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We, the Irrelevant

Formerly known as We, the People

January 10, 2017

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Are the people of Wisconsin still in charge of their government?

January 14: Yesterday, We the Irrelevant sent open record requests to Gov. Walker and the 58 WI legislators of both parties who are members of the following committees: 

  • Assembly:
    • Environment and Forestry
    • Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage
    • Tourism
    • Rural Development and Mining
  • Senate:
    • Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism
    • Natural Resources and Energy
    • Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry

The ORR asks for all citizen correspondence between Jan. 1, 2015 and Jan. 13, 2017 related to the following search terms: DNR, state parks, mining, climate change. It will be several weeks before results are available. 

January 11: There is updated contact information for all WI legislators here. Info for our congressional delegation will be posted shortly. 

January 10, 2017: New data is available! Thanks for your patience.  

January 5, 2017: The data collection is nearly completed. But, I was distracted. Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) distracted me. It's not the first time he's done so. Here's a link to his latest poke in the public's eye.  If you want more of that very special Krug sneer, here's a link to the first distraction.  

January 1, 2017: We the Irrelevant welcomed its 50,000th visitor in the last week of 2016. Thank you to everyone for your interest and your support. I've begun tallying all the data that's been waiting for my health to improve. I hope to post new totals before the week is out. I wish you all an active and productive new year. 

Nov. 16: Kudos to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for this timely research on open records laws around the country. Click here to see their state by state data base and read how public information is often not so public after all.

Oct. 11: I am still here although a little worse for wear. I'm in rehab recuperating from surgery, and all of my energy and focus is on a swift and complete return to normal. We the Irrelevant will have to wait until I get there. In the meantime, I urge all of you to get involved in whatever election activities appeal to you: phone banking, canvassing, sign-making, etc. This is an historic election. Disengagement is not an option

Sep. 4: I wish you all a fitting celebration of this Labor Day. My apologies for the long silence. My personal life and my health have combined to create a barrier between me and the work of We, the Irrelevant. I have piles of records to review and tally. I will do that just as soon as I possibly can. In the meantime, thanks for your patience.

Aug 20: Yesterday, Bill Lueders, journalist and president of the WI Freedom of Information Council, filed a lawsuit in Dane County Court against Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa). You can read it in its entirety here.

The following link takes you to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article on the lawsuit. http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2016/08/19/records-suit-filed-against-lawmaker/89008138/ 

We, the Irrelevant's post concerning Rep. Krug's curious designations of citizen contacts can be found by clicking here.

Aug. 15: More legislators' names have been posted in What Happened to the Emails. 17 legislators reported receiving no citizen correspondence regarding the takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools although their names were on multiple emails reported by other legislators.

Aug. 5: New results have been posted for the MPS takeover as well as support for public education. The aggregate data by district has changed accordingly.

Aug. 4: My "What Happened to the Emails?" Facebook post has reached over 6,000 people! Let's keep spreading it around. I have learned more about the disposal of records from two Senators' responses. 

Sen. Erpenbach (D-Middleton) wrote: "Since January 1, of 2015 this office has received over 18,500 contacts from constituents alone. That does not include contacts from individuals that do not live in the 27th Senate District during the budget period which were responded to and were not kept by this office."

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) wrote: "However, my office generally only tracks correspondence for constituents of the 8th Senate District."

I take these statements to mean that when we send an email to all legislators, it may be disposed of by those in whose districts we don't live. 

Here is my view: Constituents may have put a legislator in office, but the decisions she/he makes affect all of us. All of us have a right to be heard on the safety of our water, the quality of our public schools, and the integrity of our electoral processes. These are statewide issues. 

I suspect that We, the Irrelevant's totals for all of the issues queried via open records requests since October, 2015 would be far larger if document disposal were not permitted. 

The open records law has been under attack by the GOP majority. They want to limit it even further. It's in our interest as citizens to push for broadening it. That's the only way we'll ever know what the people of Wisconsin think about proposed legislation when candidates don't tell voters their plans in advance.

July 31: New data has just been posted. The support for public education total has increased by the number of citizens opposed to the MPS takeover

July 29: New data regarding the Darling/Kooyenga MPS takeover plan will be posted this weekend. In the meantime, you may find the new page interesting: What Happened to the Emails?

July 20: A milestone - We, the Irrelevant's unique visitor count just topped 30,000!

  • New data is available for Education and the Darling/Kooyenga MPS takeover plan. Click here.
  • New voter letters have been posted.
  • We, the Irrelevant's first brochure is printed and ready for distribution. Thanks to all who contributed via the Kickstarter campaign or with a personal contribution.
  • Bill Lueders, President of the WI Freedom of Information Council, has invited me to attend the next meeting of the Council. It's an honor to be included.
  • Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) has never responded to my request to review his records without charge. The law allows him to charge me "location fees" which means staff time. His rationale is that he is saving taxpayers money. I am a taxpayer. For me, the $61 he demands is a burden. Spread among the millions of WI taxpayers he says he's protecting, the cost would be too small to calculate. 

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If you want to become a part of our quest for accountability, join our ORRganization. If you have a Google account and have downloaded Google Drive, here are the documents you'll need to file and record the results from your own ORR.

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This site houses data compiled from multiple Open Records Requests (ORRs) sent to Wisconsin's Republican state legislators beginning in October, 2015. We asked for citizen correspondence concerning the dismantling of the independent Government Accountability Board. We got more than we asked for.

Volunteers combed through hundreds of pages of documents furnished by the legislators. Each time a citizen mentioned the GAB, whether for or against dismantling it, a tally mark was made on a specially designed spreadsheet. Frequently, citizens included their feelings about two other concurrent bills - exempting politicians from secret John Doe investigations and changing campaign finance laws to allow coordination between candidates and special interest groups. These comments were also tallied. 

Every effort was made to keep accurate tallies. Most records remain with the legislators. The volunteers would have had to pay hundreds of dollars in aggregate to have copies of all of them in order to document their results. 

Anyone wanting proof of accuracy will have to submit their own ORR, asking for the same records within the same time period and be prepared to review records in the respective Chief Clerk's office or pay for the cost of searching, printing, and perhaps mailing them.

You can use the site in several ways: