City aldermen, Mayor Cory Mason, Police Chief Art Howell, and, of course, the City Attorney’s office, once again demonstrated their preference to keep the public in the dark on public policy issues this week when it went into closed session to talk about marijuana in the wake of November advisory referendums in which voters supported both medicinal and recreational marijuana use, decriminalization and taxation.
Ald. John Tate has proposed the City Council “order the chief of police to direct all first-offense possession of marijuana violations be issued civil ordinance citations (with a fine of $1) instead of criminal charges. Currently, police are twice as likely to issue state criminal charges for marijuana possession, instead of issuing municipal citations. Just before the Public Safety and Licensing Committee met, the City Attorney’s office said the meeting be held in closed session under an exclusion in the state Open Meetings Law for “considering strategy for crime detection and prevention.” After the committee returned in open session, it voted to “receive and file” the proposal — which essentially deep-sixes any action.
We can think of a whole host of questions this leaves hanging, including whether the council has the ability to give the Police Department such a directive and whether the chief is obligated to change enforcement policy to comply as well as the broader question of criminal prosecution for marijuana possession in the face of the November referendums. Both of those are major policy concerns for the citizens of Racine and both of those deserve a full and open public debate with voters seeing how their elected officials, police chief and city attorney stand on those issues.
Open the doors; the public has a right to know the pros and cons of these issues and they are not being served by meeting in the dark.
The first of about 70 new “wayfinding” signs in Racine debuted this month on Douglas Avenue at Three Mile Road and with its attempt to echo Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style of architecture, it’s certainly more eye-catching than its predecessor. So welcome to Racine. Still, the bill for the new welcome mats and tourist directions — $300,000 from the capital improvement plan — is also eye-catching and would go a long way toward filling potholes.
December wouldn’t be December without one dust-up or another about the war on Christmas. This year’s skirmishes have been on the airwaves after radio stations across the country — including WHIT in Madison — began banning a longtime holiday favorite “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from their playlists in response to the #MeToo movement. The song, which was written in the 1944 by Frank Loeser and won an Oscar, has been targeted for being a “date rape” song with its scenario of a man trying to convince a woman to spend the night because the weather outside is frightful and includes the line, “Say, what’s in this drink?”
Loesser’s daughter, Susan, said her father wrote the song for he and her mother to sing at parties and he would be furious over the ban. “People used to say ‘what’s in this drink’ as a joke. You know, this drink is going straight to my head so what’s in this drink? Back then it didn’t mean you drugged me.” She blames Bill Cosby, who was convicted this year for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman and accused by dozens more for creating this year’s flap.
Some radio listeners apparently agreed. In Denver and San Francisco stations added it back to their playlists after listeners blistered the bans with complaints. It’s probably only a matter of time before tunes like “Santa Baby” and “Grandma Got Run Over By Some Reindeer” get their lyrics scrutinized. Be safe and just put on Bing singing “White Christmas.”
The winner — or in this case loser — in the dumb thieves category this week is the FedEx driver who allegedly stole a security camera from a front porch this month after delivering a package. The Caledonia homeowner who came home to find his security camera gone and the mounting bracket damaged did what any homeowner would do: he looked at the footage and turned it over to police. The 19-year-old driver, who told police he was angry and “lashed out at technology and God” was arrested shortly thereafter. The runner-up was a central Florida man who went to a Kohl’s store for a job interview. He then allegedly went to the store’s shoe department and allegedly shoplifted two pairs of sneakers valued at $150. A store loss prevention officer who had been watching him detained him in the parking lot. Sheriff’s deputies said the man didn’t get the job.