Should only residents of the Village sign petition

by John Costanza
(Bristol, WI, Kenosha)

Visitor Question: We live on a lake where about 50% of the houses around the lake are in one Village and the other 50% are in another Village.

One of the Villages wants to cancel a long-standing land lease that would have serious repercussions on the entire Lake Community.

Should we:

1. Create a petition and only have the residents who live in the Village where the lease is in jeopardy sign it?
2. Create a petition and have the residents of both Villages sign it?
3. Create 2 petitions, similar in nature, but one signed only by one village and the other only signed by the other.

Editors Reply: Thanks for an interesting question. As much as we would like to suggest your option 2, which would show a unified resident opinion, the realistic answer is option 3.

Local governments can be unbelievably petty about people who are not their voters signing petitions. I recall one instance when a city council threw out the entire petition because one person who lived literally across the road from the city limits signed a petition. If elected officials are looking for reasons to discount your petition, our best advice is don't give them an easy way out.

We suggest that you draft identical petitions, except for the name of the Village, and then have each resident sign only the petition to officials of the Village where they live or own property. However, present both completed petitions to both governments so that they can see and touch the fact that residents of both Villages oppose the lease termination.

At least some of the elected officials, and perhaps most of them, will recognize and be impressed by the impact on the entire community. Those who are determined to pay attention only to their own voters may still want to discount the other Village's petition, but both petitions can be entered into the record of the meeting where you present them.

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