The beginning of the end of public records

Unbelievably, the Republicans have put the essential repeal of critical open records laws into their 999 budget motion. To wit:

Section 28 of the motion provides that “deliberative materials,” i.e., the information created in the course of of developing legislation, would not be subject to state open records law. If Section 28 had been in force, we in Wisconsin would never have learned that Scott Walker tried to remove the Wisconsin Idea, and the mission of the University of Wisconsin, from the state statutes.

Section 29 creates a new privilege — a “legislator privilege” — that gives a legislator the right to refuse to disclose virtually all communications s/he has with virtually everyone, AND to forbid his/her staffers to disclose such communications, whether written or oral. All the legislator needs to do is indicate that the communication was part of the legislative process, and s/he is home free.

This 999 motion imposes on the Legislative Reference Bureau and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau the requirement that they enforce the privilege and ensure that deliberative materials do not go to the wrong person. Under the motion, the LRB is no longer required even to maintain the files for all the drafting requests during the current session!

Wow! As Jon Erpenbach pointed out in debate, “Somebody in this building, somewhere, wants to hide something.”


Bus drivers on strike? Maybe Chris Abele can start giving folks a ride in his sweet new SUV!

Last week I wrote about Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s new security service, which will cost nearly $74 per hour for each of two guards. I noted that according to a report by Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Abele’s new security detail includes the use of a GMC Yukon XL, a full-size SUV with a sticker price starting at $50,000.

Fast-forward to this week, and bus drivers for the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) have gone on strike over concerns about inadequate bathroom break times (sometimes as little as 4 minutes) and the County’s desire to hire many more part-time drivers (who won’t receive benefits). Predictably County Executive Abele has blamed bus drivers for the impasse and subsequent strike, but curiously Abele has not agreed to allow the matter to be settled by an independent arbitrator.

County Executive Chris Abele criticized the union for “punishing county residents who rely on bus service.”

“Thousands of riders pay taxes for this system and they didn’t do anything wrong,” Abele said Wednesday.

“In a time when state transportation funding has been flat and federal funding has declined, ATU members rejected multiple contract compromises that increased overall compensation while allowing for the continuation of full transit services, stable fares and respect for county taxpayers,” Abele said.

As friend of the blog Randy Bryce noted on Facebook, perhaps County Executive Abele can offer the use of his $50,000 Yukon XL SUV to help ease the suffering of the riders who’ve been affected by the strike…I hear it comes complete with a driver!


Longtime Scott Walker aide Cindy Archer to sue John Chisholm

According to this op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal’s online edition Cindy Archer, a longtime close aide to Scott Walker, is planning on suing Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm for allegedly violating her civil rights.

The governor’s reforms, commonly referred to as Act 10, prompted angry union protests. The reforms also enraged many politicians, including, as I would later find out, Mr. Chisholm and members of his staff. My ties to Gov. Walker and Act 10 made me a prime target for Mr. Chisholm’s campaign to intimidate anyone close to the governor.

In other words, I was targeted because of my politics—in plain violation of the First Amendment and federal civil-rights statutes.

While Cindy Archer wants to play the victim and blame the search of her residence on some politically-motivated witch hunt, I’m more inclined to believe the warrant to search her residence was granted based on evidence (as warrants typically aren’t issue absent evidence of criminal behavior) and likely due to Archer’s longtime connection to Scott Walker. After all, Archer was a key member of Walker’s leadership team during his time as Milwaukee County Executive, serving as his Director of Administrative Services.