THE MEDIA BOOTED OUT
No media allowed, at least not the Geneva Shore Report. That may not have been the intention, but it was the end result of the council’s action. March 2020 is when media denial started and has continued on into 2021. First, Lake Geneva City Hall completely shut down, then officials started back with virtual meetings only, and once restrictions released city officials met again, and now in person, but with very limited public capacity. It is everyone’s right, constitutionally, to be a part of and aware of what their government is doing on any level. Transparency has been an ever more difficult struggle, as city information has become increasingly difficult to get to, whether it’s caused by the city’s reaction to the virus or for other reasons. Virtual meetings have been offered as a solution to the public but the virtual platforms do not always work properly or technical difficulties occur in audio reception. This should not be an issue, and the people must always be allowed to witness their government in action.
Over a year has passed since the virus struck, and recently the CDC opened almost everything up for vaccinated people, and yet capacity restrictions are still in place at Lake Geneva City Hall, even with the (now needless) emergency proclamation possibly coming to an end in mid-June. Half the public in Wisconsin is vaccinated, with 2500 more every day. Even with case numbers in Walworth County very low for a good stretch of time, the city is closed, for the most part. According to the Walworth County Health Department, this whole county is mostly in the green (one person in the hospital and 27 reported positive tests…and that’s for 129,000 people).
Why is the Lake Geneva City Hall and leadership not acting like the city should be opened up? Monday nights’ last plan commission meeting was a great example. The city council chambers filled quickly, as it doesn’t take long to fill a room with a thirteen-person capacity limit. A few residents, a couple of attorneys, and one or two city officials (not on the commission) sat in the audience, leaving no room for a handful of residents and a GSR reporter sent to film the event (there is no other filming of plan commission meetings). The residents of Lake Geneva are passionate about the community and have the right to have their voices heard and also hear their elected and appointed officials. So does the media. The media is an important link, in many cases, between the issues and the public.
Transparency is important and the media, in many cases, assures that kind of open transparency. This is what America is all about. It is vital for the public to be kept ‘in the loop’ about whatever the leadership is doing. That is the only thing that allows the public to have any control of the direction the leadership is moving in. Being informed from several outlets from different viewpoints is key. If the media is not allowed access the whole process of government, as we Americans know it, falls apart.
Is the kind of media the problem (the GSR reporter was denied entry but the Regional News representative sat right upfront for the whole meeting)? Are the elected officials the problem? Is the government as a whole the problem? The only thing we can be certain of here is that the public is not the problem. It’s all about the public. Here is the law, written in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”.
With the U.S. Constitution in mind and backing our request, the GSR is asking respectfully that its reporters be granted entry to any meeting held by the City of Lake Geneva that is not prohibited by other ordinances or in need of specific secrecy from public vision or comprehension.