How does an unelected county administrator increase democracy or accountability?

On election day voters in Milwaukee County will have an opportunity to make their voices heard on four non-binding referendum questions.

Among those questions is this:

Should Wisconsin Statutes be amended to allow Milwaukee County to transition its management and administrative functions from an elected County Executive to a professional County Administrator?

That seems like a pretty straightforward question, and no doubt it’s a question that will elicit strong responses from those voters in Milwaukee County who support County Executive Chris Abele and believe in a stronger executive and from those who believe the County Board of Supervisors should have more authority in Milwaukee County. Among those who believe in a weaker (or non-existent) executive and a stronger County Board is Chris “capper” Liebenthal of Cognitive Dissidence. According to Liebenthal, here are the reasons for doing away with an elected County Executive and moving to an unelected (but appointed by the County Board) county administrator.

That can be explained in three words: Democracy, Accountability, Efficiency.

As I have explained before, the last three county executives have been real pips. We have had Tom Ament and his pension scandal. We have had Scott Walker who used the executive’s office as his campaign headquarters for his run for governor. We currently have Chris Abele who is using the office to further enrich himself and his plutocratic pals at the taxpayer expense.

Not one of these three were representing the people of Milwaukee County. They were only in it for their own personal gain. With a county administrator, we would be able to restore a representative form of government, with county supervisors who would represent the people of their districts and keep each other in check.

Furthermore, with a county administrator, there would be accountability. If Ament, Walker or Abele had been county administrators and did what they had done as county executives, the board could have acted swiftly to remove them and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Having read and re-read Liebenthal’s points, I’m left with a few questions.

For instance, I can’t help but wonder how eliminating an office elected by the citizens of Milwaukee County will actually increase democracy, which is the argument Liebenthal seems to make. After all, among the arguments made against downsizing the County Board was that such a measure would actually decrease the amount of democracy in Milwaukee County, so it seems only logical that eliminating an elected position would do the same.

I’m also wondering how there would be any more accountability with an unelected county administrator than there is for the elected County Executive. After all, the County Executive is held accountable every four years by the voters of Milwaukee County, while an unelected county administrator would not be accountable to the voters. Elections are absolutely about holding elected officials accountable, and if the voters of Milwaukee County feel Chris Abele has not acted in their best interests, voters will most definitely hold him accountable and vote him out of office.

Look, I get that Chris Abele is a pariah to many Democrats/liberals who supported him hoping they were electing a progressive, and there’s absolutely no denying that some of his actions as County Executive (such as his treatment of rank-and-file employees and his handling of labor issues) have been absolutely awful, but supporting efforts to eliminate his office because you don’t like the man reeks of exactly the kind of politicking those very same folks were decrying when the County Board of Supervisors were being targeted. I’m of the belief that if folks aren’t happy with the job Chris Abele has done as County Executive, they should work to get someone else elected, instead of working to eliminate the elected office he holds.

Emails show Walker campaign treasurer John Hiller got inside information on real-estate deal

C’mon conservatives….defend this.

The campaign treasurer for Gov. Scott Walker got detailed financial information from a top Walker aide about a real-estate deal he was bidding on, according to correspondence included in thousands of emails released Tuesday related to the closed John Doe investigation.

The probe, which began when Walker was serving as the Milwaukee County executive, showed real-estate broker John Hiller lobbied for the county to sell its City Campus building then got detailed information from a top Walker aide around the time bids were being evaluated to provide office space for workers to be displaced by the sale.

The emails show that Walker personally helped orchestrate the deal to benefit Hiller, who was representing a real-estate trust that owns the Reuss Federal Building in Milwaukee. That company sought to increase the amount of space rented in the building by Milwaukee County.

The emails show that Hiller, Walker’s campaign treasurer, was given information by Cindy Archer, director of the Department of Administration and that Hiller repeatedly lobbied Walker to adopt his offer.

“Sorry to be a pain on this one,” Hiller wrote to Walker in an Aug. 18, 2010, email. “I really think that our proposal saves the county about $3 million over 5 years. If I didn’t think it wasn’t good for the county, I would (sic) push it.”

