To Robin Vos

Capitol

Wisconsin Capitol. Photo by Callen Harty.

Representative Vos,

It has been reported on the news, both locally and nationally, that you are upholding rules to prevent my representative, Jimmy Anderson, from calling in to meetings. The rule in question was established by the Assembly and can as easily be changed by the Assembly. Yet, despite the fact that Representative Anderson is paralyzed and has other health issues which make it difficult for him to attend committee meetings in person at times, you are being intransigent in enforcing a ridiculous rule in an age of cell phones, videoconferencing, and other electronic means of communication.

Your supposed justification for standing by this rule has been quoted by multiple media sources: “It just comes down to the fact that I think it’s disrespectful for someone to be asking questions over a microphone or a speakerphone when individuals are actually taking the time out of their day to come and testify in person.”

Really?!?

In 2019, you don’t think the citizens of this state understand the need to accommodate someone with a disability? You think they can’t clearly hear a question he might ask if it’s over a speaker? You think it’s impossible for the Assembly to make this exception while the Senate allows it in the same building? You think those of us who are in his district aren’t aware that you are playing power politics and that it has nothing to do with respect for individuals who come to the Capitol to testify?

There are many, many citizens who can’t come to the Capitol in person for many reasons who call their representatives or e-mail. Wisconsinites are smart enough to understand that there are myriad ways of communicating and doing business these days.

You really want us to believe it’s about respect for Badger citizens?

Really?!?

I have sat in attendance at committee meetings with you as the chair. I have watched as your Republican partners have shown disrespect to citizens who have come to testify. I have seen them interacting with their cell phones while citizens were speaking. I have seen them looking bored with the idea of having to listen to the people who elected them express how they feel about a bill. I have seen them chatting with each other, leaving the room, and generally showing disinterest and disrespect to those who might have an opposing point of view. I’m surprised you haven’t brought in some of your Rojo’s Popcorn to share with them while they kick off their shoes, chat, check their e-mail, and fall asleep during public testimony.

Don’t try to tell us it’s about respect. Wisconsinites are not the dullards you think we are. We know it is about you, power, and doing what you can to wield it to your party’s advantage. If Anderson were a Republican the rule would have been changed immediately. We get it.

It’s about power and how much you enjoy having it.

Really.

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About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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