No Info, No Problem. (Note Added)

Posted July 18th, 2014 @ 10:50 AM by

Liberals on the county board are a funny bunch, and lately, they rarely, as a group, fail to disappoint for their complete lack of understanding of the issues and for the petty reasons they use to vote for or against something, and usually it has something to do more with internal power structure than the issue at hand.

See note below about vote on the ordinance.

It’s known and acknowledged that the “liberal caucus” has been meeting for longer than I can remember. Back when the “conservatives” were in control (do you remember that?), it wasn’t a problem as the conservatives had the majority of the board. As the “liberals” slowly widened their definition of “liberal” to create a much “larger tent” so they could have more control over those in the middle, they gained more power but they also lost their integrity and started to get into a gray area where they are likely violating the law. When the caucus meets, which is about 2/3 of the county board, I am told that they make sure that they don’t have a quorum (51%) of the board present, that they make people leave if too many people show up – but then they just assign someone to talk to the people not there and create a walking quorum so they end up violating the law anyways. To me, this is an egregious violation of the public trust. They essentially decide what is going to happen at the board meeting before the board meeting occurs – essentially removing the public from the process. That makes for short meetings unless the conservatives make a stink about something or one of the caucus members has to justify to their constituents what has happened, or the public (which they seem to really detest) shows up. I could never be on the county board, because you see, if you don’t participate in caucus, well, then you are admitting that you don’t want to get anything done for the next two years, because yes, that is how they roll. There is a very disciplined power structure, unlike the council who does the same thing but without as much force. Progressive Dane has flirted with this caucus off and on, more on than I care to admit. The Progressive Dane caucus is basically forced to for the above mentioned reasons. So some hold their nose and go along so they can be effective, others have no problem with it. That group also controls the Citizens group which helps get people elected – without their blessing you’re also kinda screwed and it makes it much, much harder to get elected or they will run someone against you. It’s a well oiled machine. I’ve seen people try to quit, but that results in being assigned to the solid waste committee and none of your issues seeing the light of day (county board chairs of committees can refuse to schedule your items and they die in committee if not acted on, or are indefinitely postponed). Also, the county board chair leads the county board caucus and they make the committee appointments, so you don’t get assigned to the committees you want. Anyways, this is a looooong was of explaining the term “liberal” means anything from Leland Pan to well, anyone but the handful of “conservatives” left on the county board. So, when I say “liberal” I’m talking about 2/3 of the county board. Clearly, with that many people on the board (37 total), they have divisions and power struggles and cliques and its not always a smooth running machine, but its pretty effective at “keeping people in line”. So you can’t really lump them all together in a meaningful kind of way except the power dynamic of the caucus, which is why I bring it up. So when I say “liberals” I’m referring to this structure in place, not really even their political persuasion as it is pretty widely varied.

(Ok, got that off my chest, and now I’m in HUGE trouble with just about everyone, not that it matters, most of them hate me and can barely speak my name without spitting. Plus, none of this is really a secret, but I’m definitely not supposed to officially talk about it. More importantly it levels the playing field by letting citizens who want to try to influence things how to do it if they have to – Sunday nights is when they meet, in case you need to know that for strategy purposes. However, I probably should just resign now from the Progressive Dane Steering Committee. For those mad at me, if I don’t answer my phone so you can yell at me its not you and I’m not avoiding you, its my phone, its not working well and I don’t get a new one til end of August. And if you’re wondering why someone can’t just control me, well, by now, you know they can’t. Go ahead, punish me, again.)

So, liberals, they start off disappointing as described above and it seems to get worse from there! Check out the “liberals” in action here, remembering the context. Carousel Bayrd really tried to convince her “liberal” colleagues to support the public and Wegleitners motions, but didn’t get one vote. Not even Sheila Stubbs, who is all about the Equity report . . . but seemed to have forgotten what that report says in this moment.

This is from the Executive Committee meeting last night. Unfortunately, I wasn’t typing and counting on my audio, and guess what, for some reason, it is nothing but 1 hour and 18 minutes of fuzz. I’ve never had that happen before, so this is just from memory and a few notes. I think it might be because Denny O’Loughlin and Andy Olsen sat down next to it and the forces of evil (conservative) and good (lefty progressive liberal) created an electronic interference and wiped it clean! (Just kidding guys! I like O’Loughlin (And Andy too), in fact I like many of the conservatives, past and present, as people, not as policy makers! :P) Seriously, not sure what happened, the audio from the county board meeting is just fine, as is the audio in the file right before it. Curious? Maybe my audio recorder hit bullshit overload. If so, we’re in trouble.

Heidi Wegleitner spoke to her resolution (also sponsored by Carousel Bayrd, Jenni Dye, Al Matano, Leland Pan, Jeff Pertl, Kyle Richmond, Michelle Ritt and Paul Rusk), the gist of which is this offending language

The meeting packet, which shall include the agenda with all accompanying materials to be distributed to the committee before the meeting, shall be given to the county clerk for posting on the county website and shall be made available for public review upon request in the county clerk’s office no less than 24 hours prior to the meeting.

She and Carousel explained that this was not going to limit supervisors making motions or bringing amendments to committees. Wegleitner also said that for emergencies or last minute things there were broad exemptions in the language in the rest of the ordinance. Ironically the last time the Executive Committee met, they made some amendments to the language, but that wasn’t available in legistar and so they had to make the amendments again (that just seems silly, its in the minutes, legistar doesn’t erase the fact that you did it, just put them in the computer).

Carl Chenoweth (chenoweth.carl@countyofdane.com )from Stoughton wanted to know what the problem was. Wegleitner explained about this situation about the materials not being available for the public to comment on. He said he didn’t see a problem with the way things are done. Mary Kolar (kolar.mary@countyofdane.com) delved a little deeper asking when the staff got those materials done and Bayrd did a great job of explaining that there are three types of situations 1) those where the info gets in legistar, 2) those where information is available to the committee members in advance of the meeting but only if someone shared it with the committee and then 3) there are items where politicians are holding things close to their chest or last minute information. This ordinance is only to get to the 2nd part, not the third. Dave Ripp shared his concerns about some staff not putting things in legistar because they don’t assign number to substitutes and amendments until after the meeting because when they get introduced determines their numbers – county staff thought that his issue could be resolved. Sharon Corrigan said little except to facilitate the meeting and discussion and explain some things. Jenni Dye was absent and Sheila Stubbs (stubbs@countyofdane.com) didn’t say one word. Liberals. All of them except Ripp.

I don’t remember who seconded it, but the only person on the committee to vote to make the information for meetings (when available) available to the public 24 hours in advance of the meetings was Carousel Bayrd. Thanks Carousel! (NOTE: I’m being told that perhaps Stubbs and Corrigan also voted for it, if so, it wasn’t very clear to those of us at the meeting, but I’m being told it failed 3-3, if I can confirm I will add that info here) The others, what the heck? This was a simple ordinance with very little consequences. What were they afraid of? And does the equity report mean nothing? Silly me, yes, I know, its a report, they vote for it, make it look like they did something and care, then ignore it. I know that’s how it works, its just that the hypocrisy is maddening. And the fact that I dare to point that out, well, I’m on the “don’t talk to list” for a few more months, maybe years this time. It’s part of the reason I quit my radio show at WORT, people refused to talk to me as a way of punishing me. It grows so tiring after 18 years of trying to be involved and make a difference . . . to deal with all this petty stuff instead of the issues at hand is beyond irritating. I don’t know if they sincerely don’t care what the public thinks or if they have access to information, or if this is part of the ongoing power struggle. Either answer is unacceptable.

I’ll prepare to be flogged now.


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