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Thursday, September 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 51.0° F  Fog/Mist

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A wish-list for open government in Wisconsin

Most candidates for public office, when asked, will pledge their support for open and transparent government. The real question is: Are they committed to fixing problems and expanding what information is available? >More
 Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council 2014 Opee Awards cap trying year

This last year has seen almost constant threats to Wisconsin's openness laws. We've had local law enforcement agencies suppressing drivers license information, a state senator claiming immunity from civil suits to evade the open records law, and attempts to deny public access to records of circuit court cases and university research. >More
 Lawmaker contacts shouldn't be secret in Wisconsin

Sandy Whisler was surprised to see her name appear on the Wisconsin State Journal's editorial page -- not in a letter to the editor, which she sometimes writes, but in a Nov. 20 editorial. Whisler, a retired educator in Lake Mills, had emailed four state legislators urging them to hold hearings on proposed bills to create a nonpartisan process for legislative redistricting -- the redrawing of voter boundaries after every ten-year Census. >More
 The truth vs. Larry Flynt

A tag line at the end of the film The People vs. Larry Flynt states that whoever gunned down the porn publisher in 1978, paralyzing him from the waist down, was never brought to justice. In fact, the probable shooter was prosecuted for a double murder in Madison and is serving multiple life sentences. >More
 Wisconsin officials continuing to drag their feet on records requests

On July 30, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on newly released emails between Scott Walker's campaign staff and county aides in 2010, back when the future governor was Milwaukee county executive. One email was from Cindy Archer, then a top county aide, to Walker and his campaign staff, advising that "we may be responding too quickly" to open records requests regarding a county parking structure collapse that killed a 15-year-old boy. >More
 The Baseball Thesaurus is an insider's guide to the game's lingo

Every time I hear Milwaukee Brewers announcer Bill Schroeder call a sharp line drive a "frozen rope," I'm reminded why I love the game. Words are as integral to baseball as statistics. It's a sport that makes people leap after synonyms like fielders flying into stands to catch a foul ball. >More
 Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council 2013 Opee Awards highlight highs and lows in open government

March 10-16 is national Sunshine Week, meant to call attention to the cause of open government. For the seventh year in a row, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is taking this opportunity to bestow its annual Openness Awards, or Opees. >More
 Wisconsin Legislature oversteps with new gallery rules

Let's start with a stipulation: Not all of the inappropriate behavior that takes place in the Wisconsin state Legislature is committed by lawmakers. Some spectators, especially in the last two years, have also shown poor manners and bad form. People who shout "Liar!" from the gallery as the governor gives a State of the State address are being not just disrespectful but disruptive, and deserve to be kicked out. >More
 A house divided: Can a Democratic/Republican marriage survive in a battleground state?

The initial reaction was not encouraging. The couples I learned of who fit the bill did not respond to my inquiries. A message on the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's Facebook page, seeking to profile "a married couple who are divided in their support" for the two major presidential contenders, drew mostly hostile replies. >More
 Wisconsin Coverts Project teaches people how to manage state's woods

From now on, just call me "Mr. Ambassador." For the better part of four days at the end of August, I was among a group of about two dozen people who received intensive instruction in woodlands management at a little-known training camp in northern Wisconsin. >More
 Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council 2012 Opee Awards recognize media and lawmakers

As part of national Sunshine Week, March 11-17, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is bestowing its annual "Opee" Awards for openness in government. And Wisconsin state lawmakers have been tapped for both kinds of awards -- good as well as bad. Six Opees are being given to eight individuals for 2011-12. >More
 Remembering Billy: The life and death of a Madison man with mental illness

That I never met Billy Zurlo is, first of all, my loss, and second, surprising. I've known his sister Rosemary and her husband Frank for more than a decade, and over time I've met most other members of their families. But Billy was someone I didn't get to know until after he'd died -- starting with his memorial service at the Goodman Center on Dec. 30, 2011. >More
 Wetland or wasteland? Republicans say jobs should come before environmental controls

Call it Bud Harris' theory of environmental relativity. The professor emeritus of natural and applied sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has found that when people look at the Bergstrom wetland, "They see what they want to see," depending on their perspective. For wetland experts like Harris, the little patch of land less than a mile down the road from the stadium that hosts the world champion Green Bay Packers is a rare and valuable resource that provides environmental benefits while supporting a rich array of flora and fauna. >More
 End Wisconsin lawmakers' ability to purge records

No one deserves more credit for forging Wisconsin's traditions of open government than the state Legislature. From passing the nation's first public records law in 1849, one year after Wisconsin became a state, to the last major update of our Open Records and Open Meetings Laws in the early 1980s, the Legislature has been at the forefront of this important cause. >More
 June 4, 2004: Inside the monkey house

We come upon the baby in an incubator in the corner of a typically stark and sterile room. At first he looks dead. Then he stirs and within seconds opens his eyes, squinting at the bright light and strange faces, perhaps the first he has seen. My tour hosts, primate center spokesperson Jordana Lenon and colony manager Chris Luethy, explain that this rhesus macaque, number r04040, was probably born earlier this same morning. He's here because his mother for some reason refused to care for him, irrevocably. >More
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