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Dec. 8, 2015: We the Irrelevant

We the Irrelevant was born on Dec. 8, 2015. In the four years since, I have sent out 10 different open records requests to the Wisconsin state legislature. Each request has asked for citizen correspondence related to an issue either currently before the legislature or on which they had acted. 

My purpose remains what it has always been: to find out whether citizens were asking for particular legislative actions and to publish what citizens were telling their legislators about those actions. 

I am grateful to my volunteers who stepped forward in 2015/16. They thought my efforts were important and wanted to help. Their assistance was invaluable as I struggled to find ways to organize and disseminate an avalanche of data. Thanks to their generosity of time and energy, I was able to manage on my own by 2017. 

As We the Irrelevant's fourth anniversary approached, I was moved to look back at what's been accomplished. Below is a spreadsheet that summarizes data on a range of controversial issues important to Wisconsin citizens. I owe a debt of gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of them whose dedication to democracy led them to contact their legislators. I honor those of you who have done so and urge those who have not to reconsider: such contacts are the essence of representative government. 

I have tried to keep We the Irrelevant non-partisan. In this tribal atmosphere, that has not been easy, and I have not always succeeded. I will continue to try. 

We the Irrelevant has had 196,228 page views in the past four years. I have no way to compare that number with others in its class, but I'll say this: that's a lot of clicks on pages I created, and I'm delighted! I've received an award from the Freedom of Information Council, enjoyed some good media coverage (with more to come), and been invited to speak to a variety of groups from the DPW Rural Caucus to the Eau Claire Grassroots Festival to Indivisible of Jefferson County and Drinking Liberally in New Glarus. I thank them all for wanting to hear what I've learned. 

What began almost as a whim has evolved into what sometimes feels like a full-time career. It has introduced me to dedicated and creative activists around Wisconsin and beyond. It has made me so proud of my home state and those who battle every day to make it a better place to live. I will admit to occasional weariness, but I am not ready to quit.

My 81 years have taught me a lot. Most importantly, I've learned that one person can make a difference by keeping this mandate top of mind: leave your little corner of the world better than it was before you entered it. 

I wish you well, and thank you.

NOTE: To pop the spreadsheet out on its own screen, click on the arrow in the upper right hand corner.