s necessary because the public can’t be trusted not to do horrible things.

One manifestation of this was the decision last year to remove records of dismissed cases from the state’s online court records system. The change was supported by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who like me was a member of a committee that looked into the issue. (I opposed the change.) 

Vos argued that the information had to be removed to keep people from using it to discriminate against others whose names appear on the system, officially known as Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA). For instance, if employers learn that someone was accused of a crime, even if it was dismissed, they will refuse to hire that person. Yet Vos also told the group that he regularly hires ex-cons in his various businesses, and finds them to be excellent workers.

And that gets to the heart of the matter: pure arrogance. Those who want to purge public information believe: “I am a good person who knows that not every charge is valid and even actual convictions shouldn’t be used as a basis for judging future behavior. But other people are not nearly as good as I am and will discriminate brazenly and illegally. So we must keep them from obtaining this information.”

Yet purging information from WCCA, which many people incorrectly call CCAP, means that the system no longer provides a comprehensive picture of what happens in our courts. Right now, for instance, every former prosecutor whose last case ended more than two years again has a 100 percent conviction rate, since all of the cases that did not lead to a conviction have been purged from public view.

Currently awaiting scheduling (and likely passage) in the Wisconsin Legislature is a bill with broad bipartisan support to greatly expand the availability of expungement of criminal convictions, which entails sealing court files and removing information from WCCA. Again, this is being done to “protect” those who have been convicted against the unfair and irrational judgments of members of the public.

Recently, a state appellate court ruled that judges can order the redaction of dismissed eviction cases from WCCA. The court bought hook, line and sinker the argument advanced by Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington, who said he wished he had the authority to order this purge because “everyone goes on to CCAP and just simply assumes that if someone files an action, you must be guilty of something and you can never sort of break away and get a fair shake.”

Neither Remington nor Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, who wrote the ruling, offered any evidence in support of their contention that people other than themselves lack the capacity to reach fair conclusions about a dismissed eviction case. Instead, the public, in their view, is little more than an insensate mob eager to latch onto any excuse to discriminate.

In 2015, concerns about privacy — or so they said — led lawmakers to end the requirement that significant donors to political campaigns disclose where they work. As Wisconsin Democracy Campaign noted at the time, “This makes it much more difficult for the media and the public to know whether employees of a specific company are all giving to a candidate in the expectation that their candidate will do the company a favor if that candidate wins.”

Now, Vos and other GOP lawmakers are pushing a bill that would allow winners of the state lottery to remain anonymous. They say it is needed to protect lottery winners from harassment. Yet the bill’s proponents, Vos included, have offered no evidence of any actual harassment endured by lottery winners. None.

The director of the Wisconsin State Lottery, Cindy Polzin, opposes the change, saying releasing winners’ names helps prevent fraud. Indeed, the nonprofit investigation news outlet Wisconsin Watch last year published a story about suspicious repeat lottery winners that could not have been written were it not for access to winners’ names.

But the proponents of shielding names are determined to force this change. “Just because you win the lottery,” bill sponsor Rep. Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel) declared, “it shouldn’t mean you lose your right to privacy.”

A handful of other states have passed bills to shield the names of some lottery winners. In Delaware, Ohio and South Carolina, all winners can remain anonymous. But in New Jersey, then-Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar measure, saying it would “undermine the transparency that provides taxpayers confidence in the integrity of the Lottery.”

Perhaps the most outrageous recent example of secrecy in the name of privacy is the news that Jake Patterson, the man convicted of abducting 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killing her parents, has been moved to an out-of-state prison whose location is not being disclosed, according to a state Department of Corrections spokesperson, “for his safety.” So now Wisconsin is officially sending people to secret prisons to protect their privacy. Don’t ask, because the state won’t tell.

