First, they scheduled most of the hearings as far away from population centers as possible. They did schedule one for the State Fairgrounds in West Allis (Milwaukee) There was no hearing scheduled for Madison. The other hearings originally were scheduled for Stevens Point, Arcadia, Minong. (Do you know where Arcadia and Minong are without Googling them? Neither did I, and even after looking up Minong on the maps, I had to zoom out quite a bit to figure out it is about 20 miles WNW of Hayward, and 20 miles north of Spooner. The only reason I recognized the area around Arcadia is that I have spent many wonderful days driving the area along the Upper Mississippi. Arcadia is 26 miles NE of Fountain City, if that helps.)
When the small communities expressed concerns about the number of people that might show up at these hearings - maybe they sensed that people are sort of upset? - the JFC moved the Arcadia and Minong hearings to other locations. But they moved the Minong meeting to Superior, about as far from the rest of the state as physically possible. At least that is still in the general area of the state where the original hearing was scheduled. The Arcadia hearing got moved all the way to the other side of the state, to Neenah, and coincidentally to a more politically friendly area for the Republicans.
Senator Kathleen Vinehout, who represents the area just north of La Crosse, also objected to the fact that the only hearing in the western part of the state has been cancelled. Is it just coincidence that the western part of the state demonstrated their displeasure to the Walker/Fitzgerald agenda by voting for Joanne Kloppenburg on Tuesday?
Sen. Vinehout decided to schedule her own hearings in Eau Claire and La Crosse, just as Mayor Dave Cieslewicz held a hearing on the state budget for Madisonians.
But the funny business isn't over yet. The spinmeisters are trying to say that people don't care about the budget. Today's news outlets had consistent headlines that very few people showed up at the first hearing, in Stevens Point. Really? Over 200 people went to the hearing to testify. How many people normally show up at a hearing on the state budget, when it is far from large population centers, and held in the middle of the day? Of those people, just under 200 people were in opposition to the budget as written. Less than 20 people were in favor of the budget.
Those number aren't good enough for Darling and Vos. Normally, people that want to testify before the JFC have to physically be present at the hearing, wait their turn, and then they have 2 minutes to speak. If you want your voice heard, you have to sit and wait your turn in the middle of the day.
However, since there were many more people who didn't like the budget, Darling and Vos have decided to officially leave the hearing open, and allow people to submit testimony via email. But those emails may not be available for the public to examine. There is a rumor that a firm has been hired to generate emails in favor of the budget. If we can't examine the emails and determine they are from actually people, how are we to know they are real?
The tactic appears to be, if you can't get the testimony you want from the people, then manufacture the testimony you want.
Finally, Darling simply dismissed the testimony of the people that showed up. This blog put it very well:
Darling again referenced that old “silent majority” and apparently doesn’t believe “regular taxpayers” show up to such events because they are working. Alberta, please define what the hell a “regular taxpayer” is and how it differs from the taxpayers that were there today. Further, making such a statement is beyond asinine when you scheduled the damn hearings! According to Patrick Marley’s blog for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Darling said the committee thought about having a hearing during evening or weekend hours but decided against it. Makes sense. Wouldn't want to be inconvenienced by working those odd hours many Wisconsinites do to make ends meet.
At first I was pissed that so few hearings were scheduled. Now I realize they might as well not have any. At least not until these clowns are replaced by representatives who won’t treat every part of the legislative process like an inconvenience.