/ Articles / Arbor Vitae approves resolution for second referendum question

Arbor Vitae approves resolution for second referendum question

November 12, 2019 by Brian Jopek

Voters in the town of Arbor Vitae will have two non-binding referendums on their ballot in the April election after all. 

A resolution for the first of those, regarding gerrymandering, was approved by the town board at its Oct. 16 meeting following a presentation from retired teacher Yolan Mistele of Arbor Vitae, representing the organization “Fair Elections Project.”

Dave Burton also at that meeting made a presentation on behalf of a group called United to Amend and a resolution proposal to have a non-binding referendum regarding campaign finance included on the April ballot. 

The resolution centers around the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which ruled the McCain-Feingold bill, passed by Congress a few years before and designed, essentially, to regulate campaign contributions to candidates by corporations, was unconstitutional. 

“We’re proposing to the board that a resolution for a United States constitutional amendment declaring that one: only human beings are endowed with constitutional rights, not corporations, unions, non-profits or other entities,” Burton said at the Oct. 16 meeting. “And two: money is not speech and therefore limiting political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.”

That resolution didn’t seem to be one the town board had issues with other than an item in the wording, which town supervisor Jeff Hunter pointed to. 

“It says ‘only human beings are endowed with constitutional rights,’” he said. “That I agree with. But, what I think it should say is ‘United States citizens.’ It should specify American citizen ... that would take out the problem with the corporations or the unions or the non-profits. Just the American citizen.”

The resolution was rejected by the town board on a 4 to 1 vote as its wording, from what the town board was told, couldn’t be changed as Hunter specified. 

Supervisor Ashley Roach was the lone dissenter.

“I think it’s a good thing,” she said of the United To Amend resolution. “I like it.”

‘I’m good with it’

At last week’s town board meeting, Mistele and Burton were once again in attendance and this time, the town board unanimously approved a resolution to add the United To Amend referendum to the April ballot. 

Town chairman Frank Bauers said the wording for the United To Amend resolution had been changed “as we suggested to ‘citizens of the United States are endowed with constitutional rights.’”

“They (Mistele and Burton) came down and talked to me about a week or so ago — Jeff happened to be here, too,” he said. “We both agreed that would be good for us.”

“I’m good with it as long as it says what we asked,” Hunter said. 

After the vote, Burton told the town board after visiting with people involved with United To Amend, he discovered the Arbor Vitae Town Board wasn’t the only governing body in Wisconsin which “took issues” with the wording as originally presented. 

“That’s why they changed the policy,” he said. “It’s less confusing.”

“Yeah, that just didn’t sit right,” Hunter said. “But this is good.”

He also said he agrees the Citizens United decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court was “just a horrible decision.”

“To allow corporations ... to give them personhood?” Hunter said. “I never understood that one.”

Other matters

• The town board approved a bid from Arbor Vitae Electric for LED lighting in the town hall and community center with the exception of the restrooms, which already have LED lighting. 

Arbor Vitae Electric is owned by Devin Roach, supervisor Ashley Roach’s husband.   

The bid was $9,480 and town chairman Frank Bauers said the town would be reimbursed $1,770 from the Focus on Energy program.

Roach didn’t recuse herself from the brief discussion about the lighting bid from Arbor Vitae Electric and also made no announcement prior to the vote she intended to abstain. 

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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