The Wisconsin State Democratic Party Convention was held on Friday June 6th and Saturday June 7th at the Wilderness Lodge in Wisconsin Dells.
Those of us attending were impressed with the organization and energy.
2:00 - Unity Fair
There were organizers, candidates, buttons, bumper stickers, raffles and treats everywhere. John Lehman's table, which many of us staffed, was a big hit and one of the busiest with great decorations and tastes of kringle. It was directly outside of the convention hall which gave us up close and personnel contact with candidates and elected officials such as Gwen Moore, Peter Barca, Mike Tate, and Tammy Baldwin - just to name a few. John Lehman and his wife, Cathy, stopped by to visit and to show their gratitude. There was also Hillary Clinton table.
We stood in the long, long lines and finally obtained our delegate badges and bags of information.
6:00- Convention Commenced/Speeches Began
John Lehman was one of the first to speak. It was powerful as he set the tone of unity, opportunity and community. A favorite phrase from his speech that was picked up and used by many speakers following him was- "If the UWM Badgers lost every game for three years in a row wouldn't the coach be fired??" -- Proud that this man is running for Lt. Governor.
The speeches progressed throughout the evening with speakers such as Ron Kind, Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore. The room was filled with excitement especially after the announcement that the marriage equality law was repealed. Celebrating that moment with like-minded people was amazing!!
Gwen Moore's speech was not as uplifting as usual as she showed a video about sex-trafficking and spoke to the concern that Milwaukee has the highest sex trafficking trade in the country.
Tammy Baldwin ended the evening by speaking and introducing Mary Burke. Mary's speech was outstanding ending with a favorite quote “GAME ON!!”
The strength of Mary Burke's and John Lehman's speeches were highlights continuing the message of unity among the speakers. All spoke with pride in our accomplishments, such as the Affordable Care Act, stressing that we stand for community and equal opportunity for all.
8:00 - Unity fair & Resolution Committee Meeting
10:00 - Candidate Speeches
Rob Zerban's and Amar Kaleka's speeches were excellent containing emotion, conviction and plans.
1:00 - Convention Closed
The entire convention was full of energy from this large group of dedicated people who are truly committed to making life better for everyone
From the Racine Journal Times:
RACINE — As Black History Month comes to a close this week, several community leaders gathered Monday night to commemorate the accomplishments of eight African-American residents of Racine throughout history.
Whether a runaway slave, a local teacher or a member of Congress, current community leaders spoke on their research or personal memories of these eight men and women who left an indelible impact on Racine and, in some cases, the country.
“We have a great tradition in this country of celebrating Black History Month in February, and we learn about many great national figures who are important at both a national and state level,” said state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, who organized the event. “But sometimes we forget how important Racine’s contributions are to the legacy of African-American history here in this country.”
In front of an audience of about two dozen residents at the Racine Public Library, five speakers addressed the legacies of former community members including U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., a Racine native; Corrine Reid-Owens, one of the first black Racine Unified School District teachers and often described as the “Rosa Parks of Racine;” and Joshua Glover, a runaway slave captured in Racine and famously broken out of jail by local abolitionists.
While discussing the achievements of George Bray, former alderman and founder of the Racine Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Jameel Ghuari said Bray made sure Ghuari went to school by ensuring his mother knew about it when he was caught skipping class.
Ghuari is now the director of the neighborhood center that bears George Bray’s name.
“What I remember most about George Bray is that he was a humanitarian,” he said. “His spirit still is there in the Bray Center ... and all I’m trying to do is be a keeper of that vision.”
Mason announced after the event he will host a similar event next month for Women’s History Month to commemorate women who have made an impact on Racine’s history.
As reported by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Madison — In a late-night session that stretched from Thursday into Friday, Republicans in the state Assembly approved measures to reinstate Wisconsin's voter ID law, tighten early voting hours, limit the ability to recall elected officials, create anti-abortion license plates and restrict access to the site of a proposed iron mine in the North Woods.
They also took a first step toward amending the state constitution to require members of the state Supreme Court to choose the chief justice, rather than having that post automatically go to the most senior justice.
