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Madison School Meeting Vs. Right To Report

July 19, 2018

Usually these days when I pick up the newspaper it is a national story that makes me cringe.   But on Thursday the article which made me feel embarrassed did not take place in Washington, but rather in Madison.   It was not a congressional committee that the Wisconsin State Journal reported on, but rather a school committee hearing that made me wonder what is wrong with people.

A number of attempts were made to prevent a Madison resident from recording portions of the meeting on his cell phone. David Blaska, often appearing at local meetings to weigh in on matters, had offered his views in support of retaining police officers in our public schools.  But when trying to record other testimony presented to the committee he encountered members of the public standing up and seeking to block his efforts.

Those attempts to undermine the free flow of information were simply abhorrent.

What made it even more troublesome to me—-a former radio news reporter—-is that it would take minutes of this outlandish behavior, followed by a five-minute recess before the board could make the statement that should have been the immediate response once the mayhem started.

Committee Chairman Dean Loumos finally made it clear that attendees could record the meeting.

Well, yeah!

To think that anyone who comes before a public hearing should in some way be shielded or denied access for all to hear or see is ludicrous. Whenever a person lobbies in one way or another for a matter with a public organization, or to an elected official there is a right for the public to be aware of such interactions.  For instance, I have always argued that petitions sent to an elected official need to be made public so that all the names can be made available to determine who was seeking a legislative change.  The juvenile speakers last night have the same right to convey thoughts to a committee as adults, and the public has a right to know who they are and what was presented.

It is concerning to me that citizens would attempt to deny the right of another to record and make evidence of an effort to lobby a public committee over a policy proposal.  That to me is simply out of bounds.  I am also truly dismayed that it took the committee more than 30 seconds to end the chaos at the meeting.

What the boorish members of that audience failed to grasp is that the process of governing allows for openness and transparency.  That means what happens in a public meeting is allowed to be reported and blogged about by folks such as myself.  This is all part of the First Amendment that often gets attention on this blog.  But sadly, some at the meeting who attempted to undermine those principles seemed unaware of their importance.

For the record I know Blaska.  He is a conservative Republican. But I do not find him, as some charged at the meeting, to be a racist.   I also know that if one takes the time to talk with him—as I have been able to do—one finds an informed guy with a knack for making a point.

I did, however, find one part of the news story amusing.  The irony of what happened last night during a school committee meeting about why police officers might be needed in schools to calm troublemakers could not have been lost on readers.

I think the troubling ones in the audience at the meeting made the best case as to why the police need to remain in Madison schools.

5 Comments
  1. teejk permalink
    July 20, 2018 3:53 PM

    You have just described the process of how many former “progressives” became a conservative. Some people want to “debate” instead of “silence”.

  2. July 20, 2018 1:07 PM

    I used to work with Blaska and always enjoyed kicking around the political ball with him. I call BS on those who would seek to silence Blaska and his co-opinionists. I might be closer to Mr. Humphrey ‘s views than to Mr. Blaska’s, but the left gains nothing by muzzling the free speech of those who disagree. BTW I entirely share the opinion of both bloggers about the need for a police presence in Madison schools, and I reaffirm what Gregory has said that David Blaska is no racist.

  3. steve permalink
    July 20, 2018 9:02 AM

    Agreed, those bilious rabble rousers are making a strong case for police in the schools AND at future ad hoc committee meetings.

  4. July 19, 2018 10:52 PM

    Thanks, Greg. More people of good will are responding as you.

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