In April, I attended the annual summit of the National Freedom of Information Coalition in Dallas, Texas. One theme that came up was the embrace of privacy as a justification for keeping official state secrets.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, said there have even been cases in which information on officer-involved shootings is being withheld on grounds of officer privacy. He told that group, “If you label something as pro-privacy, there’s almost nothing the legislature and judges will not affirm.” 

He added; “I sometimes think if you told people today that you wanted to create a book with everyone’s name, address, and phone number and put it on people’s doorsteps, you’d be tarred and feathered.”

I don’t mind if the law keeps people from installing secret cameras in my house. But when the state of Wisconsin decides to disrupt my life by filing bogus charges against me that are later dismissed, I bloody well want for there to be a record of it. I will trust that others can look at it and see that it was dismissed without assuming that I must have been guilty of something.

In fact, I have never met a single person who did not think that he or she had the ability to make rational judgments about people who are accused or even convicted of crimes, or who have been the subject of an eviction action. But many of them believe their fellow citizens are too stupid and too mean to do the same. 

The evocation of privacy as a justification of official secrecy is really just part of a larger push on the part of public officials to limit what the public can know about the actions and inactions of government. It serves their own interests more than anybody else’s. 

AD HOC WATERFRONT, YAWN INSPIRING

Laurel Hauser described the glaringly obvious flaws comprising the Sturgeon Bay Ad Hoc Waterfront Committee “plan,” recommendations on July 16, 2019, when she wrapped up their presentation with the word “compromise,” and the phrase, “nobody got everything they wanted.”
While genuine and sincere thanks for the committee member efforts is entirely warranted and the process to obtain ideas and public input is to be heartily congratulated,  the various ”stakeholders,” should have bowed out completely at that point and handed their findings over to professional planners without obvious self-interests in any part of the project.
Ad Hoc planning facilitators urged committee members to ignore financial costs and obviously the current city development agreement with the SBHSF was completely ignored.  Civility and the "kum-ba-yah" moments of compromise were indeed proper tools for the process, but were not the ultimate “product,” requested of the committee.  An inspiring plan was the goal, and that plan largely failed to materialize.
As examples, contrary to the "towers," framing the park to draw people in, this immediately presents "book-ended prison guard towers," absolutely further blocking the existing views of the waterfront for any passers-by.  The DCMM should be completely prevented from expanding either parallel to bulkhead or eleven stories vertically, both being totally unwarranted intrusions into public space.

The “granary,” is the authentic, logical centerpiece to this planning, along with retaining the fleet of tugboats.  Following the historic Ahnapee rail spur “trailhead,” into this park to “discover,” the working waterfront is the visitor’s reward and the exploratory challenge and incentive to draw people in. 

Each Ad Hoc “stakeholder,” getting something they wanted, either preserving their parking, or their view, or their art or their facility expansion have nothing to do with creating a proper waterfront  plan and are the very reasons the entire Ad Hoc committee should have turned over their information to the already known, visionary professional planners.

Stephanie Trenchard was absolutely correct in summarizing that “art,” was relegated to an afterthought.   The Ad Hoc, between the bridges planning, exudes irrefutable mendacity and piecemeal petty self-interests, unworthy of further public attention.

Letter to the Editor: A word about gratitude for the granary

We live in a disposable world and don’t think about the consequences of our actions very much, do we? Just the other day I was getting groceries at one of the local super markets and the person before me at the check-out was asked by an employee “ma’am, do you want paper or plastic?” Her slightly irritated response was “Oh, doesn’t matter”. Hmm, really?

 

I noticed in that moment how easy it is to block out the consequences of our choices. As our world and our oceans are drowning in discarded plastics we say “oh, it doesn’t matter”. By the way, paper bags are also problematic. It’s best to bring our own shopping bags to the store.

