Update - Lafayette County apparently does not understand how news works | Wis.Community

Update - Lafayette County apparently does not understand how news works

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Darlington, WI
Published
November 8, 2019

Posted By

resolution image

 According to a report from Wisconsin Public Radio La

Lafayette county board member Kriss Marion today posted a surprising resolution on Facebook that is being proposed in Lafayette County. Lafayette County is part of a three-county study of groundwater called the SWIGG (Southwest Wisconsin Groundwater and Geology). The results to date from this study have been disturbing and show a level of groundwater contamination that was concerning (42% of the wells tested were found to be contaminated with coliform bacteria or high nitrate levels). 

Someone in Lafayette County (though it is currently unclear who it is) has written a procedure for releasing the remaining results of the study. This in itself is not surprising, but the proposed resolution is to say the least odd. In an apparent concern that there were "leaks" from the study coming from the county board, the protocol requires hiding the results of the study from the board and from the Land Conservation Committee until the results are released to the public. Information will only be given to the Review Board, which consists of the county board chair, the chair of the Land Conservation Committee, and the county conservationists. This group would produce a press release, hold a public press conference, and control what is in the release. 

Where this turns bizarre is the idea that the press release will have a condition that it can only be printed in full by the media and may not be edited or interpreted in any way. It also states that "violators will be prosecuted". I'm not at all sure how they think this will work for television media or for that matter anyone else. This is not how press releases work in the real world, and I have no idea whatsoever what they think the avenue would be for prosecution. It is also clear that if this resolution was passed it would be unconstitutional. Governments cannot dictate what the press may report.

Kriss Marion is on the Land Conservation Committee and does not understand where this came from since it was not discussed previously in the committee. There is a special meeting scheduled for 8:30 AM Tuesday, Nov. 12 and the only thing on that agenda is passing this resolution, which will be forwarded to the County Board for approval at their own meeting at 7 PM. It is not at all clear what the committee is attempting to control since the data from this study is supposed to be a public record. 

The principal researcher in this study, Dr. Mark Borchardt from the USDA recently spoke at an event in Menomonie. We attempted to do a video of his talk, but he asked not to be recorded because he was afraid he would be misinterpreted if he told the truth about the water quality in the area (there will soon be a story on that talk as well). It appears that even in a year that our Governor has declared "The Year of Water", reporting the truth about the quality of groundwater in Wisconsin is frightening to some local governments. Board Member Marion has requested that if people are concerned about the data from the local water that they attend the special meeting next Tuesday at 8:30 AM at the Lafayette County Courthouse.

This is the text of the original post:

Dear constituents, I want to make you aware of a controversial resolution regarding the SWIGG water study has suddenly been put on the agenda for an emergency meeting of the Land Conservation Committee for NEXT TUESDAY, at 8:30am. The attached resolution is already scheduled for a vote by the full County Board Tuesday evening at 7pm, pending committee approval.

I am befuddled by the language in the preamble - the reference to a "county leak" is meaningless when SWIGG study results are public information published by state and federal agencies. Public information isn't "confidential" and can't be leaked. So I'm taken aback by the by the body of the resolution that apparently seeks to place a gag order on the discussion of publicly available scientific results. Of course, these opinions are mine alone, and do in no way represent the opinion of the full county board or of the Land Conservation Committee.

I am unaware who the author is, because the proposal did not originate in a committee meeting, and my inquiries into authorship weren't answered. Since we don't know the author, it isn't possible to get questions about language or intent answered prior to the meeting on Tuesday. I am printing this resolution on my County Supervisor Page because it is a public document, but isn't available on the county website. I certainly hope you can get off work to join me in the county courtroom Tuesday morning. But if you cannot, please do reach out to the county chair and the members of the Land Conservation Committee by phone to let them know your feelings on this proposal. Send me an email, as well.

Jack Sauer 608-574-2520Andy Schilling 608-482-2127John Bartels 608-558-8339Gerald Heiman 608-574-9799Micah Bahr 608-732-0128Jed Gant 608-214-4036Carmen McDonald 608-214-1015Kriss Marion 608-558-0501

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