Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
The Greenfield Common Council’s Legislative Committee took no action at its meeting tonight on a proposed Franklin-like sex offender ordinance that restricts where released sex offenders can live or congregate. A final draft of the ordinance has not been prepared, but committee members suggested a vote would be taken at their next meeting next month.
Nine Greenfield residents spoke before the committee, all in favor of the proposal.
Karen Koterman said it was shocking and ridiculous that “we’re even discussing this,” and that “society cares more about criminals.” With Franklin, Greendale and other communities having already approved restrictive ordinances, Koterman said Greenfield stands to become “a dumping ground” if the city rejects the proposal.
“This floors me,” Koterman said that approval hasn’t happened yet.
Nina Kohl said, “I strongly support this ordinance,” calling sex offenders, “the scum of the earth.”
A new father, Jacob Lovo called the proposal, “a good idea, a necessity. I want my family safe.”
Lovo’s wife, Jean Lovo said sex offenders made bad choices and must suffer the consequences.
One of the first speakers, an angry John Butschli told the committee he lives two doors down from a man who was convicted in the early 90’s of 1st degree sexual assaultof a child. He has contacted local police at least a dozen times after seeing the offender watching children play at a nearby school. Butschli said police have told him the offender can hand out candy on Halloween.
Butschli wanted to know if the proposed ordinance would apply to his neighbor. Committee chair, Alderman Shirley Saryan responded that the committee “doesn’t have to answer questions.” That drew some groans from the audience, and deservedly so; not a good move for the chair of a committee to say at a public meeting that the politicians don’t have to provide answers to concerned citizens.
Franklin Alderman Steve Olson was asked how Franklin’s ordinance handles a situation like the one presented by Butschli. Olson said Franklin’s ordinances grandfathered offenders who had been convicted prior to the ordinances taking effect out of fairness and to limit constitutional challenges to the ordinances.
Greenfield Alderman Tom Pietrowksi asked Butschli whether the victim of the sex offender that lives near him was a boy or girl. Pietrowski’s question drew howls from the audience who spoke out, “What difference does it make.” Pietrowski, who’s not shy about expressing his concerns for the sex offenders, responded that it matters because the sex of the victims affects recidivism rates.
Matt Rajala, another citizen in support, noted other communities have taken the lead on this issue but he admitted he’s nervous about the ordinance’s prospects in Greenfield. Rajala is right to feel apprehensive, based on what was said at tonight’s meeting.
Alderman Pietrowski said, “The problem I see,” is that the proposed ordinance is “curbing where an individual can live,” and that society is,” taking away freedoms.”
Maybe Alderman Pietrowski should focus on what a sex offender has stolen from a young child victim. Pietrowski, I would venture to guess, is solidly opposed to this ordinance based on comments he’s made publicly at two consecutive meetings. Good luck running for re-election on a pro-sex offender vote.
Jerry Bubb responded to Pietrowski’s comments saying, “People have rights, but I’d rather let a murderer go free before a predator” because the murderer can be rehabilitated whereas the predator can’t. “Franklin is setting up an opportunity” for Greenfield said Bubb in support of the ordinance.
Alderman Linda Lubotsky, the author of the proposed ordinance said, “It’s our (Greenfield’s) turn."
Despite the unanimous support in the audience, Pietrowski asked that the matter be held over for one more Legislative Committee meeting. The committee agreed.
A final note: As I was leaving the meeting and waved goodbye to committee members and thanking them for having their discussion, Alderman Saryan made it a point to tell me publicly from her committee chair position that, “Just because I ask questions” doesn’t mean that I’ve taken a position one way or the other. In a recent blog on this issue, I wrote, “Greenfield Alderman Shirley Saryan doesn’t sound too promising when she admits she’s confused by Franklin’s ordinances.” During tonight’s meeting, Saryan noted she reads my blog. I appreciate that, Alderman.
But there comes a time when you can’t sit on the fence and must take a position and vote.
I’ve covered politics as a reporter and/or worked in politics for over 30 years. I know every form of politician-speak there is. I think Alderman Saryan is a pleasant, well-intentioned person. But here are public comments made by Alderman Saryan the past two meetings that she chairs:
Tonight, she told a Greenfield resident who had questions about a map showing where the exclusion zones would be for released offenders that, “As you can see, there aren’t many places they can live.” My response would be: So!
She also said tonight that restrictive ordinances can make matters worse. Where did she read that? On my blog, in comments made by sex offender sympathizers from out of state. Ask parents of children how these ordinances can “make matters worse,” and see what they have to say.
If you’re for the ordinance, then say so, Alderman! All those questions and concerns of hers lead me to believe she’s leaning against. I hope I'm wrong.
As one Greenfield resident said emphatically, why are we even talking about this? It does seem to be a no-brainer, to everyone except the Legislative Committee of the Greenfield Common Council.
This issue is growing. More and more people in Greenfield are becoming aware of what’s at stake. The delay gives residents even more time to contact their elected officials to make their voices heard on behalf of our most vulnerable citizens and prized commodity: our children.