Tuesday, August 11, 2009

By Muzzling Its Critics, WisDOT Is Setting Up Taxpayers For A Fall

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation's arrogance is showing again.

The agency forbade critics of its highway plans Tuesday evening from handing out leaflets in a public room during a public hearing.

I predicted this yesterday.

This time, the setting was the Harbor Lights Room at the Downtown Transit Center - - a facility owned by Milwaukee County.

A few weeks ago, WisDOT went even further, summoning the State Fair Park police and forcing anti-highway activists to hand out their leaflets at a street entrance, nowhere near the meeting room.

At the Tuesday event, WisDOT officials first told the activists they would have to stand outside the building on the sidewalk - - then relented, telling the activists they could stand on the ground floor at the stairwell and escalator entrance, but not at, or inside, the second-floor meeting room.

Furthermore, WisDOT, without prior notice, limited speakers giving statements to court reporters (in a separate room, so the public could not hear the statements, thus negating the essence of a public meeting) to a few minutes even though some speakers had lengthy statements to make.

Who gives WisDOT the right to make up and change the rules of public speaking and information-distribution on a whim?

This anti-democratic process has all the earmarks of a vendetta against the activists, who have sued WisDOT in Federal Court over a project in Waukesha and Washington Counties.

Now I can easily see WisDOT losing First Amendment litigation over the agency's high-handed violation of the activists' free speech rights at two straight public meetings in Milwaukee County.


Anonymous said...

Not sure what the opponents' beef is, and I probably disagree, but to so limit debate and information is clearly a violation of the first amendment, especially when said speech takes place ( or should be allowed to take place) on government property.

This is part of a pattern. Neither the left nor the right are consistently open to argument, and governments especially try to silence their critics. UNAMERICAN!!

Ken Van Doren

enoughalready said...

I believe the WisDOT probably just handed its opponents a basis for a lawsuit that could be used to put a halt to the highway expansion plans (if such a basis did not already exist). There are federal laws which require meaningful public input, and I believe successful lawsuits have been filed in other parts of the country. Is the Journal Sentinel editorial board picking up on any of this?

James Rowen said...

My point exactly.