But this blurb is not about plastic bags- it is about the historic granary in our town, in lovely Sturgeon Bay. Why is it so difficult to convince people that the preservation of this last historic building is a worthwhile and important cause? We have the money to do it (and if we need more in the future, we will fundraise it!) and we have a treasure on our hands with this sturdy, historic building. In a world that discards endlessly we should not throw away this irreplaceable historic structure! Even more importantly, we have a responsibility to preserve the history for the next generations that we’d like to call Sturgeon Bay their home. Historic preservation builds community. By restoring and celebrating this historic structure we also protect and celebrate our community and we express our gratitude for the folks that lived here before us.

 

 I find it unconscionable how some members of the City Council, the new Mayor, and the City Administrator undermine the efforts to save the Granary. Let’s work TOGETHER to restore and repurpose this last historic building on the westside waterfront!

Letter to the Editor

COUNCIL DISREGARDS PUBLIC TRUST, AGAIN
Item 10 on the June 18, Sturgeon Bay common council agenda, extension of DCMM PUD status was approached by alderwoman Avenson as it should have been, with her full regard for the Public Trust Doctrine, her oath of office and for avoiding future legal entanglement involving the city.  
 
Ignoring normal rules of order, and in disregarding his own responsibility which demands the chair’s default neutrality on issues before the council, what amounted to the chairperson’s repeated demeaning and disrespectful badgering of the councilwoman, demanding a motion worded to satisfy his preferred terms, mayor Ward interrupted alderwoman Avenson prior to a seeking a second to her clearly stated initial motion. 
 
Interestingly, during discussion, the city attorney didn’t fully clarify the issues at hand and minimally answered only the questions posed to him, going fully silent instead of answering alderwoman Bacon’s final question.  Please note, the WRA is a legal entity created by the city under state statutes, and it was recently subject to an order from the common council to cease independent WRA action going forward.  This should have been minimally required appropriate legal counsel pertinent to Item 10.
 
Clearly, the WRA and a former city attorney (and city council?) overlooked the Public Trust Doctrine in issuing the original quit claim deed to the DCMM parcel.  That original issuance occurred without the legal authority to do so.  There exists a reasonable question as to the legality of the council, two years ago, issuing a PUD prior to anyone obtaining an appropriate submerged land lease through the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BoCPL), historically.  Tell me the DCMM is not sitting on pilings sunk to submerged bedrock.
 
Rightly, this PUD issue should have gone back to city planning for review as a minimum first step, inviting the WI DNR and BoCPL to adequately inform city council of “proper procedure.”  This would have been the default process under Avenson’s initially stated motion which Ward improperly interrupted, ignoring the rules of order, and repeatedly badgered Avenson to meet his preferred terms for wording of a motion.  Avenson deserves an immediate public apology from the mayor.  
 
This PUD issue needs to be re-examined as Avenson’s concern is wholly legitimate.  I won’t hold my breath though, either waiting for the mayor to acknowledge his improper conduct of the meeting, his inexcusable behavior toward the alderwoman, or to his issuing any apology.   I won’t bet on the DCMM seeking an OHWM or a lakebed lease, abiding by the Public Trust Doctrine of the state constitution, either.  DCMM donors beware.  You may want to withdraw your DCMM pledge until the matter is settled.  City disregard does not supersede the state constitution. 

Reflections on the granary issue

I was watching the most recent Sturgeon Bay City Council meeting (June 18th) on TV and am still pondering the complications that are involved with the Teweles&Brandeis granary. It particularly struck me when alderman Nault said that he had received over 60 phone calls from residents expressing their opposition to the preservation of the granary. I believe him- I don’t think he’s making this up and I understand that he’s taking the position of these 60 constituents.

 

I am trying to come up with an explanation as to why so many locals are opposed to preserving this historic structure. I mean, what is so wrong with preserving the last historic building that represents the agricultural history of Sturgeon Bay? Why not restore it, relocate it to its original location, and show future generations where Great Grandpa Joseph, Grandpa Tom, and Great Uncle Bernie used to work? Why not celebrate the history of this town in this way?

