Jacque Promotes Maverick Status at Listening Session

But some responses show he is toeing the party line

During a 90-minute listening session in Sturgeon Bay on Nov. 12 held by Sen. André Jacque and attended by 10 people, Jacque attempted to paint himself as a Republican maverick who votes his conscience rather than the party line.

However, his answers to several questions asked by attendees seemed to parrot pure partisan politics, especially when responding to Holly Feldman, director of development and public relations at Northern Sky Theater.

One week after the Republican majority fired agriculture secretary-designee Brad Pfaff, Feldman asked about the status of tourism secretary-designee Sara Meaney’s nomination to head that office. 

The question was a valid one because the day after Republicans fired Pfaff, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in an interview that “There’s a storm brewing on Sara Meaney,” saying, without explanation, that she had “politicized the Department of Tourism.” 

Jacque said essentially the same thing at the listening session: that there have been concerns about how Meaney has conducted business and that she is injecting partisan politics into the Department of Tourism. 

Jacque said Meaney had asked a “straight, white woman” who had been appointed to the council by former Gov. Jim Doyle to step down in favor of someone with more “ethnic diversity.” 

Asked by Judy Brodd for a citation where she could look this up, Jacque said Meaney said it directly to the council member.

But the senator seemed to take personal umbrage when he said Peninsula Players Managing Director Brian Kelsey, who had served for 11 years on the tourism council, attended a recent meeting only to learn that it was his last one – that he was no longer a tourism council member.

“That’s not true,” Kelsey said in a telephone call with the Peninsula Pulse. Kelsey said he was well aware that his term on the council was up July 1. In fact, he said, he has been asked to continue serving the council as a member on two of its committees and believes in all the work the council and its dedicated members do.

Kelsey maintains that secretary-designee Meaney is all about the tourism business, not politics.

“Tourism is apolitical and should remain apolitical,” he said. “I am pleased to have her at the helm.”

When listening-session attendee Mike Brodd said to Jacque that the firing of Pfaff and the machinations against Meaney certainly look like partisan politics, Jacque said, “You can certainly say that. I have to make the personal decisions. It’s advise and consent.”

When asked why Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald was allowed by his fellow members to gavel in and gavel out at a Nov. 7 special session on gun legislation, Jacque said leadership would have to answer that question, but he added that he felt the session was unnecessary because “red flag” laws are already in place in Wisconsin, with anyone able to go to a judge and ask that an unstable person’s guns be removed from his or her possession.

Mike Brodd pointed out that 80 percent of the state population wants to see action on common-sense gun laws.

Jacque said there is too much “soundbite politics going on for both sides” and that he has concerns with the politicization of due process when it comes to gun laws.

“All we got is a big finger, and that’s what it feels like,” said Dan Powers of the group United to Amend, which seeks to overturn the Citizens United ruling. “It’s the leadership here [who say,] ‘Screw you, we’re not going to talk about it.’”

Mike Brodd said that at the very least, the Senate and Assembly could have spent time debating the gun-law issue.

“It’s not working the way it’s going,” Judy Brodd said.

Sturgeon Bay’s city engineer Chad Shefchik was one of the 10 people in attendance at the listening session. He pointed out that largely due to levy limits, the city has roads badly in need of repair, which prompted the city to ask the state to allow it to collect the Premier Area Resort Tax. He wondered why legislators are opposed to allowing the tax so Sturgeon Bay can fix its potholed roads.

“I think realistically that proposal isn’t going anywhere,” Jacque said, adding that anyone who allows them to think it is is creating false hopes.

“We do have criteria,” Jacque said. “If the city met the criteria, they would have one.”