Thursday, October 1, 2009

Snarlin' Marlin To The Rescue

Marlin D. (for Democrat?) Schneider earned his nickname “Snarlin’ Marlin” a long time ago, for his often vociferous exchanges with other politicians on the Assembly floor. Schneider has been snarlin’ up there since first elected in 1970, which makes him the longest-serving Assembly member in state history.

Born in November of ‘42, he’s long past retirement age, but he’s still feisty as ever. At a Tuesday news conference he proposed giving newspapers a break by exempting their buildings from property tax. Ironically, according to my former colleague and fellow blogger Dusty Weis, not a single newspaper reporter was there. Sign of the times.

Newspapers already enjoy a tax emption for their printing presses, along with a sales tax exemption on advertising and subscriptions, and other small assorted goodies. Perhaps Schneider should ask the broadcasters if they’d like a tax exemption for their buildings and transmitters. The Snarler apparently hopes his gesture will help the struggling newspaper industry, as he mentioned specifically the Madison and Milwaukee newspaper scene. Once, both cities had morning and afternoon papers; now, each city has a combined paper, and the huge and ongoing downsizing of their news staffs is common knowledge.

The newspaper folks, who weren’t at the Snarler’s get-together Tuesday (an Associated Press reporter was), seem to have no interest whatsoever in his tax-break offer. The head of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Peter Fox, says they’re not looking for any special privileges. And the Wisconsin State Journal’s editorial page carried a “thanks, but no thanks” item, and suggested the Snarler should drop his proposal.

Across the hall on Fish Hatchery Road, the Capital Times suggested a better idea might be for Schneider to drop his quest to restrict public access to the popular so-called “CCAP” website, maintained by the court system in Wisconsin, where anybody with a computer and an internet connection can look up court records on anybody.

The Snarler sees that as a bad thing, claims there’s too much snooping going on, and his stance on the matter earned him the Wisconsin Freedom Of Information Council’s “No Friend of Openness” award last year.

This morning, just after ten o’clock, the Assembly holds a public hearing on the Snarler’s bill to slap a user fee on the CCAP site and restrict what kinds of records can be posted on the site.

Wisconsin has been a national leader in public access to court records, but Schneider says it’s led to denial of housing and employment from landlords and businesses that log onto the site and check up on people. If you look me up on CCAP, you’ll learn that I filed a will in 1990, and that I was divorced in 1996. You’ll also find that at least one other person with the same name and middle initial as me has apparently had financial issues. But that guy lives in Oak Creek and was born in a different year.

I’m OK with that stuff being on the Circuit Court website. And, if you get caught doing bad stuff, as the young folks now say “you gotta own it”. I’m with the public prints around here: Representative Schneider, thanks but no thanks on the newspaper tax breaks, and let’s keep our court records open.

As Mikhail Gorbachev said back in the 80’s, “glasnost“. Openness.

No comments:

Post a Comment