Legislators from the two parties had been working together to move through a jam-packed agenda by midnight, but bitter disputes developed late Thursday that sent the session into the early morning hours.
Tensions flared after Democrats attempted to take up a bill honoring the children killed last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Republicans rejected taking that up and then advanced the bill on anti-abortion license plates, even though they had said earlier they wouldn't take it up.
The Assembly session was supposed to be the last one of 2013, but lawmakers now are expected to be back on the floor in the coming weeks because Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday he would call a special session to delay moving 77,500 people from BadgerCare Plus health coverage to private insurance.
Legislators approved a bill, 54-38, that would allow voters to cast a ballot without a photo ID if they signed sworn statements saying they were poor and could not obtain a photo ID without paying a fee, had a religious objection to being photographed or could not obtain birth certificates or other documentation necessary to get a photo ID. All Republicans voted in favor of the bill and all Democrats against it.
The changes are intended to overcome legal challenges to the state's stalled law requiring proof of identity at the polls. Democrats argued putting the ID requirement in place would make it tougher for minorities, the elderly and poor people to vote and unfairly create two classes of voters — those who show IDs, and those who file affidavits.
"This bill says that poor people need to declare their indigency. It's a scarlet letter," said Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee).
Republicans countered the measure would ensure the ID requirement is in place for most voters for next year's governor's election and would boost confidence in the voting system.
"If the trust in our elections is undermined, our entire representative democracy is undermined," said Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), one of the bill's authors.
Republicans in 2011 passed a voter ID requirement, but it was blocked last year by judges in two different cases. An appeals court reversed one of those decisions, but the other ruling blocking the law remains in effect.
The new proposal comes as a third and fourth legal challenge are being heard in federal court in Milwaukee. That trial is to wrap up Friday, and U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman will rule sometime thereafter.
The measure now goes to the Republican-run Senate, where it faces an uncertain future. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has said he doesn't want to make changes to the voter ID law until he sees how more courts rule on the matter.
Also Thursday and Friday:
Recall limits. The Assembly approved two proposals limiting recalls. One passed 54-39 along party lines and the other 53-39, with Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) joining all Democrats in opposition.
One is a constitutional amendment that would restrict recalls for state and county officials to those charged with crimes or ethics violations. The other would put similar restrictions in state law for municipal and school officials.
The proposals are in response to a wave of recalls in 2011 and 2012 against Walker and state senators.
"It's time that we return predictability to the electoral process," said Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna).
If such limits had been in place, efforts could not have gone forward to recall Walker and Republican senators over eliminating most collective bargaining for public workers, as well as to recall Democratic senators for leaving the state in 2011 to try to block the labor limits. The restrictions also would have quashed the attempts to recall Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament and County Board supervisors over a pension scandal, and Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan over drunken incidents and a sexual harassment complaint.
Democrats also highlighted the case of Toronto's mayor, who recently acknowledged smoking crack. They noted a Wisconsin mayor who did that couldn't be recalled under the GOP plan if he or she hadn't been charged with a crime.
Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) called the moves anti-democratic.
"What are the authors afraid of?" he asked. "Why in the world are they trying to set aside the ability of voters ... to recall someone who they think made a mistake? ... It's a democratic right of people to be heard and it's something that should not be suppressed."
The plan has a long road before it could be put in place, because it is a constitutional amendment. Both the Assembly and Senate would have to approve it before the end of next year, then again after a new set of legislators are seated in 2015. The plan would then go to voters for approval in a statewide referendum.
Chief justice. On a party-line, 54-38 vote, the Assembly voted to follow the Senate's lead and adopted a proposal that would amend the state constitution to require the Supreme Court justices to select who among them would serve as chief justice. That would end the practice of awarding the job to the most senior justice, as has been done for over a century.
The measure passed the Senate on Tuesday in its own party-line vote, but both houses will still have to approve the measure again after next year's elections. Voters would then decide whether to adopt the constitutional amendment in a statewide referendum.
Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), the proposal's main sponsor, said the state's current system is antiquated and out of step with most other states.
"Wisconsin is one of only five states that has a seniority process," Hutton said.
Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) rejected the bill as a political attack by Republicans on Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. The bill wouldn't have been taken up if a member of the court's conservative majority were leading the court, Hebl said.
Early voting. In another party-line vote, legislators approved a bill, 53-39, to set municipal clerks' office hours to weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. — a move that would effectively end weekend voter drives in Democratic strongholds such as Milwaukee and Madison.
Rep. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) said he was putting forward the plan to standardized early voting hours. He said it isn't fair that people in many urban areas have a chance to vote on weekends or evenings, while those in rural areas don't because they don't have enough staff.
Opponents argued it was a barely veiled attempt to tamp down votes by Democrats.
It is the second effort by Republicans to limit early voting hours since they took complete control of state government in 2011. Before then, early voting lasted three weeks and included three weekends. The changes set in 2011 reduced the period to two weeks that include just one weekend.
The latest bill sets the hours when clerks can allow voting. Voters in areas with limited opportunities for early voting would be able to make appointments with municipal clerks tovote on weeknights after 6 p.m.
It now goes to the Senate, but leaders there have not said whether they plan to vote on it.
Mine. Public access on a proposed mine site in northern Wisconsin would be scaled back under another measure approved on a party-line, 54-39 vote.
Gogebic Taconite is pursuing a $1.5 billion open-pit iron mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The land at the mine site is enrolled in a program that gives substantial property tax cuts in exchange for agreeing to open the land for activities such as hunting, fishing and hiking.
Protesters and others have routinely entered the site and in June activists threatened workers, damaged property and stole a worker's camera.
The bill would close access within 600 feet of roads used for iron mining and within 600 feet of most mining-related equipment. It also would require the owners of the land to pay more to close the land if it is taken away from public use, and all land would be open to deer hunting during the traditional nine-day gun season.
The Senate passed the bill on party lines last week, and it now goes to Walker.
License plate. Drivers would be able to purchase a "Choose Life" license plate, with some of the proceeds going to a new anti-abortion group, under a proposal backed on a party-line, 54-39 vote.
A vote on that bill was nearly averted when Democrats and Republicans reached a deal that would allow any group to apply to the Department of Transportation to create special license plates to promote their causes.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he was scrapping the compromise and instead moving forward with a vote on the anti-abortion plate because he believed Democrats had "blown up" Thursday's session. The move came just after Democrats tried to bring up the resolution honoring the Sandy Hook victims.
That effort failed 54-39, in a vote that fell mostly on partisan lines, with most Democrats in favor and most Republicans against. Republican Reps. Kathleen Bernier of Chippewa Falls and Travis Tranel of Cuba City voted for the resolution and Democratic Rep. Josh Zepnick of Milwaukee voted against it.
The resolution on Sandy Hook passed the Senate with unanimous support in September.
Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/assembly-kicks-off-tense-session-on-recalls-early-voting-hours-b99142673z1-231963621.html#ixzz2kkWSYGNX
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As reported by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -
Saying it could take several months to make a decision on a Kenosha casino, Gov. Scott Walker on Monday urged those involved to stop radio and television advertising on the issue and also implied they should refrain from making political contributions.
The governor also opened the door to hiring a consultant to sort though the various claims about the number of jobs that could be created by an off-reservation Kenosha casino owned by the Menominee tribe. The Menominee tribe made that suggestion last month, but the idea was immediately shot down at the time by the Walker administration.
On Monday, Walker said a consultant could be helpful because the Menominee and the Forest County Potawatomi — the chief opponent to the Kenosha casino plan — have thrown around various numbers about job gains and losses.
"What I've heard around the state is people really are interested in the potential jobs in the Kenosha area," Walker said Monday during a brief news conference at the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "But I hear repeatedly as well, by the same token, that people believe there are some legitimate concerns about the potential loss" of jobs.
Walker, who has made and broken two self-imposed deadlines to decide the issue, said many people urged him to take his time in making the decision. The governor has sole authority over approving or denying the casino.
