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Sex offenders are on the city's agenda again

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Sex offenders are on the city's agenda again
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

City Council President Randy Morrissette II and Alderman Lee Wyland have different proposals on restricting where convicted sex offenders can live in Hudson.

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The two are members of an ad hoc task force of the Public Safety Committee that has been working on a sex offender residency ordinance for the past several months.

Morrissette and Wyland were scheduled to present their proposals at a meeting of the task force Thursday evening, but city executive secretary Jan Doonan notified the Star-Observer Wednesday morning that the meeting had been cancelled.

Morrissette says he had hoped that he and Wyland could arrive at a compromise in a meeting last Thursday, but they were unable to agree on a plan.

Morrissette would like the City Council to adopt an ordinance nearly identical to one in place in the city of Franklin in Milwaukee County.

It prohibits certain sex offenders - those convicted of violent crimes or molesting children - from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks, day care centers and other places children frequent.

The ordinance was upheld by a Milwaukee County circuit court last July.

Wyland is proposing that the city establish child safety zoning around places that children frequent. He says that would allow police to immediately jail any sex offender the ordinance refers to who come within 250 feet of the prohibited place.

Wyland says he has consulted with Wisconsin Department of Corrections officials and Police Chief Marty Jensen in drafting his proposal, and has their support.

The problem with Morrissette's proposal, he says, is that it would drive sex offenders underground.

"They will live here, and they won't register, and you won't have any idea where they are," Wyland says is the word he has gotten from Corrections officials on Morrissette's proposal.

Morrissette's response is, "I refuse to have bureaucrats tell us how to run the city."

He says 73 Wisconsin municipalities have now adopted ordinances restricting where certain convicted sex offenders can live.

Morrissette characterizes Wyland's approach on the issue as liberal, and his as conservative.

"I don't believe there's a left or a right to be had (on the issue)," is Wyland's response to that.

"It's not a political agenda," Wyland says. "It's a question of what is safe and what is unsafe. And what is the right thing to do?"

He says studies from around the country show that sexual offenders go into hiding when communities adopt residency restrictions.

Meanwhile, the state Legislature is considering a law that would invalidate all local sexual offender residency ordinances, Wyland says.

Rural communities have complained that the ordinances push sex offenders into their neighborhoods.

Morrissette was defeated in his first attempt a couple of years ago to get the City Council to adopt sexual offender residency restrictions.

The alderpersons who opposed the restrictions were afraid that they might lead to costly litigation.

The full Public Safety Committee, which Wyland chairs, is expected to take up the issue at its next meeting in April.

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Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
(715) 426-1066
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