Seat 1 Madison Board of Education Candidates:
- Maya Cole penned an Op-Ed piece: Put Public Back in Public Hearings, via WisOpinion. More on Maya
- Arlene Silveira announced her candidacy at Monday’s Madison Board of Education Meeting Video. More on Arlene
- I am an Asian Parent – Jay Matthews
- Increasing Criminialization of Children: How did we get there? – Marian Wright Edelman
Maya P. Cole:
Cole: Put public back in public hearings
00:00 am 12/06/05
MAYA P. COLE
The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute reported some disturbing news in its most recent public opinion survey. A mere 6 percent of Wisconsin residents believe their elected officials represent their constituents’ interests. For black residents, the survey found not one resident felt their interests were represented.
The survey also found that as 2005 draws to a close, 88 percent of the Wisconsin citizenry believes that the priority of elected officials is to represent either special interests (41 percent) or the politicians’ own interests (47 percent). These are most troubling findings for our state.
I would like to offer an anecdotal explanation for this pervasive public discontent.
As an activist mom of three boys, I have a pretty good understanding of how our Legislature works. My latest experience involves how the Legislature now conducts a “public hearing.”
After registering early in the morning to speak as a member of the general public in opposition to the proposed concealed carry law, I waited from 8:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. while lobbyist after lobbyist and several arranged speakers, many not even from Wisconsin, gave their presentations.
After spending almost the entire day at the Capitol, having cancelled an appointment and arranged for alternate child care, I had to leave without speaking.
I did strike up a conversation with a pro-concealed carry gentleman from Appleton. He told me his wife works in the schools and he is a father who shoots for sport and practices at the shooting range twice a week. He is proud of his skill and should be. We shared stories of our fondness of raptors, the outdoors, and the beauty of the Capitol. He also had no opportunity to speak at the hearing.
Maybe the Legislature doesn’t want to publicize or acknowledge what Wisconsin citizens think about concealed carry law. Maybe the Legislature wants to strangle the democratic process in this state.
The entire committee obviously had an agenda and had no intention of listening to ordinary citizens and adhering to a time limit. Sen. Dave Zien, R-Eau Claire, even announced in the beginning, and it was joked about during the hearing, that there would be a five-minute time limit. By 4:00 p.m., the committee was still calling “experts,” almost all in favor of concealed carry, and many speaking for 45 minutes at a time.
Zien asked question after question, for several hours. When a committee member tried to clarify something in the bill, Zien had to look over and ask the lobbyist from the National Rifle Association what the bill said. Isn’t the author of the bill supposed to have most of his questions answered before he writes the bill?
It is apparently not enough that the Legislature gets visits from lobbyists daily along with campaign contributions (many times from out of state). We now hold public hearings where the lobbyists, paid professionals and chairs of committees have the floor. The only time citizens’ opinions seem to count is when we are polled.
Cole is from Madison.