"Why rush to get to a yes or no? If you have the time to take longer, why don't you take it?" Walker said.
The Menominee tribe has said its proposed $800 million casino complex would create about 5,000 direct and indirect jobs. The Menominee casino would be developed and managed by Hard Rock International, which is owned by Florida's Seminole tribe.
The Forest County Potawatomi, which owns the state's largest casino, in Milwaukee, claims the new competitor would cost the Milwaukee area about 3,000 jobs.
Walker, who has repeatedly said he is looking for a win-win solution to the issue, reiterated that message Monday. Asked whether that meant he would ultimately approve the casino, since any other decision would be viewed as a loss to the Menominee, Walker said: "A win-win to me is ultimately something that involves a net increase of jobs in the state of Wisconsin."
Walker did not set a new deadline for deciding the issue, saying it may take several months for him to decide.
Job creation key to approvalThe governor's comments came hours after his office said he was directing Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch to begin "extensive discussions with the tribal governments in an effort to maximize job creation in our state" — the latest sign that he is open to the idea of the Kenosha casino.
Walker's delays in making a decision are generally seen as positive for the Menominee tribe, which has been engaged in a bitter battle with the Potawatomi over the casino project. The Potawatomi — who are trying to protect their lucrative Milwaukee casino from competition — have been pushing for a fast decision. The Menominee, on the other hand, see each day that passes without the governor making a decision as a victory.
Walker said he initially gave the Menominee 60 days to make their case to him to avoid delays. "We tend to prolong things until right before deadline," Walker said.
Sources said that until recent days the governor had been leaning toward rejecting the casino — a decision that would have enamored him with the Potawatomi. The casino-rich Potawatomi have spent millions of dollars since the 1990s fighting the proposal.
But in recent days, he has been more open to the casino proposal, particularly because of the Menominee's jobs claims — claims the Potawatomi say are exaggerated.
"The last two weeks have been a big positive for the Menominee," said a source with ties to the administration.
Walker addressed several casino-related questions Monday. During his news conference, the governor:
■ Fell short of saying he would not accept campaign contributions from those involved in the casino controversy while the matter remained an open issue.
"I would be inclined to say no," to contributions, Walker said when asked whether he would accept campaign cash from players in the controversy while the casino question is pending. "It doesn't make any sense for them to be involved politically."
While Walker has not seen a big influx of cash to his campaign war chest, tribal money has flowed to other political groups close to Walker. The Potawatomi have given $150,900 to the Republican Governors Association since July 2011. Their most recent contribution came in February when they gave the GOP group $50,000. The tribe also scored points with Walker when it helped sponsor the National Governors Association conference in Milwaukee this year.
■ Encouraged those on both sides of the issue to stop advertisements urging him to bless or kill the casino proposal. "They really aren't helpful," Walker said.
■ Noted that even if he approved the casino, doing so is not a simple process because some tribes — including the Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk — have clauses in their gaming compacts that could require them to be made whole if a new competitor opens a casino. The question of how to reimburse the tribes could end up before an arbitrator.
The Potawatomi claim they would lose about 40% of their revenue to a Kenosha casino, which would tap the Chicagoland market for customers. The Ho-Chunk say they would lose about $20 million a year, although much of that would come from their Madison casino, which does not pay fees to the state because it has only slot machines and a poker room that uses computerized dealers.
The Ho-Chunk also oppose a Kenosha casino.
The Menominee and Hard Rock said they would cover any profit losses that other tribes could show result from the opening of a Kenosha casino.
■ Held firm on his criteria for approving an off-reservation casino. The criteria include the demand that a new casino be approved by each of the state's 11 tribes and not result in any net new gaming in Wisconsin.
Both the Menominee and the Potawatomi issued statements Monday reacting to Walker's decision to have Huebsch meet with the tribes.
Menominee Chairman Craig Corn praised the governor's action.
