Not all Madison City Council members agreed to statement condemning ICE ‘enforcement surge’

September 28, 2018


At least one Madison City Council member said he asked that his name not be included in a Wednesday statement admonishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s four-day “enforcement surge” in Wisconsin as “racist and xenophobic,” a request he says was not honored.

The email sent to media by Deputy Mayor Katie Crawley noted the statement came from Mayor Paul Soglin and “many members” of the City Council.

The statement itself, however, didn’t note this distinction. Printed on city letterhead and attached to Crawley’s email, the statement was issued by Soglin and the council.

Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District, said he agreed with parts of the message, but not all of it. One of the council’s more conservative members, Skidmore declined to identify which sections he disagreed with in the statement, saying he plans to produce his own response over the weekend.

“My outrage on this is that this gives the impression all of council agrees with (the statement) and I don’t,” he said.

Skidmore also took issue with the process in which the council’s statement was produced, going so far as to question whether it was a violation of the state’s open meetings law.

On Wednesday afternoon, City Council members received an email from Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff explaining that she, Soglin and Crawley wrote a proposed statement in response to ICE’s statement.

“We are assuming all of you are OK with the attached press release coming from Mayor and Common Council,” she wrote, asking anyone with an objection to contact her by 2:15 p.m.

The email went out at 1:44 p.m.

Skidmore said he called Crawley and requested his name be removed from the statement before Bidar-Sielaff’s deadline. He said Crawley did not confirm she would take his name off the statement, but said she would ask if the statement could be delayed.

Crawley did not return a call for comment Thursday.

According to the email exchange, council President Samba Baldeh questioned the protocol in producing a full-council statement without a “heads-up” to the president.

Baldeh did not return a call or email for comment Thursday.

In response to Baldeh’s question, Bidar-Sielaff said her “sense” was that all of the council cared about the issue and all of the council signing on to it would make for a more powerful statement.

“Sometimes life calls for not being able to follow every process,” she wrote. “I am tired and exhausted and honestly don’t have time for every detail being done the right way right now.”

Skidmore said he requested an opinion from City Attorney Michael May on whether the way in which the statement came to be — members weighing in via email — violated the state’s open meeting law, which requires advance notification to the public anytime at least half of a public body’s members convene to exercise their authority.

May said he does not plan to issue an opinion and that the procedure did not violate the open meetings law because no formal action will be taken by the council based on the statement.

“There was no issue here,” he said.

Bidar-Sielaff did not return a call and email for comment Thursday, but sent an email to all council members confirming she had received a reporter’s requests for comment.

She expressed “deep sadness” in the email that the discussion has shifted to “council protocols and personalities” instead of focusing on the families affected by the ICE’s enforcement surge.

“If I had been interested in personal ‘glory’ I would have done my very own press release but a collective message from their entire city council is what the community needed and deserved,” she wrote.

For Skidmore, it’s not about personality differences. It’s about having his name attached to something he said he explicitly requested not to.

“There’s a blanket statement issued on City Council letterhead,” he said. “I think (they) erred in doing that.”

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