 

What strikes me as particularly odd is that the strongest resistance to the preservation of the granary seems to be coming from the ‘native’ locals, while transplants like myself are trying to preserve what we see as unique and priceless. Why do “the locals” want to destroy their own history? This is a question I am posing everybody that has threatened to burn it down or otherwise belittled the cause. In addition, I don’t understand why the Maritime Museum is not jumping into supporting the granary cause. It is a maritime artifact of the highest quality, isn’t it? Remember, it was originally built on a pier!

 

In conclusion, I believe that there is an information deficit out there amongst people that are against preserving the granary. And this deficit is partly the responsibility of the granary supporters, including myself. We have not done a good job of explaining in plain terms why this is a worthy cause. I think it is not too late. My appeal to the Council is to rethink their opposition and to support wholeheartedly the move of the granary. We have a treasure on our hands- let’s not waste it.

Letter to the Editor: Mental Health

A group of concerned citizens and health professionals gathered at the Brown County Library to view the film “Kids in Crisis” Underwritten by Bellin Health.  Following the film, a panel of mental health therapists took questions from the audience.  One response consisted of the need to intervene with therapy at the earliest stage of development when the issue is identified.  The need continues into middle school, high school, college and beyond.  Another therapist identified the lack of insurance coverage for many people.  But if the students get to the college of Green Bay, the therapy is free.  


With increased suicide rates in Wisconsin and across the country, the focus on mental health is of a dire need.  According to Rep. Joel Kitchens,” suicide rates among teens in Wisconsin is sharply higher than the national average.”     Kewaunee County is fortunate to have a psychiatrist on staff which is shared with Door County.  


This past week, another school shooting occurred.  Two students enraged by being bullied, one because of his small stature, the other because of being transgender, just wanted to kill.  A young man was killed as he tried to tackle the shooters.  All of his dreams were lost in that instant.  Another young teenager jumped into action, even though he was shot in the leg.  He successfully disarmed one of the shooters, but not before his friend died.  Every radio and T.V. announcer and politician expressed their sadness and prayers to the families who lost their child or was wounded and then continued with the next news story.  Those words fall on deaf ears to the parents who lost their child or was wounded.    


Adults and young students came to the school to attend the vigil for the fallen student.  As the students realized the event had turned political and focused on gun control, they walked out in protest.  They had not been allowed to speak, but as they left didn’t yell anything about gun control.  No, they yelled Mental Health Mental Health.  They hoped their cries would be heard by school officials and politicians that have the power to support more mental health programs and services in the schools.  They want therapy for the likely perpetrators and the high stress levels the young deal with every day.   


Schools, churches and businesses, have slowly recognized the need for stronger security measures.  The students have not asked for their teachers to carry guns, but to secure the school entrances and to install monitoring cameras.  These measures are slowly being put into budgets.  


The pain and rage of the perpetrators were not recognized, at least not soon enough to prevent the loss of life. The student that led the walkout stated,” some students feel that politicians are too far removed to understand students fear that it will be their school next.”  Some schools are hiring Mental Health Therapist while others have contracted with health facilities that employ mental health therapists.   As adults, let us all speak louder and hear the cries of the students “Mental Health, Mental Health


Submitted by Donna Thomas,  Luxemburg, Wisconsin 54217, 920-366-4134

 

Letter to the Editor

Wisconsin crime victims recently got a huge victory thanks to our area legislators: Senator Andre Jacque and Representative Joel Kitchens. In May, the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of a bipartisan victims’ rights Constitutional Amendment known as Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin.  The Amendment will now be before Wisconsin voters through a statewide ballot in April of next year.

 

As a violent crime survivor, I know how important victims’ rights are throughout the difficult legal process. After I became the victim of physical assault, I was often too paralyzed by fear to even leave my home, afraid that my attacker could find me, and this time, I might not make it out. I felt totally abandoned by the judicial system.

