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Sensenbrenner ends packed Tosa town hall meeting early

March 8, 2011

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner shut down Monday night's town hall meeting in Wauwatosa early because the overflow crowd was more interested in talking about the state budget bills with Republican host state Sen. Leah Vukmir, attendees said.

"Congressman Sensenbrenner and the Wauwatosa library director repeatedly asked individuals attending last night's town hall meeting to be respectful as other patrons were using the library. After numerous requests for attendees to listen to the individual speaking and be mindful of other library patrons were ignored, the meeting was adjourned," said Wendy Riemann, communications director for Sensenbrenner.

"It is unfortunate that the same respect given at Congressman Sensenbrenner's Town Hall Meeting in Brookfield Sunday evening wasn't experienced last night, and individuals who were patiently waiting to ask a question, receive help with casework or share their concern were unable to do so at the meeting," she said. "Congressman Sensenbrenner invites those individuals to call his office or send him and email and he will get a response to them."

Some at the meeting saw things differently.

Wauwatosa resident Ryan Stoltz said Sensenbrenner “swung his gavel anytime someone from the crowd voiced dismay. He threatened to end the meeting anytime the crowd applauded, got too noisy for his liking or talked out of turn. It was crazy how he wouldn’t listen to anyone.”

Stoltz, a teachers union member, showed up at the Wauwatosa Public Library for the meeting because he has not received replies to voicemails and e-mails to his elected officials. They contact residents for support when they campaign, so he expects the same when they’re in office, he said.

Specifically, he wanted some insight into what impact Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals to decrease school funding and limit collective bargaining for public employees would have on the Wauwatosa School District.

When Vukmir said that workers would not be losing collective bargaining rights, the jeers started, he said. After another raucous reaction by the crowd, the meeting ended — 27 minutes after it started.

Every parking space at Wauwatosa City Hall was filled more than 20 minutes before the meeting, and police cars blocked the entrances to prevent more cars from entering.

Protesters carrying signs with messages such as “Scott Walker, your pink slip is coming” and chanting “Recall Walker” and “Recall Vukmir” lined the sidewalk in front of the Wauwatosa Public Library. More signs could be seen from the crowd packing the meeting room, hallway and overflowing into the library entrance.

However, the crowd never got out of control, some city staff members in attendance said. Instead, it seemed the elected officials just didn’t like the line of questioning and were on the defensive from the start.

After the crowd dispersed, some people hung around in the lobby to sign recall petitions.

YouTube video from the event.

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