"We thank Governor Walker for his willingness to take the time necessary to chart a clear path towards final approval of the Menominee Hard Rock Kenosha Casino," Corn said in a statement. "We are committed to working with him and Secretary Mike Huebsch to make the casino a reality."
The Potawatomi reiterated their view that the Menominee plan does not meet Walker's criteria for approval.
"Following his review, we expect that Governor Walker will find that this project does not meet his criteria and is not in the best interests of Wisconsin," Jeff Crawford, attorney general for the Potawatomi, said in a statement.
Patrick Marley, reporting from Madison, and Thomas Content, reporting from Glendale, contributed to this report.
Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/scott-walker-to-set-timeline-for-casino-decision-today-b99139644z1-231441591.html#ixzz2kSUF56vp
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As reported by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -
Madison — For a second time, the state would pare back new rules requiring the estates and surviving spouses of elderly patients to repay more of the state's health care spending on those seniors, under legislation coming before lawmakers Tuesday.
The rules for Medicaid programs for the needy were proposed by Gov. Scott Walker's administration and passed by Republican lawmakers in June as part of the state budget and then were pared back in September by lawmakers of both parties on the Legislature's budget committee. On Tuesday, lawmakers in both the Assembly and Senate will take up a bill to further scale back the new rules to give surviving spouses and estates more ability to hold on to property without it being seized by the state.
The current rules expanded the state's powers to recover Medicaid costs from recipients' estates and are expected to save the state millions of dollars through June 2015, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The bill would limit those savings, costing the state and benefitting surviving spouses and estates by an estimated $3.1 million a year, according to the state Department of Health Services.
The painfully complex rules — meant to help fund health care for the most needy — initially received little attention outside of a few specialists in Medicaid and estate law. But they have received more scrutiny from lawmakers of both parties in recent months.
The current rules reserve for the state more of the assets of an elderly Medicaid recipient who goes into a nursing home and receives care at taxpayer expense. The rules don't apply until after the death of the recipient and any surviving spouse.
Supporters of the rules, mainly Republicans, have argued that it makes sense to seek reimbursement from people with the means to pay for part or all of their Medicaid services. They say under the current rules surviving spouses could still potentially keep up to $115,000 of assets up to their death.
The rules' opponents, including Democrats and some Republicans, question their effects on elderly couples with savings, homes or small businesses to pass on to their children and grandchildren. The rules could lead some couples to divorce to better shield their assets, they argue.
The rules are so complex that it can be difficult to give a simple example of how they worked in the past, work now and would work under the bill.
Take, for example, a husband who goes into a nursing home and dies while his wife remains on the farm that they hope to pass on to their son. What ultimately happens to their farm and their other assets will depend on a whole range of factors, including: how they held that property; whether they transferred it to someone else, when they did and how; whether the wife remarries; and even whether a future spouse brings into the marriage any new assets, which could be potentially affected by the new rules.
The bill would:
■ Remove several provisions from a legal limbo by striking them from state law. Currently, those provisions are on the books but can't be enforced by the state because the Joint Finance Committee declined in September to give Walker administration the go-ahead to carry them out.
This ambiguity has led to questions about whether other Wisconsin groups such as banks need to follow these laws. Stripping those laws from the statute book would resolve that question.
■ Limit the property that could be seized from a surviving spouse or estate to pay for the Medicaid bills of his or her deceased partner. Currently, the state can reach back and take any property partly owned by the deceased spouse for five years prior to that spouse applying for Medicaid. The bill would drop that five-year "lookback" period.
■ Expand the ability of state officials to waive the rules on estate recovery if they create an undue hardship on a family. Currently, the Department of Health Services can't waive those rules after the death of both the Medicaid recipient and his or her spouse. The bill would allow state officials to waive the rules in those cases, as well.
■ Make it easier to prove that property in an estate wasn't jointly held by a Medicaid recipient and his or her spouse.
Currently, the new rules include a presumption in state law that, when a recipient and his or her surviving spouse both die, all the property in that spouse's estate be considered former marital property until proven otherwise. That means the state can draw on it to repay the cost of caring for the recipient.
