July 23, 2015
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Confederate Gen. Pierre Beauregard began the bombardment of Fort Sumter in the harbor at Charleston, S.C. on April 1, 1861, after besieging the small Union command of Major Robert Anderson for months.
July 23, 2015
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Imagine, if you will, a small village that stretched from Maxwell Street on the west to Geneva Lake’s outlet, the White River, on the east and hence south on Willow Street to South Street and from North Street to the shore of Geneva Lake. ...subscribers>>
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State’s open records lawJuly 16, 2015
An alderman, in a city where I once worked, took a very hands-on approach to his job. Tim (not his real name), was a fixture around City Hall and by fixture, I mean the legal definition of the word. Tim was part of the real estate.
Although his position was part-time, he logged more hours in the building than most full-time employees.
It was impossible to avoid Tim, not that I didn’t try. I established an elaborate system of alternate work sites in any office that would harbor me; in a pinch, I would work out of a study carol in the public library.
I am persistent, but Tim was relentless. On more than one occasion, when I thought I had avoided his visit, I would return to my office only to find him sleeping in my waiting room.
Meetings with Tim were never short and invariably included one or more of a large repertoire of recurring stories that some of us eventually numbered to communicate more efficiently. Telling a coworker that Tim covered story six was easier than describing it. Number six was the chestnut about how he was able to win over a hostile county board supervisor who had harangued him on a visit to her office.
After being chastised for five, ten, or thirty minutes (the amount of time varied with each telling), Tim stood up, stepped outside her office and then reintroduced himself, complete with a business card, calmly explaining that he had come to talk with her (emphasis was always placed on the word “talk”).
I have no doubt that there was a factual basis to all of these stories although I was skeptical about the details. They were sort of parables, which always ended with the hostile party seeing the wrongfulness of their ways and thanking Tim for setting them straight.
My favorite story, number three, took place early in his career when he was responsible for shipping at a large factory. Tim had directed that a number of boxcars be unloaded to avoid demurrage charges that the railroad would impose for the unreturned cars.
His boss didn’t see it that way and countermanded Tim’s instructions. Tim calmly wrote the new instructions down on his clipboard which he was, remarkably, able to get his boss to sign.
Sometime later when the bill arrived for the idle boxcars Tim’s boss demanded to know whose “brilliant idea” it was not to unload them. In response, Tim calmly retrieved the written order that his boss had signed and handed it to him. Story three did not end, as all the others did, with an apology. I never asked, but I surmised that the incident marked a turning point in Tim’s career. He spent most of his life selling insurance.
I thought about Tim’s passion for accountability during the recent attempt by the state legislature to add some significant exemptions to the state’s open records law.
State legislators recently attempted to change the open records law through a motion known as 999.
As I understand it, that motion has been used by both parties, over the years, to add last minute items to the biennial state budget bill.
Because Motion 999 is introduced so late in the process, days before budget adoption, it is difficult for those outside of the legislature to understand and react to what is being proposed.
On July 2, Motion 999, complete with the open records changes, was approved by the Joint Finance Committee by a 12-4 party-line vote.
A firestorm of scathing editorials followed and by July 7, the motion was eliminated for consideration by a 33-0 vote of the Senate.
I spent this past weekend studying the drafting file and it was a little more complicated than the media portrayed it.
I read in some editorials that the legislation would have shielded the records of local officials as well as state legislators.
It would have, but not nearly to the same extent.
Courts, would ultimately be called upon to interpret the law, but I think it is fair to say that correspondence directed to state legislators by constituents and outside groups seeking to change a law would be exempt from disclosure. As I read the proposal, a similar letter sent to a city alderman, for example, would not be.
Ironically, Democratic Senator Jon Erpenbach just lost an open records lawsuit filed by a conservative think tank.
Erpenbach redacted the names and public email addresses of correspondence that he received pertaining to Act 10, which eliminated the collective bargaining for many public employees in 2011.
I don’t know the aim of the think tank, but learning the names of public employees that attempted to influence that legislation could provide some idea of how they were spending their workday.
If you agree with Senator Erpenbach’s decision to withhold the email addresses, you might have been fine with Motion 999.
As I read the proposal, he would have been on firm ground denying the records request had the 999 provisions become law.
A number of newspapers are on a quest to determine who was responsible for introducing the proposal.
They are using the very public records provisions that were slated to be eliminated to conduct their investigation.
While I have my own opinions about the proposed changes, I can’t get too excited about this next phase.
Like Alderman Tim’s clipboard, we already know who signed onto the proposal that Gov. Walker has called “a huge mistake.”
Lost in this next chapter of the story is the idea that our government is based on a separation of powers.
Each of the 99 representatives and 33 state senators that we send to Madison is responsible for his or her own vote on each bill, regardless of who drafted it.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Walworth County Board of Supervisors.
Railroad’s inevitable return to GenevaJuly 09, 2015On Dec. 31, 1965, a tragedy occurred in Williams Bay. The railroad (Chicago and Northwestern) that ran from Lake Geneva to Williams Bay was discontinued.
Monsters of the mediumJuly 09, 2015
More and more English is behaving like the Germanic language it is. There is the tendency to longer words.
When etymology time arrived in Badger High’s Room 207, we began with an old word which was typical of this language habit of making new forms by adding on.
Reminiscing about baseball’s glory daysJuly 02, 2015
Teddy Ballgame. That was one of the nick names for Theodore Samuel Williams, or simply ‘Ted.’ I had a wonderful opportunity to reminisce about the Red Sox and the old Milwaukee Braves with one of our readers the other day at Harpoon Willies.
Remembering Ron KrauseJuly 02, 2015
The entrance hall to the band room was directly across the main hall from my classroom. You could always tell when Ron Krause’s band classes were in session because of the animated activity as his charges filed into the hall after class. It was clear they had been worked and inspired.
Memories of Lake Geneva’s Civil War veteransJune 25, 2015
I wish to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to all those readers who very kindly contacted me and told me how much they enjoyed the previous five columns about Lake Geneva’s Civil War veterans that I have written.
Time to dismiss the word raceJune 25, 2015
Recently there was a good deal of discussion in the media about Rachel Dolezal, a former NAACP official and long time civil right’s advocate. This was owing to her parent’s announcement that their daughter was not black.
The beauty of the French languageJune 25, 2015
Only that which is provisional endures.
To change one thing in my rather checkered education, I would have studied French. Not necessarily because of an admiration for its melodic resonance or its cultural clout, but how it has influenced the English language.