I’ve been giving thought to standard campaign practices lately. Two of them are campaign endorsements and promises. I’d like to talk for a moment about each, if I may.
Frankly, I don’t believe in them. They amount to a form of peer pressure, and I find them insulting to myself and my fellow citizens. The concept of endorsements suggests that citizens are too ignorant to make their own choices, and must rely on the opinions of others to form their own thoughts. I believe that anyone that pushes endorsements or seeks them thinks less of myself and my fellow citizens. I think more highly of us than that. I think we are wise enough to look at each candidate on an individual level, and decide for ourselves the measure of their worth and their words, and decide for ourselves whether we align with that candidate on the issues.
To that point, I will neither seek nor give any endorsements. Now, you may see some of my signage around town and consider this a hypocrisy to my previous statement. I, however, do not see these as endorsements, but rather as citizens that believe in free speech and have decided that the message on my sign is inoffensive enough to be worth being posted publicly. I do not expect their vote, nor do I expect them to pressure others to vote for me. A person with my signage on their lawn may or may NOT be voting for me. They may or may NOT believe in anything that I say or write. They just believe that information should be spread, so that the electorate has the ability to make the wisest choice possible.
I would be happy to share lawn space with any of my “competitors” for office, and I invite any local candidate running for Fall Creek office to place their signage on my lawn. More information is always better than less. When it comes to the state or national levels however? That’s where I have to be a bit more “choosy” because of how strongly tribalism has invaded those realms.
Promises can be hard to keep when you are in a governmental body that contains more than just yourself. Making outlandish promises like that you’ll make X or Y happen can just lead to disappointment if others in that body don’t share your views. As such, it would not be wise to make such promises. However, what I can promise is my own behavior.
- I promise to show respect and civility to all that I interact with while performing my duties in office.
- I promise to listen to others, including and especially to those with viewpoints different than my own.
- I promise to be responsive to those constituents who contact me in my official capacity, and respond thoughtfully and expediently.
- I promise to hold myself accountable to the public, and to record and publicly release all open meetings which I attend.
- I promise to act as a citizen representative, and obey my own “Take a Break Act”, even if the boards don’t pass it.
- I promise that I have no interest in any political position beyond Fall Creek, and will not seek any higher office than the Village and School Boards.
- I promise to publicly release a statement after each of the meetings I attend, explaining any votes that I may cast, and my reasoning for those votes.
I have one final promise which I need to qualify. Wisconsin Statute 19.81(1) states:
“In recognition of the fact that a representative government of the American type is dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be the policy of this state that the public is entitled to the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government as is compatible with the conduct of governmental business.”https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/19/v/81/1
I believe STRONGLY in our state’s open meetings laws, and in the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of the law. I believe that our governments should do what they can to inform the electorate. Currently open meetings laws state that a governing body “may” choose to go into closed session for a very specific list of reasons. That law is as follows (feel free to skip it if you don’t care about its contents):
(1) Any meeting of a governmental body, upon motion duly made and carried, may be convened in closed session under one or more of the exemptions provided in this section. The motion shall be carried by a majority vote in such manner that the vote of each member is ascertained and recorded in the minutes. No motion to convene in closed session may be adopted unless the chief presiding officer announces to those present at the meeting at which such motion is made, the nature of the business to be considered at such closed session, and the specific exemption or exemptions under this subsection by which such closed session is claimed to be authorized. Such announcement shall become part of the record of the meeting. No business may be taken up at any closed session except that which relates to matters contained in the chief presiding officer’s announcement of the closed session. A closed session may be held for any of the following purposes:
(a) Deliberating concerning a case which was the subject of any judicial or quasi-judicial trial or hearing before that governmental body.
(b) Considering dismissal, demotion, licensing or discipline of any public employee or person licensed by a board or commission or the investigation of charges against such person, or considering the grant or denial of tenure for a university faculty member, and the taking of formal action on any such matter; provided that the faculty member or other public employee or person licensed is given actual notice of any evidentiary hearing which may be held prior to final action being taken and of any meeting at which final action may be taken. The notice shall contain a statement that the person has the right to demand that the evidentiary hearing or meeting be held in open session. This paragraph and par. (f) do not apply to any such evidentiary hearing or meeting where the employee or person licensed requests that an open session be held.
(c) Considering employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility.
(d) Except as provided in s. 304.06 (1) (eg) and by rule promulgated under s. 304.06 (1) (em), considering specific applications of probation, extended supervision or parole, or considering strategy for crime detection or prevention.
(e) Deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session.
(ee) Deliberating by the council on unemployment insurance in a meeting at which all employer members of the council or all employee members of the council are excluded.
(eg) Deliberating by the council on worker’s compensation in a meeting at which all employer members of the council or all employee members of the council are excluded.
(em) Deliberating under s. 157.70 if the location of a burial site, as defined in s. 157.70 (1) (b), is a subject of the deliberation and if discussing the location in public would be likely to result in disturbance of the burial site.
(f) Considering financial, medical, social or personal histories or disciplinary data of specific persons, preliminary consideration of specific personnel problems or the investigation of charges against specific persons except where par. (b) applies which, if discussed in public, would be likely to have a substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person referred to in such histories or data, or involved in such problems or investigations.
(g) Conferring with legal counsel for the governmental body who is rendering oral or written advice concerning strategy to be adopted by the body with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved.
(h) Consideration of requests for confidential written advice from the elections commission under s. 5.05 (6a) or the ethics commission under s. 19.46 (2), or from any county or municipal ethics board under s. 19.59 (5).https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/19/v/85
Note here the key word “MAY” in the first sentence. This means that a governmental body may CHOOSE whether to enter into a closed session for these reasons, it does not REQUIRE the body to do so.
As I believe in full transparency of government wherever possible, as well as the SPIRIT of our open meetings laws, I make the following promise:
I promise to always vote “no” to enter a closed session, unless I’m fully aware ahead of time that the contents of said session may possibly cause physical or emotional harm or danger to another person.
I believe that we go into closed sessions WAY too often. These are OUR governmental bodies, paid for by OUR tax dollars, deciding OUR fates. I see little reason for going into closed sessions, unless it’s to prevent danger or harm to someone.
Those are the promises that I make to you, my fellow citizens. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss these topics. I am a reasonable man, and am open minded to other opinions and viewpoints.