Damakant Jayshi

Some residents are asking officials to declare Marathon County a “sanctuary county” to ensure that individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitutions of the United States and Wisconsin are not violated locally.

The discussion on a resolution declaring ‘Marathon County Constitutional Sanctuary County’ took place during a Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. All eight people who spoke during the public comments phase urged the committee to pass the resolution. Most who spoke said they believe their rights are under attack, and are asking the County Board to reiterate their pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the state of Wisconsin.

Supervisors Brent Jacobson and Bruce Lamont supported the measure. Jacobson said unelected people in committees were coming up with resolutions that raised constitutional issues. Marathon County’s Diversity Affairs Commission, which authored the much-debated ‘Community For All’ resolution counts six unelected people among its nine members.  

But two other supervisors, Jean Maszk and Arnold Schlei, said the issue was not a Public Safety Committee matter. 

“Our committees and county board should be focused on policy-driven issues,” Maszk said. 

Matt Bootz, the committee chair, told members of the committee that he brought this up as an educational presentation at this point “just to see what the supervisors think of this.”

Speaking with Wausau Pilot & Review, Bootz said the resolution was on the agenda purely for discussion and was not an actionable item. He added that the idea has been circulating for months, with people going door-to-door to supervisors to ask for the declaration.

According to county staff, Bootz amended the committee’s agenda on Monday to add the entry – Marathon County Constitutional Sanctuary County – two days before the meeting. 

“It was not meant to be voted on. That’s why I put that up under educational presentation,” Chair Bootz said, specifically pointing out that the entire resolution draft was prepared by a group of citizens. “There’s no goal and I honestly don’t know where this is going.”

When asked to provide specific instances of attacks on rights and freedoms in Marathon County that prompted citizens to lobby their supervisors, Bootz did not address that, but added “several citizens are concerned about the direction of the County Board.”

The resolution proposes to bar the Marathon County Board of Supervisors from passing “resolutions, regulations or ordinances that violate the express rights and liberties of its citizens or legal residents as clearly enumerated in the Constitution of the United States and the great State of Wisconsin.”

Although the resolution contains the phrase “including but not limited to,” the proposal specifically and selectively mentions only five Amendments to the Constitution: “First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion, the right to free speech, and free assembly, the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the Fifth Amendment right to not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protections of all its citizens and legal resident.”

The resolution, however, is silent on the freedom of the press, which is also an element of the First Amendment. Some conservatives across the country consider the media an enemy of the people and dub anything as “fake news” that does not subscribe to their personal views. 

Bootz said he was not responsible for omitting freedom of the press from the resolution, adding that he believes in freedom of the press that is “responsible, upfront and honest.”

Unclear is whether the resolution is a veiled attempt to declare Marathon County a Second Amendment sanctuary, as is happening in some parts of the country, or is targeting the proposed “Community for All” resolution. Bootz, however, said the group that prepared the document could have done so specifically, but did not.

Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at damakant@wausaupilotandreview.com.

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