The bill would make it easier to protect such property from being seized by showing it didn't belong to the Medicaid recipient.
Groups such as the state bankers lobby have pushed for changes to the current law, saying that complying with it could end up costing banks millions of dollars in initial and ongoing costs. A recent report by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and the Legislative Council also raised the possibility that the new rules violate of federal law.
Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/senate-assembly-to-take-up-medicaid-pay-back-rules-for-the-elderly-b99139988z1-231586831.html#ixzz2kSSuwX2Q
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Here in Racine, we’re quite used to tough elections. Over the past 20 years, the 21st Senate District has been one of the most hard-fought districts in the entire state of Wisconsin.
That type of district brings with it rough-and-tumble campaigns, hard-edged tactics and tight margins. When it came to the June 5 recall election, it proved no different.
On election night, we were pleased to discover that our friend John Lehman was victorious over Van Wanggaard. The margin however was thin, and Wanggaard exercised his right to ask for a recount of the entire district, just as we had exercised our right to recall him.
But even before the recount started, Wanggaard and his friends began to speak of “irregularities” and “problems” in the City of Racine. Wanggaard and friends made loud claims of voter fraud, due to same-day registration, lack of voter identification, strange things in the trash and a host of other odd allegations. During the actual recount, hard-working volunteers and Racine County employees labored for countless hours to make sure that every vote was counted and the outcome was fair.
Journal Times: Commentary: Wanggaard’s false accusations show true colors of Republicans
November may be months away but local Democrats aren’t wasting any time in their effort to re-elect President Barack Obama. Roughly 50 of the president’s supporters from around the area gathered at the kickoff Wednesday evening at the Racine County Democratic Party’s 2012 campaign headquarters, 606 Sixth St., to listen to a special call from first lady Michelle Obama, and learn about how they ensure Obama gains another term in office.
“You know there is a place on the other side of town run by some other people,” said Jane Witt, chairwoman of the Racine County Democratic Party, firing up the crowd. “It’s called the Victory something. We don’t have a gimmicky name for our place. But we have a lot of other things. We have you. You are the most intelligent, most professional, best looking, hardest working, most dedicated group of campaign workers in the whole state, maybe the whole country.”
Democrats will soon be opening a 2012 campaign office in Downtown Racine. The party’s Racine County campaign headquarters will be at 606 Sixth St., said Jane Witt, the Democratic Party of Racine County’s chairwoman. Organizers have already started to move supplies over to Sixth Street from the Racine Labor Center, 2100 Layard Ave., where the recall headquarters were located. A date has not yet been set for the official grand opening, Witt said. That will be in the next few weeks. But an event will be held there Wednesday for supporters of President Barack Obama, who is up for re-election this fall. Obama for America is holding a “house party,” according to an email from the organization, which Witt verified.
There, organizers will be registering voters, and helping prepare volunteers for the process leading up to the November election. Also, according to their email, “You’ll get to join a special call with First Lady Michelle Obama to talk about the progress we’re fighting for and get fired up for the months ahead.”
That event is scheduled for 6 p.m. at 606 Sixth St.
I was disappointed to read in Monday's Journal Times that Sen. Van Wanggaard has chosen to avoid meeting his opponent in the upcoming Senate recall election. I recognize that an open forum can be a difficult setting for campaigning. It's hard to think quickly and articulate your points clearly when you're not sure what the question will be.
I was particularly looking forward to hearing my senator in person because I have not been successful in communicating with him in other ways. I went to his Ives Grove office hours many times and conversed with various pleasant assistants who took copious notes but I heard nothing in response from the senator. I then switched to using emails, but only once received anything other than the stock "Thank you for contacting my office ..." reply. I participated in his telephone "Town Hall Meeting," but the call screener who answered did not forward my question to the senator.
I would like to be confident that those who represent me in Madison are willing to answer my questions, listen fairly to my views and respond cogently. Every one of us deserves no less. We need representatives who are willing to meet with all segments of the public, and thus provide more openness in the political process; meeting the public in an open forum is one way to do that.
Melissa H. Warner