Newly elected Representative Joe Sanfelippo had barely found his new state office and he was already announcing a list of fully formed legislative proposals to turn everything upside down on his former colleagues in Milwaukee County government. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and his various operatives rushed as if on cue to support the new Republican state legislator. And surprising exactly no one it was quickly revealed that the elite business interests running the Greater Milwaukee Committee already had a small army of lobbyists, a front group and a spin machine in place.
Given the early and well coordinated effort it was no surprise that supporters began pushing all of the same talking points and reading from the exact same (sometimes very disingenuous) script. I don't personally have a problem with a real and actual discussion about policy in Milwaukee County but I don't like the outside meddling that seems to be built into the DNA of this latest effort.
Sorry but I'm just not a fan of the elaborate behind-the-scenes plotting and planning by big dollar benefactors and big business special interests. I'm not a fan of fully formed front groups being hatched out of nowhere and slick PR firms being retained to "educate the public" long before most of us even know exactly what is being proposed or the possible consequences.
So if we in Milwaukee County are going to be forced by Big (state) Government and others into having this discussion then it should at least be a full and an open one. We should not simply have to settle for carefully formulated talking points and the well funded efforts of a few elite special interests and individuals.
For my part, I want to understand more about what exactly may have brought us to this point. What has been going on behind the scenes and who has been involved in all of this careful and expensive planning? What does that information tell us about the possible motives at the root of the effort itself?
To hopefully find some of these answers I've filed a number of open records requests with a variety of public officials that have publicly forced this issue in the first place. Most of the officials have at least initially responded to my records requests and some with a notable and welcome amount of speed. Time will tell, as I work with them to obtain various public records, exactly how open each elected official will be to such scrutiny.
After three full weeks only one public official has failed to even acknowledge receipt of my open records request and sadly that is my own state Senator Lena Taylor (See UPDATE Below). It is still a mystery to me as to why she was so quick to sign on to this legislation. There certainly is no groundswell within her district for this legislation, so I am very interested in reviewing the public records that I've requested from her. Some have already speculated about her quick support of this legislation but I am withholding judgement at this point. However doing things like ignoring open records requests into the matter will only feed those kinds of theories.
Those that are pushing this Milwaukee County legislation the hardest should be the first to allow the sun to shine on all aspects of it. Only then can we have the full and substantive discussion that Milwaukee County residents actually deserve.
UPDATE: I just was informed second hand via Twitter that Senator Taylor is putting the records responsive to my request in the mail today. If this is true I appreciate it very much and look forward to getting them.