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As founder of We the Irrelevant, a website that tracks how well (or poorly) the actions of legislators match up with what the public has asked them to do, I have sent multiple open records requests to Wisconsin legislators on a variety of controversial initiatives. Each time, I’ve asked them…

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It hasn’t been long since many Wisconsinites have had to vote on referendums to keep their public school doors open, and now in this new year, our schools continue to be underfunded. This spring 50 school districts will go to referendum, with 29 seeking $915 million in operating costs alone.

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The story is starting to become cliché. Wisconsinites overwhelmingly support a proposal that benefits our state, Republican leadership cries “partisanship”, and blocks action until an undetermined future date. We saw this happen with funding to combat homelessness, which still has seven pend…

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On Wednesday, Jan. 22, Governor Tony Evers delivered his second State of the State Address. The year 2019 proved to be both a successful and trying year for the Legislature. Gov. Evers was able to deliver on promises and move the needle on many of the issues that Wisconsinites care about by …

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As a member of the Dane County Board for the past eight years, I have always advocated for open government. Citizens have a right to know what their elected officials are doing and how decisions are being made. Both the open meetings law and the public records law must be strictly followed.

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The president is smack-dab in the middle of impeachment politics. Suddenly, he orders a bold but perilous military action. His defenders vehemently argue that petty politics is getting in the way of his exercising his hugely important duties as commander in chief.

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Just shy of two years ago, this column explored the heightened importance of open government when public health is at risk. Multiple examples showed the government was not sharing timely information with the public, or even other branches of government, on issues such as clean drinking water…

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The Wisconsin Idea was born in 1905 when UW President Charles Van Hise stated, “I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every family of the state.”

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Back a year-or-so ago I issued a challenge to Village staff members to recognize someone in the community who did something to make a difference – big or small. All staff in every Village department were given this task, and they did not disappoint.

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Property taxpayers have a hidden cost on their bills this month. According to the Department of Public Instruction, this hidden fee will cost the 27th Senate District $3.1 million, and upwards of $95.6 million statewide. If left unchecked, this fee – voucher schools – will increase year afte…

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You can walk into City Hall asking to see records without ever having to give your name.

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In Governor Evers’ budget proposal, he included funding to combat homelessness in Wisconsin. The funding was based on recommendations from an Interagency Council on Homelessness that was created in 2017. The recommendations were drawn from the council’s “A Hand and a Home: Foundations for Su…

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Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Sarah Meaney is promising to fix a situation in which the agency botched an election for officers on an advisory council, blaming it partly on guidance she says the department received from Scott Walker’s administration.

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During my childhood, I found myself in a challenging school environment. Through no fault of myself or my siblings, our peers did not welcome us. It was the civil rights era and we had recently enrolled as the first black children in the well-funded “white school” in my Southern hometown, af…

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He comes to the Waunakee Senior Center each morning by 8:30, takes a seat by the fireplace and enjoys a cup of coffee. He chats with another gentleman who is here every morning too. He’s become such a regular that others know his name and were happy to help him celebrate his 92nd birthday wi…

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Wisconsin’s tradition of government transparency rests on the state’s open records and open meetings laws. They declare that nearly every government document is open to public inspection, and nearly every meeting of groups formed to do governmental work must be open to the public.

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Every week when I go to the grocery store, I pay close attention to the labels on the food products I purchase. It can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know what you need or want. I consider myself lucky to be a farmer because I am intimately connected to the food I eat and the milk I drin…

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From the very beginning of Governor Evers’ term, he made his priorities clear by declaring 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water. During his State of the State address in January, he promoted investing millions of dollars to address water quality, from replacing lead service lines, to addres…

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It’s really difficult to tell because his hands are so small, but it looks for all the world that President Donald Trump has an extended middle finger raised at, well, all the world. Who knew that he could speak in sign language? Or at least that he knew how to say one word? Come to think of…

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Efforts to implement Walker-era legislation to restructure Wisconsin’s youth justice program took another hit after members of a panel charged with making recommendations regarding new youth prisons roundly criticized the panel’s work.

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Recently, Legislative Democrats unveiled a list of priorities that are reflective of the voices and priorities of Wisconsinites – “Forward Together.” Thanks to Gov. Evers’ leadership, we made great strides in delivering on historic investments in our communities. However, there is still a lo…

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Early in his administration, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers was asked to produce a letter he’d gotten from departing Gov. Scott Walker, during the transition. He initially refused, claiming it was a “purely personal” communication outside of the reach of the state’s open records law.

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Under Gov. Tony Evers’ leadership, Republicans agreed to make a down payment on the People’s Budget and increase funding for our schools. Unfortunately, with school just getting started for the year, communities across Wisconsin are already realizing that their schools need more.

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Wisconsin had the 11th-most local governments of any state in 2017, due in part to a tenfold increase in the last five decades in special districts that manage lakes, sewers, and sanitation.

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In May, as the state Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee considered a plan to spend far less on education than what Democrat Gov. Tony Evers proposed, Sheila Plotkin started filing public records requests.

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With students heading back to school, parents and taxpayers are reminded of the opportunities and costs of quality education. While Governor Evers fought for record investments in our schools, many public schools and their taxpayers are forced to bear the costs of unaccountable choice progra…

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It’s no secret, small family farms are struggling in Wisconsin. There are a variety of issues that have impacted this downturn, and it’s more important than ever that we are paying attention and coming up with solutions to help alleviate the pain that our agriculture industry is experiencing.

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Last week, I stood with Governor Tony Evers to announce that I was introducing stand-alone legislation to increase the eligibility limit of the Wisconsin Medicaid program to 133% of the federal poverty level. I was happy to have Representative Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee) with me, as the auth…

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As Justice Shirley Abrahamson ends her tenure on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, after 43 years and more than 1,300 authored opinions, she leaves a rich legacy of legal scholarship, importantly including her support for government transparency.

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We fear that talking Village finances will immediately scare off a few readers. But stick with us here… Granted, the message to share about the Village’s finances won’t necessarily change your life. Looking at it another way, what the Village is able to accomplish BECAUSE OF our strong finan…

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As Justice Shirley Abrahamson ends her tenure on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, after 43 years and more than 1,300 authored opinions, she leaves a rich legacy of legal scholarship, importantly including her support for government transparency.

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Now that the budget has come and gone, it should be a time that we both remember the missed opportunities, and celebrate the long-overdue and historic investments that were made in Wisconsin. Due to Governor Evers’ bold vision for our state, Republicans were forced to confront their failed p…

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At the beginning of each odd year, the Governor proposes a budget and the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) makes changes based on the Legislature’s suggestions and requests. This process has been in place since 1931.

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After Independence Day last week, we are all feeling a little bit more patriotic, not solely because of the stunning fireworks that lit the sky and the celebration of our independence, but because we were all reminded what it means to be an American.

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Wisconsin’s open records law applies to all records requests, big or small. But under former Attorney General Brad Schimel, the Wisconsin Department of Justice implemented a restrictive policy that limited access based on the number of potentially responsive emails.

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I’ve had my hair trimmed by a barber ever since I was able to climb up into a barber chair. Chuck at Paradise Barber Shop in Elkhorn took care of me all through my grade school days. I remember he kept a fake cockroach in a drawer and routinely “found” it in my hair. There was Keith in Brown…