Walker administration official on job creation under Gov. Walker: “We suck. We’re bad.”

At least Lisa Johnson, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation with the quasi-government Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, is honest about how much of a failure Gov. Scott Walker’s job creation efforts have been (emphasis added):

From Johnson’s wheelhouse in the new economy, the rankings aren’t any better. Wisconsin came in 31st among 50 states in the latest New Economy Index from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan group in Washington, D.C. The state scored poorly in crucial areas like the number of fast-growing companies and entrepreneurial activity, 39th and 47th, respectively.

“The study came out and we’re 47th,” Johnson says. “We suck. We’re bad. Do we keep talking about it or do we take action?”

Whither MKE Cnty: County in the Wisconsin Constitution

One persistent comment about State Representative (and former County Supervisor) Joe Sanfelippo’s proposal to dismantle the Milwaukee County Board as we know it is: Can the state do that? County Government is designated in the Wisconsin Constitution so the state legislature certainly has some say in the nature of county government. But it is not entirely clear if the state can actually tell a county board how much they can be paid and how large a board is necessary.

Here is the section of the Constitution that gives the state the right to set up and enable county boards:

ARTICLE IV.
LEGISLATIVE

Powers of county boards. SECTION 22. The legislature
may confer upon the boards of supervisors of the several counties
of the state such powers of a local, legislative and administrative
character as they shall from time to time prescribe.

That is a pretty broad and ambiguous statement. But it does imply that county boards are more than just a legislative body…so just maybe the knock on the MKE board that they don’t have any right to administrative oversight of county departments is false. It also uses the word confer…does that mean that the state actually has the right to poke its nose into the activities of a county board…such as wages, benefits, full/part time, and overall size? Or that they can simply ‘confer powers’ to the board.

And the establishment of the county executive:

ARTICLE IV.
LEGISLATIVE

Town and county government. SECTION 23. [As
amended Nov. 1962, April 1969 and April 1972] The legislature
shall establish but one system of town government, which shall
be as nearly uniform as practicable; but the legislature may provide
for the election at large once in every 4 years of a chief
executive officer in any county with such powers of an administrative
character as they may from time to time prescribe in
accordance with this section and shall establish one or more systems
of county government.

Since Milwaukee County Supervisors are elected for four year terms, I am a little unclear on why Rep. Sanfelippo is in such a rush to push this legislation as an early item of business in the current session. It looks to me that it can’t take effect until after the 2016 County Board Elections. Is he trying to make his conservative tea party bona fides in Madison or is he continuing to twist the knife in his former colleagues back?

ARTICLE IV.
LEGISLATIVE

Extra compensation; salary change. SECTION 26.
(1) [As amended April 1956, April 1967, April 1974, April 1977
and April 1992] The legislature may not grant any extra compensation
to a public officer, agent, servant or contractor after
the services have been rendered or the contract has been entered
into.
(2) Except as provided in this subsection, the compensation
of a public officer may not be increased or diminished during the
term of office:

(a) When any increase or decrease in the compensation of
justices of the supreme court or judges of any court of record
becomes effective as to any such justice or judge, it shall be
effective from such date as to every such justice or judge.
(b) Any increase in the compensation of members of the legislature
shall take effect, for all senators and representatives to
the assembly, after the next general election beginning with the
new assembly term.
(3) Subsection (1) shall not apply to increased benefits for
persons who have been or shall be granted benefits of any kind
under a retirement system when such increased benefits are provided
by a legislative act passed on a call of ayes and noes by a
three−fourths vote of all the members elected to both houses of
the legislature and such act provides for sufficient state funds to
cover the costs of the increased benefits.

There are two sections which to me at first seemed contradictory so I asked an attorney for clarification. Here are the sections:

ARTICLE IV.
LEGISLATIVE

Special and private laws prohibited. SECTION 31. [As
created Nov. 1871 and amended Nov. 1892 and April 1993] The
legislature is prohibited from enacting any special or private
laws in the following cases:
(1) For changing the names of persons, constituting one person
the heir at law of another or granting any divorce.
(2) For laying out, opening or altering highways, except in
cases of state roads extending into more than one county, and
military roads to aid in the construction of which lands may be
granted by congress.
(3) For authorizing persons to keep ferries across streams at
points wholly within this state.
(4) For authorizing the sale or mortgage of real or personal
property of minors or others under disability.
(5) For locating or changing any county seat.
(6) For assessment or collection of taxes or for extending the
time for the collection thereof.
(7) For granting corporate powers or privileges, except to
cities.
(8) For authorizing the apportionment of any part of the
school fund.
(9) For incorporating any city, town or village, or to amend
the charter thereof.

General laws on enumerated subjects. SECTION 32.
[As created Nov. 1871 and amended April, 1993] The legislature
may provide by general law for the treatment of any subject for
which lawmaking is prohibited by section 31 of this article. Subject
to reasonable classifications, such laws shall be uniform in
their operation throughout the state.

So here’s the gist of the explanation: The state can’t specifically write a law that is aimed directly at Milwaukee County and Milwaukee County only…but they could pass a law that specified certain facts, criteria or parameters of county government or county size or county population that would include Milwaukee County. Any other county meeting those criteria would also be affected. I don’t think that would prevent the referendum that Rep. Sanfelippo is proposing but I wonder if it would apply to limiting the county boards budget by the suggested percentage of total levy that he wants to legislate separately.

