Mike Norton Organizes Elected Official Forum; Underheim Expresses Concern About Palmeri As Moderator

[Note: Winnebago County Board Supervisor Mike Norton recently organized a Town Hall type forum at which residents of Winnebago County will have an opportunity to converse with State Representatives Gregg Underheim and Dean Kaufert as well as State Senator Carol Roessler. The forum will take place on Monday, January 28 at the Coughlin Building (County Road A) and start at 7:00 PM . Topics to be discussed include the future of shared revenues, the impact on local budgets to meet the state deficit, plans to keep property taxpayers from getting hit by state actions, eliminating services to save tax dollars, the status of the Kettl Commission Report/Recommendations, and changes in state funding as it applies to school districts. Supervisor Norton asked me to serve as moderator and I said I would be happy to.

In the following letter (appearing below the highlighted links) from Representative Underheim to Mr. Norton , Underheim claims that the rules for the forum have "changed dramatically" since the first invitation from Norton. He also expresses concern about having me serve as moderator. Here are links to Mr. Norton's communications about this; readers can decide for themselves whether Mr. Norton changed the rules in midstream:]--Tony Palmeri


The rules have changed dramatically on this since I was first invited. If you want to have the state officials respond to questions on TV ask us to a board meeting. We have done that before and will gladly do it again. You first billed this as an event like that in Marathaon County when officials get together and discuss issues. This is clearly different from that. I understood that to be a cooperative event where we could discuss solutions to common problems. This is far more likely to be a blame game.

As far as your choice for moderator I would say this. A moderator is normally viewed as a neutral party. We both watch Tony on Commentary and know that he is not neutral. He sees his job as provoking discussion and challenging the established authority. He does it well. However, he rarely if ever challenges liberal viewpoints. (He will challenge liberals who stray from the orthodoxy and, to his credit, those who behave unethically.) You certainly know this. This is likely to create more of a blame game mentality.

The state clearly faces a difficult time. It looks to me like you have created a forum in which controlling spending will be treated with great hostility.

Despite my frustrations with the way you have handled this I will attend because I committed to do so. If you intend to do this again at least let us know what the ground rules are and don't change them in the middle.

Gregg Underheim

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Norton November 12, 2001 e-mail to elected officials:

Dear Elected Official:

I am a member of the Winnebago County Board. At our Wisconsin Counties Convention held last month in Oshkosh I heard of a program that is in place in Lincoln County. I believe a program similar to Lincoln County's would be of value to officials in Winnebago County.

The idea is to have regular meetings where all elected Winnebago County officials, (city, county, town and school board members) gather to discuss issues and topics common to all. We might have to address quorum issues if there is interest in this idea.

If you believe this idea has some merit, please contact me by e-mail, phone or letter. Also, if you have suggestions on topics to be discussed or if you would like to help me in getting meetings started, please feel free to contact me.

Mike Norton-Winnebago County Supervisor District #20
304 W South Park
Oshkosh, WI 54902
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Norton November 28 e-mail to Palmeri:

Dear Tony :

Hey I am trying to arrange semi-annual or quarterly meetings of alle lected officials in the County to meet and discuss similiar issues or problems. The first one will take place in January and I have invited all the local state eleected officials to appear in a Town Hall meeting. I have been asked to find a moderator and I thought of asking you. The format has not been totally worked out- but I am asking if you be interested.

Hope to hear from soon.

Mike Norton


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Norton December 31st e-mail to local elected officials:

Dear Local Elected Official :

I wanted to confirm that a meeting place ,date and time has been set for a meeting of local elected officials to meet with out Madison officials in a town hall meeting.

The meeting will take place Monday January 28 from 7:OO PM until 8:30/9:00 PM at the Coughlin Building on County A near Oshkosh.

State Senator Roessler and Rep. Underheim and Kaufert have agreed to apear at the meeting. Sen. Ellis has also is willing to appear but he and others would like to know what topics will be discussed.

I would like input on what topics/format should the meeting have and looking for a moderator. Also would looking for a place to have the second meeting in mid-May with the topic being health insourance costs and what can be done.

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Norton January 8th e-mail to elected officials:

I wanted to give you a brief update on the meeting on January 28. The meeting will take place at the Coughlin Building starting at 7:00 PM lasting until 8:30 PM. I have Tony Palmeri as the moderator, Rep. Underhiem and Kaufert have agreed along with St. Sen. Roessler to appear.

For the format I thought for the first 45 minutes I have Tony Palmeri ask questions or cover topics that you have submitted back to me- I will

give a more detailed listing of these in a few days. The last 45 minutes I thought questions could be asked from the audience.

The even will also be taped and later broadcast on Oshkosh Public Access Channel 10. I ask that you make sure this meeting is properly noticed by your body to meet the open meetings law.

I am also working on the next topic of health insurance costs- any suggestions I be more than willing to take them. Just email me. I know you go to great deal meetings but this is a worthwhile venture to start meeting as local elected officials in Winnebago County 2-3 times a year on various topics.

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Norton January 9th e-mail to elected officials

I have three state legislators and Channel 10 coming to broadcast the event. The main questions topics that I have received are :

1. The future of shared revenues.

2. Impact on local budgets to meet state deficit.

3. Plans to keep property taxpayer from getting hit by state actions.

4. Eliminating services to save tax dollars.

5. The status of the Kettl Commission Report/Recommendations.

6. Changes in state funding as it applies to school districts.

Also Tony Palmeri will moderate with some time left for audience questions.

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Norton January 13 e-mail to Underheim

Dear Gregg:

I do not understand why you say the rules of the game have changed. I asked if you wanted to come to a meeting where locally elected officials from Winnebago County meet state elected officials that represent Winnebago County .

I asked local elected officials who I invited for input on topics/questions and what should be discussed. I also asked for input on format. The response I got back was to set an agenda set and find a moderator. No one suggested a moderator so I asked someone who I know has moderated in the past and has experience with elected officials.

I feel this is a great opportunity for elected officials locally and at the state level to get together to discuss the challenges and concerns. I hope there is dialogue between the two sets of elected officials and it will not be a "blame game" as you call it.

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