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Opinion Archives for 2019-05


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

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. 

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