A poster taped to the door of the Town of Kendall hall has new directives for residents who wish to attend open meetings. What strikes the reader is the fact that residents are now called “visitors.”
Do township “visitors” pay taxes, pay the chairman and supervisors’ salaries? Vote? Are residents viewed as visitors from another world? According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a visitor has temporary status and may be someone who is sightseeing.
A sightseeing visit is in order for Kendall residents to read and respond to this poster, which says the chairman may or may not acknowledge a visitor who raises his or her hand with a question. Does this not strike anyone as not only arbitrary, but discriminatory?
Anyone who “interferes with board meetings” (whatever that may mean) may be ejected, with the sheriff being called if the visitor declines to leave. A “restraining order for repeated offenses” may be sought, says the poster.
Most troubling is the statement that says: “At the board’s discretion, the meeting may be “moved to a member’s unit.’” Visitors who attempt to attend this meeting being held at a private residence would be “subject to trespassing if they entered uninvited.” The sheriff would be called to remove the “visitor” or “visitors.”
However, according to the Freedom of Information Council, this would be illegal under Wisconsin Open Meetings statute 19.81(2). Governing bodies must conduct all meetings in a place of public access and the public must be allowed to attend.
The statute goes on to say officials “must show good cause” if a 24-hour notice is not possible. A two-hour emergency meeting notice must be posted if one is held, with public access available.
Will “visitors” be required to buy tickets at the door? Produce a passport? Will the board hire a bouncer?
Colleen and Don Schultz
Kendall and the law
Halloween may be over, but the Town of Kendall Board chairman, Micah Bahr, and Township supervisors have posted a really scary notice on the town door.
The notice underlines that there is to be no talking by “visitors” at the meeting. The notice also states that the board may “move the meeting to a member’s unit” at its discretion. Anyone who attempts to attend the meeting in the private location “would be subject to trespassing” with the sheriff called to assist removal of the visitor.
Before we discuss the general ethics of this notice, let’s begin by discussing its legality. The notice suggests a meeting can be moved to a private residence and closed to the public. This would be illegal under Wisconsin Open Meetings statute and compliance guide, 19.81(2). Governing bodies must conduct all meetings in a place of public access and the public must be allowed to attend. The statute goes on to say officials “must show good cause” if a 24-hour notice is not possible. A two-hour emergency meeting notice must be posted if one is held, with public access available.
Not only does this notice misinterpret state law, but it also challenges the right of public access to and involvement in town business. At the chairman’s discretion, a “visitor” — who raises his or her hand — may ask a question. On the other hand, the notice states that the chairman may refuse to allow a person to ask a question.
More scary still is the threat of arrest. The notice states that the sheriff may be called to remove a “visitor” from the town hall who has, in the board’s opinion, “interfered” with a meeting. A restraining order may be sought for those who repeat offenses.
First of all, who are these “visitors” the notice is referencing? I haven’t seen any visitors at town meetings lately. I’ve seen plenty of town residents. Is the chairman really suggesting that non-resident people attend Kendall meetings? Or is it more likely that he considers any meeting attendee to be a visitor, even those residents who have lived in the community all their lives?
This notice manipulates the language of law to make people scared. Is it that the Board doesn’t want to hear what these residents have to say on town business? Or is it that they don’t want us to hear what they have to say?
So let’s summarize the opinions of our elected town officials thus far: we have the right to remain silent, anything we say can and will be used against us in a court of law …
What happened to democracy in the Town of Kendall? Are we now living in a police state? If the board is trying to scare town residents into not asking questions, we have to ask ourselves: Why?
The Town of Kendall Board members are public servants. They are not members of an elite country club, where they can exclude whoever they want from town business.
This notice makes it clear that the public is no longer welcome at town board meetings — at least, not a public that wants to hold its elected officials accountable or insist on transparency in governance. I urge the chairman and town supervisors to seriously consider the implications and consequences of pursuing a strategy directly in conflict with democracy. I, for one, will not be silent.
For those age 65 and older, we are in the open enrollment time for Medicare supplement. I ask you to exercise caution when selecting your insurance provider.
I had open heart surgery in March 2011 at Dean St. Mary’s hospital in Madison.
I wrote three letters to my insurance provider, Humana Insurance, and called twice — only to get the runaround. I called Medicare regarding the problem and some action took place.
A letter dated Oct. 21 arrived, stating the case is being reviewed. More bologna from Humana.
When will the hospital be paid? When will this be solved after 2½ years? The second Tuesday of next week, or just before the second coming of Christ!
The Platteville Journal will print most letters to the editor, regardless of the opinion presented. The Journal reserves the right to edit material that is libelous or otherwise offensive to community standards and to shorten letters the Journal feels are excessively long. All letters must be signed and the signature must appear on the printed letter, along with a contact number or email for verification. Some submitted letters may not be published due to space constraints. “Thank you” letters will not be printed. All letters and columns represent the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of The Platteville Journal.