Opinion Archives for 2019-06

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. 

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