Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sorry, That's a Secret

Why does the Wisconsin state legislature do so much of its business behind closed doors?

See Behind Closed Doors — Democratic Caucus Budget Work « AMPS and other links on the blog Advocating for Madison Public Schools (

Maybe I should ask, "how do they justify these closed meetings?" or "Is it good public policy for government to conduct much of its most important business in secret?" - because I can think of a number of reasons why they prefer to meet behind closed doors.

People will speak their mind more bluntly - elected officials will say things behind closed doors that they would never say in public. No cameras, no posing for holy pictures (a great line that I am stealing from Chuck Chvala). Decisions are made more quickly. It can be uncomfortable taking controversial positions in public (at least that's what I hear - it's never really bothered me!). And certainly it is fun knowing stuff that other people don't know.

There are probably other reasons why the state legislature prefers to conduct the public's business in private - but they would all apply with equal force to local government and with certain limited exceptions, the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law does not let local officials meet and vote in closed session. Nor should it. My rule of thumb: If you don't want your constituents to know about it, then you should not say it or do it.



  1. Strange. We used to have a school board like that and you did not care.

  2. Speaking of chicken, brawwkk, brawwkk. Sign your name when you want to get personal.

    Besides which, it's rubbish. I mean, what the bloody hell are you talking about?!

    To my knowledge, the school board did not make critical decisions in closed sessions (other than for legally allowed purposes like determining collective bargaining positions and so forth).

    If you knew the board was violating the open meetings law, then why did you not file an open meetings complaint? Oh, yeah, brawwkk, brawwkk.

    And can you please get your little school board chip off your shoulder and stop shaking your tiny fists of rage? Or do so elsewhere?

    OK? The topic here is the legal secrecy that the state legislature allows. Try staying on topic.

    And finally, to accuse me of not supporting transparency in local government is just, mmm, how do you say it? Riddikulus!? Poof, you have disappeared.

    Given that you are posting your comments on my blog, which if nothing else is an experiment in local government transparency.


    To everyone else, thank you for your patience while I cleared my throat of that chicken bone.

  3. Actually, I have gotten over it. I just have trouble getting over hypricosey in politics and people who yell foul at selected times. Perhaps, it is because I have too much in my life-I will think about it.

    OK, I agree with you-it is wrong unethical, against the morals of good governement and whatever else we want to call it.


    The issue is they do not care-they are about staying in power. They are not about serving the people. You do understand that, right and it does not matter if the are from party d or r. I mean that is why they give us big strange gifts in bows at strange times ($500,000 for Aldo Leoplold?) (The checks Tommy sent us a few years back.)...when they could be working on building human capital.
    However, working on human capital is hard, dirty and messy work.

  4. Well, sure they want to get re-elected (and, IMHO, nearly all of them want to get re-elected in part because they think they are making a positive contribution).

    If enough people object to the closed door way of doing business and make enough noise for a sustained period of time, then maybe we can get some changes and more open state government.