Our Views: Thumbs up/down for Monday, March 20

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Gazette Editorial Board
Monday, March 20, 2017

Thumbs up to Lance Fena. The town of Milton resident made Milton School Board members uncomfortable in the best way last year by video recording their meetings. He held his ground, too, refusing to stop after school officials told him he couldn't record. During his first video encounter April 11, board members were so shaken they adjourned their meeting early, only to realize later that Fena was within his rights to record meetings. The district responded by live streaming its meetings and posting archives to YouTube, meaning all district voters and taxpayers are reaping the rewards of Fena's persistence. He is certainly a deserving recipient of a Citizen Openness Award from the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, and he will be honored at a March 30 ceremony in Madison. We, as a newspaper, have a large soft spot for citizens who step forward to advance the cause of transparency.

Thumbs up to bipartisan resistance. For Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who are about as far apart on the political spectrum as two political figures can be, to both speak out against the Trump administration's proposed gouging of Great Lakes funding is extraordinary. It signals that slashing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative's budget from $300 million to $10 million would be an atrocious mistake—perhaps only to be outdone by the ecological disaster that would likely result from decapitating the program. Walker, the staunch conservative, and Baldwin, the quintessential liberal, both recognize that protecting the Great Lakes, which Walker described last week as “one of the greatest assets of fresh water anywhere in the world,” is in everyone's interest. We're hopeful Congress, when it comes time to amend Trump's proposed budget, will view this issue through a bipartisan lens, too.

Thumbs down to a $21,000 taxpayer bill for Pence's visit. What bothers us isn't so much the bill itself but the fact that the general public wasn't invited to participate in Vice President Mike Pence's visit. At least when Donald Trump as a candidate visited Janesville last March, his rally was open to the public, taking some of the sting out of the $48,000 bill for local police protection. But Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan parachuted directly into Blain Supply in Janesville on March 3, inviting only select people to hear Pence and Ryan speak. Even The Gazette had some troubles, at least initially, obtaining the proper press credentials to gain access to the event. The next time the president or vice president decides to make a stop in Janesville, he should think about the perception created when his events exclude some taxpayers but require all of them to pay.

Thumbs down to Bernie Sanders campaign. While it had a grassroots reputation, the Bernie Sanders campaign did Wisconsin voters a disservice by encouraging 17-year-olds to vote in last year's Democratic presidential primary. A commission report found as many as 70 teenagers from 30 counties voted illegally, though this also raises concerns about whether poll workers were properly doing their jobs. Some Sanders campaigners were apparently misinforming 17-year-olds, telling them they could vote in the primary as long as they turned 18 by Election Day. Several states have this policy but not Wisconsin. Voter fraud is a felony, though we hope district attorneys would refrain from charging these 17-year-olds, especially if Sanders' campaign workers misled them about Wisconsin law and poll workers failed to inquire about the voters' ages before giving them a ballot.


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