 

I’d like to express my sincere thanks to Senator Jacque and Representative Kitchens for supporting and co-sponsoring Marsy’s Law. I was proud to be one of the survivors who testified in favor of this important legislation. My story, and those of so many other survivors, clearly demonstrated the need to strengthen victims’ rights. I’m grateful to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for moving Wisconsin closer to making equal rights for crime victims a reality.

 

Now, it’s time for Wisconsin’s voters to have the final say on Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin. I look forward to voting to support equal rights for crime victims in April, and helping to prevent future victims from suffering the way that I did. I urge my fellow community members to do the same.

Your Right to Know -- Bill would block scrutiny of lottery winners 

When University of Wisconsin-Madison student journalist Peter Coutu investigated frequent lottery winners in Wisconsin in 2018, he uncovered a pattern: the owners and clerks of stores that sell lottery tickets seemed to have more luck than normal. 


In his article for Wisconsin Watch, Coutu consulted a statistical expert, who concluded that the lucky streaks among some of the frequent winners of the Wisconsin Lottery defied any reasonable explanation. 


In all, Coutu found that three of the top 13 frequent winners had close ties to the retailers selling them the winning tickets. Another expert noted in the article that retailers get a cut of the winnings, providing additional temptation to cheat.


When Coutu joined the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia, later in 2018, he conducted a similar investigation. He found that many of the frequent winners in that state also were lottery retailers. One, the owner of a Newport News store, had cashed in 140 lottery tickets worth more than $400,000, including 23 tickets purchased at his own store.


The findings prompted policy changes in the Virginia Lottery, including scrutiny of frequent lottery winners — which Wisconsin already does — and a requirement that winners disclose any ties to lottery retailers. It also sparked criminal investigations into some potentially fraudulent winnings. 


But such independent examination of suspicious lottery activity would no longer be possible in Wisconsin under the recently introduced Lottery Privacy Act. AB 213, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel, would allow winners to shield their names from the public. 


In announcing the bill, Tauchen said he was responding to concerns that jackpot winners could be targeted for fraud, abuse and harassment. “Just because you win the lottery,” Vos said, “it shouldn’t mean you lose your right to privacy.”


Virginia recently passed a bill to shield the names of some lottery winners — but only those who claimed a ticket worth $10 million or more. In 2017, Texas allowed lottery winners of $1 million or more to conceal their identity. Delaware, Ohio and South Carolina all let anyone who wins  remain anonymous. But in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar measure, saying it would “undermine the transparency that provides taxpayers confidence in the integrity of the Lottery.”


To be sure, privacy issues are important — but so is public integrity. And the Wisconsin Lottery is big business. 


Since it launched in 1988, the lottery has generated $4.3 billion in property tax relief. Players have won $8.2 billion in prizes. And retailers have gotten $920 million in bonuses for selling winning tickets. 


Customers buy tickets with the assumption that their odds of winning are the same as anyone else’s. Politicians should not be chipping away at that trust. 


Lottery spokeswoman Patty Mayers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in April that the agency favors the current policy, which “protects the integrity of the lottery” and is “rooted in a tradition of transparency.”


That is the right approach. Shielding the names of winners would make it hard for the public and the media to figure out whether the lottery is on the up-and-up — or whether we are being bamboozled.

 

Your Right to Know is a monthly column distributed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council (wisfoic.org), a group dedicated to open government. Dee J. Hall is the council’s secretary and managing editor of Wisconsin Watch. 

AN UNCOMMON COUNCIL:  SEND IN THE CLOWNS

Thankfully, Sturgeon Bay’s common council at their May 21, 2019 regular meeting resolved their unconstitutional, alder Dan Williams’ committee led recommendation to restrict public participation, and understood after listening to actual public comment, that the “public,” under “public comment,” means anyone, and that discrimination on the basis of residency is not allowed under state statute.  

