Lowering the Boom(gaard) (update)

Less than a couple of months ago I caught City of Brookfield Alderman Scott Berg as chair of the city’s Water and Sewer Board trying to put a public discussion into closed session. I blogged it at 6 a.m., by the close of business that day, the agenda was changed to keep the decision open to the public. The council later followed that lead when they decided to talk to Milwaukee about Lake Michigan water.

Someone was watching.

The City of Franklin, Wisconsin, is having a tough time identifying public business lately. Hopefully, now that someone is watching, there will be a little more transparency. Unfortunately, a very unpopular decision has already taken place in closed session under an agenda item that even the best psychic could not have divined. From Franklin’s March 18, 2008 agenda:

Alderman Kosovich moved to enter closed session at 7:50 p.m. pursuant to 19.85(1)(e), Stats., to deliberate on matters concerning investment of public funds relating to strategy for naming, branding, and marketing activities for the South 27th Street Corridor, for competitive and bargaining reasons, and to reenter open session at the same place thereafter to act on such matters discussed therein as it deems appropriate. Seconded by Alderman Hammelman. On roll call, all voted Aye. Motion carried.

The Common Council reentered open at 8:35 p.m.

The excuse to hide behind closed doors? 19.85(1)(e) – read below:

Deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session.

There was no investment of public funds in that discussion. There was, however, the agreement to name the corridor of 27th Street “Boomgaard.” Boomgaard is a Dutch word that means orchard. Zizzo, a marketing group famous for all kinds of things in our area including renaming the Marquette University mascot, developed the name. No stranger to controversy, Zizzo popped out this press release when the Boomgard name went public without much fanfare. Also, CNI’s FranklinNOW capitalized on a blogger’s sharp eye and started a forum that created some interesting comments.

So now the Boomgaard has gone bust in the public eye. But it looks like it’s here to stay. Sadly, Franklin residents have lost a considerable amount of trust in the elected and appointed leadership that hid this decision from them.

It pays to lower the boom on elected officials and guard your rights as taxpayers. Keeping a sharp eye on their every movement, like we did above when Berg wanted to close the doors, is good for a community. Don’t let up as the summer approaches. Many controversial projects get their start in quiet summer meetings hoping you’re too busy at the lake to notice.

UPDATE – 2:08 pm – It comes down to protecting a trademark and a URL, folks. If someone doesn’t slap Franklin’s hand for this obvious abuse of closed session, your government will be doing more public business behind closed doors under the guise of “public good.”

Where’s the outrage?


  1. Thank you for this post, Cindy.

    I feel similar situations happen throughout the metropolitan area. Residents need to be in the know, and should be able to voice their opinion(s) before it’s set in stone.

    What happened in Franklin/Oak Creek was disgusting and appalling.

    My promise to readers is that I’ll continue to keep them informed on this issue, no matter how unpopular it might become.