The following is also from the state constitution and isn’t totally relevant to the discussion but it does show the control that state government and the governor have over the county’s way of life:

SECTION 4. [As amended Nov. 1882, April 1929, Nov. 1962,
April 1965, April 1967, April 1972, April 1982, Nov. 1998, April
2005] (1) (a) Except as provided in pars. (b) and (c) and sub. (2),
coroners, registers of deeds, district attorneys, and all other
elected county officers, except judicial officers, sheriffs, and
chief executive officers, shall be chosen by the electors of the
respective counties once in every 2 years.
(b) Beginning with the first general election at which the governor
is elected which occurs after the ratification of this paragraph,
sheriffs shall be chosen by the electors of the respective
counties, or by the electors of all of the respective counties comprising
each combination of counties combined by the legislature
for that purpose, for the term of 4 years and coroners in
counties in which there is a coroner shall be chosen by the electors
of the respective counties, or by the electors of all of the
respective counties comprising each combination of counties
combined by the legislature for that purpose, for the term of 4
years.
(c) Beginning with the first general election at which the
president is elected which occurs after the ratification of this
paragraph, district attorneys, registers of deeds, county clerks,
and treasurers shall be chosen by the electors of the respective
counties, or by the electors of all of the respective counties comprising
each combination of counties combined by the legislature
for that purpose, for the term of 4 years and surveyors in
counties in which the office of surveyor is filled by election shall
be chosen by the electors of the respective counties, or by the
electors of all of the respective counties comprising each combination
of counties combined by the legislature for that purpose,
for the term of 4 years.
(2) The offices of coroner and surveyor in counties having
a population of 500,000 or more are abolished. Counties not
having a population of 500,000 shall have the option of retaining
the elective office of coroner or instituting a medical examiner
system. Two or more counties may institute a joint medical
examiner system.
(3) (a) Sheriffs may not hold any other partisan office.
(b) Sheriffs may be required by law to renew their security
from time to time, and in default of giving such new security
their office shall be deemed vacant.
(4) The governor may remove any elected county officer
mentioned in this section except a county clerk, treasurer, or surveyor,
giving to the officer a copy of the charges and an opportunity
of being heard.
(5) All vacancies in the offices of coroner, register of deeds
or district attorney shall be filled by appointment. The person
appointed to fill a vacancy shall hold office only for the unexpired
portion of the term to which appointed and until a successor
shall be elected and qualified.
(6) When a vacancy occurs in the office of sheriff, the
vacancy shall be filled by appointment of the governor, and the
person appointed shall serve until his or her successor is elected
and qualified.

And for a little more fun, the county miscellany from our constitution:

ARTICLE XIII.
MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS
Division of counties
. SECTION 7. No county with an area
of nine hundred square miles or less shall be divided or have any
part stricken therefrom, without submitting the question to a
vote of the people of the county, nor unless a majority of all the
legal voters of the county voting on the question shall vote for
the same.
Removal of county seats. SECTION 8. No county seat
shall be removed until the point to which it is proposed to be
removed shall be fixed by law, and a majority of the voters of the
county voting on the question shall have voted in favor of its
removal to such point.
Election or appointment of statutory officers. SECTION
9. All county officers whose election or appointment is not
provided for by this constitution shall be elected by the electors
of the respective counties, or appointed by the boards of supervisors,
or other county authorities, as the legislature shall direct.
All city, town and village officers whose election or appointment
is not provided for by this constitution shall be elected by the
electors of such cities, towns and villages, or of some division
thereof, or appointed by such authorities thereof as the legislature
shall designate for that purpose. All other officers whose
election or appointment is not provided for by this constitution,
and all officers whose offices may hereafter be created by law,
shall be elected by the people or appointed, as the legislature
may direct.

A little side note: if you are so inclined to comment on any of my blogs about MKE County government, I’d appreciate if you’d indicate if you are a county resident or not!

Whither MKE Cnty: Statement From the Wisc Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals

Press Statement of Candice Owley, President of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals

The Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals stands in strong opposition to the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s plan to reduce the County Board because it is a threat to both democracy and to oversight of critical public services for Milwaukee County.

The proposal to reduce the County Board to part time and eliminating staff support is in effect the dismantling of another Milwaukee democratic institution. It is the County Board that is the closest to the citizens, so by reducing the board’s effectiveness, the voice of the people is also diminished.

Milwaukee County is the branch of government responsible for mental health services, courts, prisons, parks, airports and other cultural and social services. The proposed change to the Board will dramatically reduce the County Supervisors’ ability to provide adequate oversight of these critical services which will inevitably lead to reduced accountability and transparency–concepts vitally important to ensure the public’s concerns are protected.

The County Board is designed as the check and balance of the County Executive. The same system is in place at the State and Federal level. No one that cares about democracy should support unchecked power of an elected executive, be they President, Governor or County Executive. Our democracy only works when there is a real balance of power, and this proposal to decimate the Board will drastically alter that balance of power causing a further threat to our democracy.

Milwaukee County has serious problems: lack of jobs and economic development. The state legislature and corporate leaders should be looking for ways to work together with local elected officials to find solutions to these critical issues, but instead they are engaging in political games and proposals that will do nothing to move our community forward.

The proposal to decimate the County Board should be abandoned and instead our corporate and community leaders should join together with political leaders to tackle the real problems of our County, and not be distracted by plans that only serve to further reduce our democracy and harm public services.