Letters to the Editor: Feb. 17, 2021
Letters to the Editor published in the Feb. 17, 2021 issue of the Tomahawk Leader.
Senate Bill 55: An unnecessary barrier to government transparency
The Wisconsin legislature is currently considering a bill that would give local governments the option to stop publishing a summary of their actions in your newspaper. Senate Bill 55 would allow local municipalities to post meeting minutes on their websites instead.
This is bad public policy under the guise of cost savings that would create considerable disruption for government transparency. Supporters of Senate Bill 55 suggest local government websites are sufficient to notify the public of their actions and that publishing meeting minutes in the newspaper limits access only to newspaper subscribers.
The fact is, however, that all legal notices published in the State of Wisconsin are available and accessible for free to the public through WisconsinPublicNotices.org. This comprehensive, searchable website hosted by the Wisconsin newspaper industry brings together ink-on-paper notices into one online location. This service is provided at no cost to local municipalities.
The goal of WisconsinPublicNotices.org is to enhance government distribution of public information and assist citizens who want to know more about the actions of their local, county and state representatives. This permanent, third-party documentation – unalterable and independent of government – ensures the protection of “your right to know” for every citizen.
The relationship between newspapers, state and local municipalities and WisconsinPublicNotices.org has successfully provided easy access to government information for all citizens, whether they seek it in print or online. Removing existing publication requirements would create holes in this invaluable statewide database while also neglecting the needs of those who lack adequate computer and internet access.
Please tell your legislators to oppose this unnecessary barrier to government transparency.
Wisconsin Newspaper Association
Is there anything to be done?
Eating a Hershey Chocolate bar is a good thing for most of us but we do know that there is a limit on how much to eat: Some is great; too much is not good, even bad.
That’s the same with politics. Most politicians are generally honorable but there is a small portion on either edge of the spectrum who are on the fringe. Using a colloquial term, there are “crazies” in both parties. Those fringe players exert an influence far greater than their numbers justify. Sadly though, for about the last 20 years or so, the shrillness of the “crazies” has been growing. It was way too large in 2008 and 2012, and it has only grown worse since then.
One of the most outrageous trends has been the developing tendency to diminish our Freedom of Speech. There are many other areas but the attack on Speech is elementary for if we cannot express ourselves freely we cannot defend any of our Freedoms. Women and men have fought and died for that right and now some want to just do away with it.
Long ago, we settled on the fact there are necessary limits on Free Speech. One must not yell “fire” in a crowded theater. But those limits are not the problem today. It is argued that we must be protected from false and misleading information. Why? The closest we can come to denying Free Speech in the Bible is in the Decalogue: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor.” That commandment does not give anyone the right to deprive another of saying something, BUT, everyone is responsible for what they say.
Is there anything an individual can do? I think a beginning might be by remembering to address the positions a person holds and not judging the person.