FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bill Lueders (608) 669-4712
March 6, 2019
Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council names ‘Opee’ winners
Wisconsin’s largest newspaper and a small Madison paper produced mostly by teens are among the honorees of the 2019 Openness Awards, or Opees, bestowed annually by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, along with awards to a Wausau-based citizens environmental group and a state senator who is seeking to end his colleagues’ ability to destroy records at will.
Meanwhile, the Opees recognized both Racine Ald. Sandra Weidner and the city of Racine, for being on opposite sides of the same issue. Weidner was honored for blowing the whistle on her city’s extraordinary effort to suppress public records, for which it received negative recognition for the Council in the form of another award.
The awards, announced today in advance of national Sunshine Week (sunshineweek.org), March 10-16, are meant to recognize outstanding efforts to protect the state’s tradition of open government, and highlight some of the threats. This is the 13th consecutive year that Opees have been given.
“Each year, we recognize people who take it upon themselves to fight for the transparency our democracy needs to thrive,” said Bill Lueders, council president. “And each year, sadly, there are forces within government fighting just as hard to keep things secret.”
The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, a nonpartisan group that seeks to promote open government, consists of about two dozen members representing media and other public interests. Sponsoring organizations include the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, Wisconsin Associated Press, Wisconsin News Photographers and the Madison Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
The winners will be invited to receive their awards at the ninth annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards Dinner in Madison on Tuesday, April 16, at the Madison Club. The event is open to the public and is presented by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Awards are being given this year in six categories. The winners are:
Whistleblower of the Year (“Whoopee”): Sandra Weidner
Not only did this Racine alderperson file suit over her city’s efforts to claim that some of her own email exchanges with constituents could not be made public because they dealt with advice from the city attorney’s office, she was actually cited for contempt of court for disclosing information about her case, which a Racine County judge decided to conduct in secret. After media groups intervened, virtually all of the case records were made public. But Weidner has spent tens of thousands of dollars to prevent the public from being kept in the dark about its right to know.
No Friend of Openness (“Nopee”): The city of Racine
Officials including City Attorney Scott Letteney and Mayor Cory Mason, wasted more than $75,000 of taxpayers’ money on an unwise and ultimately failed effort to prevent the public from seeing run-of-the-mill emails and other records. Letteney’s office even at one point claimed it could not release records showing how much the city was spending on outside counsel for this foolish fight. The city trampled its citizens’ right to public information — and then made them foot the bill for it.
And from JT:
The Journal Times reached out Wednesday to the Mayors Office, which declined to comment.
Weidner, who represents the city’s 6th District, said she plans to attend the Wisconsin Watchdog Awards Dinner on April 16 in Madison.
“I am tremendously honored to be selected as one of the recipients of an OPEE award,” Weidner wrote in an email. “I do not have a comment regarding any of the other recipients except to say if the City of Racine would like me to pick up their award, I would be happy to do that for them.”
“Chain Lightning” by Steely Dan off “Katy Lied” featuring Wilhelm Reich’s “The Mass Psychology of Fascism” in poster form as preformed by The extraordinary New York Surveillance Camera Players a combination theater and protest performance group that performs to the surveillance cameras. Photos of include Stalin*, Nixon, Bush and Clintons. According to a group member, a liberal estimate of the number of surveillance cameras in operation in Manhattan is now more than 10,000. This pales in comparison to London, the city with the highest concentration of surveillance cameras, where it is estimated there are 10,000 cameras in operation in London’s financial district alone. The location of surveillance cameras is noticeably peculiar considering their perceived purpose of crime prevention. Cameras are installed in predominantly rich zones of the city and markedly not in zones where there is high crime (the predominantly poorer zones). Cameras are also installed predominantly in crowded thoroughfares rather than in back alleys. Cameras are frequently installed within private property (though technically legal) but are obviously directed at monitoring public space.
Free PDF of Wilhelm Reich’s “The Mass Psychology of Fascism” available at: http://www.relatedness.org/Mass_Psychology_of_Fascism.pdf
For those astute enough with Ears to Hear, and Eyes to See – straight from City of Racine CIP – available at City of Racine Finance Department:
Click on the below image to ENLARGE!