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Gov. Scott Walker tried to take the edge off the latest dreary employment report -- issued on Sept. 16, 2011 -- by announcing a series of "job creation forums" around the state.
Small, invitation-only forums were held in September in La Crosse, Milwaukee and in Green Bay.
The highest profile one is a second Green Bay one, a day-long event Nov. 1 at Lambeau Field. The agenda features welcoming remarks from Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and a keynote speech at noon from the governor. The panels are made up of more than a dozen Walker Administration cabinet secretaries and appointees. Two business people -- both winners of awards from Walker’s administration -- are given slots on a panel at the end of the day.
When that event was announced, some people got the impression it was an opportunity for thousands of unemployed state residents to connect with hiring employers. (When discussing unemployment, Walker frequently mentions a state web site listing thousands of job openings.)
But the event isn’t aimed at helping individual unemployed people find work. It’s not a job fair.
And that caught the attention of the liberal One Wisconsin Now group, which criticized the event and the admission fee. Walker is charging "the public $50 to attend a state-sponsored ‘jobs summit,’" the group said in a news release.
Such pay-for-access claims have become familiar in the recent months.
We looked into a similar complaint raised by the Wisconsin Democratic Party that said three Republican members of Congress were shutting down town hall meetings and charging constituents for access. we rated that claim Pants on Fire, in part because the fees in question were for Rotary lunches and other routine civic meetings and there were many other opportunities to meet with them.
So, is One Wisconsin Now right about the governor’s office and the Lambeau event?
Asked to support the claim, Scot Ross, executive director of the group, cited the announcements themselves. He said it looked like the public was being forced to pay for access to state officials: "They’re going to charge people to hear their ideas. How is that going to help us?"
The event was characterized differently by the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices. Walker’s news release labeled the events "Job Creation Forums," including in Green Bay. Four days later, Kleefisch’s office announced greater detail about the Lambeau event and called it a "Small Business Summit."
The Lambeau event is an opportunity for the administration to meet with business people, said Jeanne Taratino, Kleefisch’s chief of staff.
She said the liberal group "misconstrued" the press releases announcing the events.
"It’s not a jobs summit. It’s a small business summit," she said. "We’re not asking unemployed people to pay $50 to come to a jobs summit."
She noted that there were expenses related to holding the event in meeting rooms at Lambeau (not in the stadium itself) and that breakfast and lunch were included.
Tarantino said the administration hopes about 200 people will attend.
The Lambeau event is open to all and those interested in attending can register on the web site of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.
"We’ll take all comers," Tarantino said. "But it’s like every conference -- there’s a targeted audience."
The breakout sessions will include comments from each cabinet secretary and than a chance for attendees to ask questions "about issues of importance to small businesses," she said.
For example, a business owner might "have a problem with an audit," and want to know "how you can get an answer in a timely fashion," she said.
Walker held smaller scale "jobs forums" in La Crosse on Sept. 22, 2011 and Milwaukee Sept. 27, and Green Bay Sept. 29. Those were two-hour, invitation only events, with no charge. In the case of the Milwaukee and Green Bay events they were announced one day in advance and did not appear to break much new ground.
At the La Crosse forum, Walker was told that improvement to the local job market hinges on "limiting regulations and developing a skilled workforce," according to the La Crosse Tribune. Two employers -- the owner of a screen printing shop and a builder -- said that younger workers often lacked proper training and motivation.
One Wisconsin Now claimed the Walker administration is charging people to hear elected and appointed officials talk about jobs and the economy in a day-long event in Green Bay.
They are. But you also get to visit Lambeau (at least the meeting rooms) have two meals and listen to a lot of speeches. Then again, you could get yourself invited to one of the smaller events. Or you could send an email or make a call to the state’s jobs "hotline" (1-855-854-JOBS) -- for free.
But the statement was limited to the Lambeau Field event. We rate it True.
Gov. Scott Walker news release on Job Creation Forums, Sept. 15, 2011
Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleeflisch news release on small business forums, Sept. 19, 2011
One Wisconsin Now news release, Sept. 20, 2011
PolitiFact Wisconsin Walk-o-Meter on August jobs,Sept. 15, 2011
Interview and emails, Scot Ross, executive director One Wisconsin Now, Sept. 22, 2011
Interview, Jeanne Tarantino, chief of staff, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleeflisch, Sept. 20, 2011
La Crosse Tribune, "Gov. Walker stops in La Crosse, talks jobs with local employers," Sept. 23, 2011
PolitiFact Wisconsin, "U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan, Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble are....shutting down town hall meetings, or making their constituents pay to attend them."Sept. 6, 2011
Gov. Scott Walker, Sunday Insight,Sept. 25, 2011
Gov. Scott Walker weekly radio address, Sept. 21, 2011
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