Letter to the Editor: Open Meetings Law and Public Comment Opportunities

The Wisconsin State Statutes Chapter 19, Subchapter V, Sec 19.81 provides guidance on the Open Meetings of Governmental Bodies. It provides declaration of the policy, history, definitions, and procedures. A governmental body can hold an open session meeting only if it has been properly posted in accordance with the state statutes. Chapter 19, sadly does not clarify or offer any recommendations for public comment before, during or after the open session government meeting. In my opinion that is a weakness in our State Constitution.

In the course of working for the government for more than 25 years and conducting or facilitating more than 50 open house/public meetings, I have experienced firsthand how an engaged public can improve the governance of a municipality. When the public is encouraged to share their experiences and ideas, when the public is allowed to inform and constructively criticize an issue before any administrative body – everyone wins – the public is heard, the elected officials are reconnected to their constituents, and in every case I worked with the issue is resolved, corrected, or improved. When the public is not allowed to share their experiences and ideas, when the public is not allowed to engage or constructively criticize their elected official at an open meeting then our Freedom of Speech is denied. Sure we can always share our ideas and constructive criticism in the newspaper, on social media or the car dealership down the street, but an open meeting is the best place to engage our elected official, it is also the best place to listen to our elected officials words, remembering those words and reminding them of the Freedom of Speech and our inalienable right to be heard as an American citizen.


David Hayes

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

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