I’m not certain that Mr Williams’ previous committee meeting dictates restricting public comments to speaking only to non-agenda items was finally eliminated for all city meetings.  Clear favoritism in violation of the newly enacted rules of conduct and ethics was granted to two individuals who had gained agenda access (about pedal carts) to promote their own possible financial gain while potential debate in opposition had been clearly denied by the committee chairperson Williams.

To VanLieshout and Ward’s May 17, memorandum, if I understood the entire dialog, mayor Ward claimed he had assigned the task of political lobbying of state government (i.e., the governor, the WI DNR and two state legislators) to make changes to the state constitution regarding the public trust doctrine to Mr VanLieshout (who appears to have willingly and fully complied with the mayor’s order).  In essence, such a clear political lobbying effort should have been initially and completely rejected by the city administrator outright, and obviously was not.  How much city staff time was wasted there?

Sturgeon Bay city voters witnessed their five newly elected officials vote to violate of their oaths of office to protect and defend the state constitution.  Fortunately only four alders fell for the mayor’s blatant political gamesmanship set before their tiny car windshield.  Equally entertaining were the repeated insinuations from these “center ring, big top players,” that the January 3, 2019 administrative WI DNR rulings on the west waterfront were establishing new legal precedent.   Public trust OHWM precedent was set by Congress when Wisconsin was part of a US territory.

Alderpersons Hayes and Avenson were fully on the correct path with their request to attempt defining the OHWM for all property parcels within the combined TID #2/#4.  The fact that city taxpayers are on the hook for snow plowing, landscaping, utilities and maintenance of two city parking lots titled to the WRA, should prompt a resolution from the council that the WRA membership fund those maintenance costs out of their own pockets or relinquish title to the city for one dollar.  This is an obvious solution to further unwrapping and eliminating special interests clearly holding the city taxpayers hostage and currently preventing any and all future progress on the west waterfront.

 

 

Letter to the Editor: It's Only an Opinion

IT’S ONLY AN OPINION
 
The Sturgeon Bay common council fortunately took the first step toward formally enacting a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct last night and just in time as there appears to be a first opportunity to exercise parts of the new code immediately upon its final approval in two weeks.
 
Council members Gary Nault and Dan Williams introduced the May 7, 2019, closed session agenda item topic, requesting reconsideration of the city attempting to join in the current Wiese/Wulf et. al.,  appeal of the January 3, 2019 WI DNR ordinary high water mark decision for city lot 92, being heard by Judge Gregory B Gill on May 9, tomorrow as I write this.
 
What cannot be dismissed as a mere oversight without a full investigation as a potential violation of ethics and conduct was an obvious and blatant failure to include any of the WI Department of Justice defenses of the WI DNR January 3, 2019 OHWM decision in the council’s information packet published on the city website, Friday May 3.
 
It appears as no real wonder that Mr Nault would want to place restrictions on the public commenting during city meetings when a member of the public last night, pointed out that either the two councilmen, the mayor (supposedly in charge of the agenda) or city staff failed to present all the easily and readily available information on the legal appeal topic, to have engendered an honest and fully informed council engage in the closed session topic discussion.
 
In other words was initially presenting only one side of this current legal appeal to the council in their information packet a deliberate action, potentially in order to serve the private financial concerns of five Sturgeon Bay citizens claiming to have legal standing to appeal of the WI DNR decision?  Mayor Ward commented to the first public speaker that the WI DOJ response of May 2, 2019, was “only an opinion.”
 
Along with the May 2, WI DOJ response to the Wiese/Wulf appeal of the WI DNR decision was their 17 page DOJ response of April 19, 2019, and a third party respondent’s brief supporting the WI DNR Jan 3, 2019, OHWM decision.  No common council can make an unbiased and informed decision with only half the legal picture initially presented to them for their consideration.  Last night’s concerned citizens speaking up before the council undoubtedly beg for generous expansion of public comments, not further restrictions. 

