Jason Smathers

Your Right to Know: Official calendars are a basic public record

It’s a pretty simple question for a public official: “What exactly do you do with your time?”

Sometimes, the best way to answer that question is to obtain the official’s calendar, through the state’s open records law. In my work as a reporter, I’ve done this for the state treasurer and his staff, who work for an office with few official duties. I’ve also used the monthly calendars of Gov. Scott Walker to plot his travel and track his day-to-day meetings. So when I wanted a better understanding of how the duties of Sheboygan Mayor Mike Vandersteen and Chief Administrative Officer Jim Amodeo overlap, I asked to see their calendars. Amodeo’s response was simply, “Oh, OK.”

Vandersteen’s response was more terse.

Frac sand news roundup: ‘Even the smallest communities have the right to decide what does and doesn’t happen’

The latest in Wisconsin frac sand. See our in-depth stories since 2011 on our frac sand project page. More than 40 percent of the registered voters in the Winona County, Minn.,  township of Saratoga have signed a petition calling for a moratorium on frac sand mining in the area. “Even the smallest communities have the right to decide what does and doesn’t happen in their community,” said activist Johanna Rupprecht. Winona Daily News November 25

Less than one month since the first city in Texas banned hydraulic fracturing, industry supporters are wondering whether they should blame their defeat on Denton’s large college student population.

Frac sand news roundup: Sandy winds a-blowing

The latest in Wisconsin frac sand. See our in-depth stories since 2011 on our frac sand project page. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Board’s chairman has ordered DNR staff to respond to a petition calling for a comprehensive study of the environmental impacts of frac sand mining in the state. The petition was organized by Midwest Environmental Advocates and signed by 1,100 people. October 29 Wisconsin Public Radio

Several residents near the Northern White Sands mine in Utica recently filed complaints with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency about sand from the Texas-based company’s operation blowing into their yards and homes.

Christa Westerberg

Your Right to Know: Cops in shootings should be promptly named

Following the Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, citizens and the public demanded to know the involved officer’s name. The Ferguson Police Department stirred national attention, and some outrage, by waiting six days to reveal it: Officer Darren Wilson. Wisconsin has Ferguson beat. On April 30, 2014, a Milwaukee police officer shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times, killing him.

Investigative author Charles Lewis speaking Oct. 9 at UW-Madison: On power brokers who block truth, and what lies ahead

Top investigative journalist and bestselling author Charles Lewis will deliver a lecture Thursday on “Investigative Journalism and the Future of Truth” in Madison — and the public is invited. Lewis will speak at 4 p.m. Oct. 9 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s annual Ralph O. & Monona H. Nafziger Lecture. The free event will take place in Howard Auditorium at The Fluno Center, 601 University Ave. Lewis, a professor of journalism and the founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C., will discuss his recent book, 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity.

Your Right to Know: Walker, Burke weigh in on openness

According to Walker, it’s up to the political parties to open their caucuses, which they could do without a change in state law. He’s right on that point, and we’re still waiting.