Turner, you'll recall, stormed out of a Realtors' forum last Wednesday night, and then refused to participate in Monday's YPR forum, both held in the City Council chambers, insisting "a political forum at City Hall at taxpayers' expense would be illegal."
Well, it ain't necessarily so, according to an opinion issued Wednesday by City Attorney Robert Weber, who also draws upon an opinion issued in 1999 by former city attorney Dan Wright.
Not that Weber makes it simple.
First, he says "the allegation that meetings in the City Hall Council Chambers might be illegal stems from an opinion issued by Dan Wright in 1999."
Then he says he agrees with that opinion.
But then he says, "However, I believe the essence of the opinion is that informational meetings for a civic purpose (such as the mayoral forums) are permissible." Weber points to a paragraph near the end of Wright's opinion, which says:
Reasonable regulations relating to rental or free use of Designated Public Forum meeting areas also need to be considered and uniformly applied to each particular area. For example, a policy might be imposed as follows:As Weber notes, Wright "merely suggested that a policy be adopted." Although in 2001 a community center policy was adopted, "...no specific policy was ever adopted for the use of the Council Chambers."
Permitted activities: Social, civic, recreational and educational activities, meetings and entertainment (primarily benefiting City of Racine residents ??); candidate forums that offer an opportunity for all candidates for a specific public office to make presentations and/or respond to questions from the public during the campaign period."
Weber proposes a solution to repair that gap: he drafted a proposed policy, application form and resolution for the council to clear up whatever uncertainty exists. All the documents are here for those who want to read 'em in the original legalese. It's a 500 kb .pdf.
Stay tuned to learn whether anyone on the council, or the new mayor (unless that's Bob Turner!) thinks this is necessary.