Tag Archives: Open Government

We Need More Open Government

From Bill Lueders.

While Baldauff disputed some of the report’s claims, she stated that the Evers team follows state public

records law and Department of Justice guidance, “not executive orders issued by prior administrations.”

Yet the orders issued by Walker, who was by no means perfect when it came to open government, are important precisely because they go beyond what the law requires and the attorney general advises. A governor “committed to openness and transparency” should not be ending initiatives that improve compliance.

Rather, Evers should be going further to promote government transparency. For starters, he could check out the “Legislative Wish List” that appears on the council’s website. Yes, these are things that involve legislative action, but the governor could work to make them happen.

One smart change would be to require public bodies who go into closed session to make a recording that can be checked by a judge if suspicions arise that the discussion went beyond what the law allows. And Wisconsin should definitely end the ability of legislators, alone among state and local officials, to destroy records at will.

In fact, making a conspicuous commitment to expanding open government is one of the simplest and surest ways for politicians to score points with the people they represent. Gov. Evers, the ball’s in your court.

This administration has taken a big step back in terms of transparency. It would be great to see them reverse that trend.

As for Lueders’ proposal about recording closed sessions… absolutely. In particular, local boards go into closed sessions all the time. The law is very restrictive about when that is allowed, but once they go into closed session, they can talk about whatever they want. And some boards are militant about also making sure that board members don’t reveal what was discussed in closed session. There is no way for the public to ensure that the government bodies aren’t conducting the public’s business in secret. Recording the sessions would allow for the appropriate authorities to investigate if a complaint is levied.

Open Government is Up to Us

George Stanley, the editor of the Milwaukee newspaper, has penned an editorial urging the public to lobby our legislature to ensure open government. He begins:

Folks, if we want open, honest government in Wisconsin, we’ll have to earn it. We can’t take it for granted or leave the job to others, not with the relentless efforts in Madison to reduce access to information about what our elected representatives are up to.

Only one approach to date has deterred the overseers of our state from hiding evidence of how they curry favor and then dole out taxpayer dollars, advantageous legislation and public resources in return. That instrument is the most basic act of democracy: Thousands of voters taking time to tell them to stop.

I agree with Stanley’s overall message. Open government is vitally important and we must continually push back on our politicians’ efforts to hide their activities from public scrutiny. But it is difficult for me to take George Stanley seriously on this issue. His editorial page has been a passionate advocate for the John Doe laws, which are designed to keep investigations secret so that the public doesn’t know what prosecutors are doing. The John Doe process allows a prosecutor to investigate people and turn their lives upside down while forcing them to remain silent about the entire ordeal under penalty of imprisonment. It is difficult to think of a more aggressive use of the coercive force of government, but Stanley thinks it’s okey-dokey for it to be completely hidden from the public.

So yeah… George… I agree with you, but you are hardly the best standard-bearer for this cause.