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Sensenbrenner meeting a double disappointment

March 16, 2011

Public Forum: I attended U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner's Town Hall meeting in the Firefly Room at the Wauwatosa Public Library. I arrived early in order to get a parking space and a seat. I sat in the front row, directly across from state Sen. Leah Vukmir and Rep. Sensenbrenner. I went without a sign, and when I signed in I did not check the box to speak. I was not there to "intimidate" or "disrupt." I was there to hear what they had to say regarding the governor's budget-repair bill as it related to our public school system. On Thursday morning, I read Sensenbrenner and Vukmir felt the crowd was "unruly" and "boorish." I am not surprised. From the beginning the congressman failed to take control of the meeting. To open the meeting he sat at a table and spoke to the crowded room. Those standing in the back and outer area could not hear. Constituents shouted they couldn't hear, but he refused to use the podium. Instead he scolded them for being disrespectful. But he continued to lead the meeting from his chair at the table. This resulted in more shouts of "we deserve to hear," "we're taxpayers, too" and "use the microphone." The congressman ignored their pleas and maintained his stand. More time was wasted, more shouts from the audience, until finally librarian Mary Murphy reminded the crowd of those using the library upstairs and offered the congressman use of the podium. I believe this set the tone for the evening. I was surprised to read Vukmir was "excited for the opportunity to talk" to her constituents. She came with no new information regarding the "tools" local governments will receive and no data pertaining to school funding and ended the meeting with a huge blunder by saying the governor had no intention of eliminating collective bargaining. Yet, two days later, she voted to do just that. I left feeling disappointed with both sides - with the congressman and senator for not knowing how volatile these issues are and their lack of preparation in their answers, and with those who continually interrupted the answers of the congressman and the senator. The abrupt ending to the meeting left those who went there to listen feeling shortchanged.   Doreen Steinbock Wauwatosa

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