I regard myself (seriously) as fairly naïve when it comes to making public policy. For one thing, I have this notion, often proved wildly off-base, that what goes on in the public view – a meeting, a public hearing, a judicial hearing of some kind – is where decisions are made. I’ve covered sessions such as these for newspapers since I was a teenager. And sometimes, important things do happen. But often, it’s just show time.
I’m pondering this today in the light of Monday’s public hearing by the state Senate Education Committee on proposals to change the governance structure of Milwaukee Public Schools. It was impressive in some ways. There was a large turnout – the auditorium at the MPS central office holds 300 people and there were clearly well more than that who came and went in the course of the day-long session. There were lots of important people there, not only a large number of legislators, but Mayor Tom Barrett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, aldermen, School Board members, civic leaders, and activists. If you were patient (really patient, in many cases), you could get up and tell the committee members what you thought on the issue, no matter who you were or what your views – and isn’t that a great aspect of democracy?
And yet (pardon me while I sigh) — did this accomplish anything?