Your Right to Know -- Body cam bill balances privacy, openness

When so much about politics is partisan, one might expect a topic like police body cameras to be contentious, particularly as it relates to public access to recordings.
But proposed legislation to regulate the use of these cameras was approved by nine of the 10 members of the committee that produced it, and received unanimous support from the bipartisan Joint Legislative Council. The bill is now working its way through the Legislature.
Last year, another proposed bill to set rules for police body cameras drew concerns from open records advocates and others. Among other things, it would have required anyone who appeared in a body camera recording taken in certain locations to approve of the video’s release to the public. That would create new work for law enforcement and maybe keep too much information out of public view.
The bill was approved by the Assembly, but stalled in the Senate after it became clear that more work needed to be done. A Legislative Study Committee was formed and met four times between July and November of last year. Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), who supported competing bills on police body cameras in the previous session served as chair and vice chair, respectively. Committee members included law enforcement, representatives of the media, lawyers, and other lawmakers.
The resulting bill, SB-50, addresses such aspects of police body camera policy as training, equipment, and records retention. Much of the discussion in drafting the proposal focused on public access to recordings.
Wisconsin has a long-standing standard of presuming that all public records are available for the public to view. The committee built on this standard in drafting the proposed legislation, as well as on the experience of other states that have dealt with this issue.
To address the privacy concerns, the committee proposed adjustments to the balancing test as it applies to police body cameras. Records custodians must weigh the privacy interests of victims, minors, and witnesses in deciding whether a video should be released. Redaction technology can be used to protect victims, minors and those with a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The study committee worked hard to reach this agreement. Committee members listened sincerely to those who disagreed with them. Sen. Testin and Rep. Taylor deserve credit for their work leading this committee.
If SB-50 becomes law as currently written, law enforcement agencies will have new rules to help them navigate the use of this new technology. Victims and minors would know that their privacy has protections. The public and the media would continue to have access to police body camera recordings, and they would have the same remedies for appealing a record custodian’s decision as they have today.
SB-50 has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing and lawmakers could make changes to the bill before it comes up for a vote, but the bipartisan support for the bill up to this point is a promising sign.

Your Right to Know is a monthly column distributed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council (wisfoic.org), a group dedicated to open government. Kyle Geissler is director of operations and public affairs at Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Civil Discourse, an occasional attempt to restore civility to our civic discourse - David Ward: Most qualified mayor in Sturgeon Bay history

David Ward: Most qualified mayor in Sturgeon Bay history

 

Civil Discourse, an occasional attempt to restore civility to our civic discourse, by Roger Utnehmer, DoorCountyDailyNews.com President and CEO

 

David Ward is the most qualified mayor to be elected in the history of Sturgeon Bay. He brings to the challenges he will face a Ph.D. in Finance and significant administrative and economic development experience in both the public and private sectors.

 

His resume qualifies him for an annual salary in the private sector of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, he spent most of his career in public service. Major cities throughout the United States would be proud to have a mayor with David Ward’s resume.

 

Ward served as the Chief Academic Officer for the 26-campus University of Wisconsin system. He was the interim chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Before that he was a university professor. He operated his own economic development consulting company for nearly twenty years. His experience includes overseeing budgets ranging from $80 million a year to $6 billion. And he’s also been involved in the local community, serving on the Door County Medical Center board, a leader in his church, city council member and more.

 

This background assures that David Ward brings to the office of mayor the skill, talent and temperament to solve city problems, to govern with the consent of the governed and to unite a community that occasionally appears to be congenitally addicted to conflict.

 

It’s time to give this exceptionally qualified public servant what he needs to be successful. That includes respect in disagreement, open communications with civility and recognition of his right to privacy without rude intrusions into time with family. 

 

The family of any public official also deserves the appreciation of the public.


More than one mayor of Sturgeon Bay has had their privacy and that of their families invaded over a Friday night fish fry with family. Let’s show David Ward and his family the respect they deserve.

 

May those who disagree with David Ward on the issues he will face show that in Sturgeon Bay there is civility in our civic discourse.

 

That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.

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