Be Thankful for First Amendment Freedoms
November 28, 2019
For a few days, Lafayette County pulled off a media miracle by stealing headlines from national politics and directing a spotlight on local government. News about an emergency county meeting called to consider an unconstitutional resolution went viral and brought television cameras, Wisconsin Public Radio and The Associated Press to a packed room in the courthouse basement. While some felt embarrassed by the national exposure, we can be proud of this story as a triumph of small town democracy.
America’s Constitutional Republic is complicated and carried out by regular people, most doing the best they can. Citizens question whether there is such a thing as good government anymore. Some don’t vote. Faith in the political process seems at an all-time low. But right here in rural southwest Wisconsin, we just witnessed the process work. Constituents exercised their First Amendment right to free speech - with phone calls, emails, testimony at county meetings - and an independent press amplified their voices. The resolution was tabled.
A Wisconsin State Journal editorial warned: “Lafayette Should Learn from Debacle.” Indeed, we should, as should the rest of a nation increasingly preoccupied with national political theatre. Our attention is required here at home. Good government doesn’t happen by design alone, and some elected leaders who think no one is watching will certainly take liberties with our freedoms.
So this Thanksgiving, take a moment to be grateful for the rights we have as American citizens, and resolve to use them. Subscribe to a local newspaper. Follow local proceedings. Run for office. Vote in April elections. If you see something that needs doing, use the Constitutional superpowers of free speech and the free press to get it done.
Meanwhile, in Lafayette, we need to freely discuss our troubling water quality results – not restrict the press, research agencies and elected officials from talking about them.
Kriss Marion is the District 8 Supervisor on the Lafayette County Board. The opinions expressed above are her own, and do not represent those of the county board.