Hiller told Walker he had talked to Archer and “she was getting some info for me and she and I may meet.”

As if the multiple criminal convictions of close Walker aides wasn’t proof enough, this latest revelation shows just how corrupt Scott Walker is.

While many believe government is supposed to serve the people, Scott Walker apparently believes government is supposed to serve as a piggy bank to his friends and supporters.

Green Bay Alderman Chris Wery demands condemnation of Islamic groups from Muslim citizen

Earlier this week Heba Mohammad, a resident of the city of Green Bay, sent this email to Alderman Chris Wery, a Republican who represents Green Bay’s 8th Aldermanic district on the Green Bay Common Council.

Heba Mohammad's Initial Email

As shown in the email, Mohammad clearly articulated a valid concern about the ability of some voters in Green Bay to get to the polls to cast their votes on November 4, and she asked for Ald. Wery’s help in addressing the issue. In response, Wery sent this email to Mohammad.

Chris Wery's Response

As you can see, Ald. Wery’s response quickly transitions from an acknowledgment of the reason for her initial contact into an interrogation of her affiliation with the Muslim Student Association at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Ald. Wery then demanded assurances that Mohammad and the MSA did not support militant Islamic ideology or Sharia law and asked her to condemn Sharia law, militant Islamic ideology, and Hamas, as if Mohammad’s being a Muslim somehow made those condemnations necessary.

Here’s Mohammad’s pitch-perfect response to Ald. Wery’s email.

Heba Mohammad's Response

Predictably, Ald. Wery was less than satisfied with Mohammad’s response, noting in his final email response to her that he took her non-answer as his answer and adding that as the founder of the UW-Green Bay Muslim Student Association she was “indeed THE person to ask.” What Wery seemed to be oblivious to is the fact that Heba Mohammad’s religious or personal beliefs should have absolutely NO bearing on anything, especially considering her initial contact with Wery was in regards to a legitimate concern she had about ensuring voters had the ability to get to the polls on election day.

After the interaction between Ald. Chris Wery and Heba Mohammad was made public, Wery issued an apology on his Facebook page.

I wanted to apologize to Heba Mohammad. She reached out to me about free busing on election days. I helped her with this and it is something we will be looking into. However, I asked her in the same email about a chapter of AMA she founded at UWGB. While other chapters nationwide have issues, and my concerns are real, I should have addressed it in a separate forum. I called and spoke with Heba, apologized and asked if we could meet to discuss my concerns. We left the phone conversation with a good understanding of each other.

If you’d like to send Ald. Chris Wery an email to let him know his kind of bigotry has no place among those elected to serve, please do so – just be respectful.

BREAKING: AG Van Hollen stricken by sudden bout of decency and common sense

Staffers for Attorney General JB Van Hollen rushed him to a Madison emergency room earlier today after what one staffer described as ” a sudden, inexplicable seizure-like bout of decency and common sense “. DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck told local reporters ” it was really, really scary. He just suddenly started talking about how we might as well drop the whole photo ID thing since we had no chance to implement it by November 4th. For a moment I thought he might even admit that the entire effort was both anti-democratic and a flat out fucking sham, but thankfully he didn’t go that far. ”

Van Hollen was released by ER physicians and told to go home and get some rest. Said Brueck, ” he stopped at a newsstand on the way home and bought a copy of The National Review, so we think he’ll be back to his old self soon. “

But remember, according to conservatives the minimum wage is a “living wage”

Just something to ponder the next time you hear an elected official spouting off about how there’s absolutely no need to increase the minimum wage.

Did you know?

Dom’s Domain: the post-debate breakdown

Over at Dom’s Domain Politics, Dom has an excellent writeup of Friday’s debate between Gov. Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke, with Dom rightly noting Burke won the debate hands down.

There are smart ways to discuss wages, Ebola, abortion, environment and drug tests without attacking Walker and just giving voters a chance to hear different positions on important topics.  None here. It took Burke statements in the debate  to pursue other deceptions – like Walker’s claim that the state has a work problem not a jobs problem or how his concern for inner city violence hardly meshes with  his $76  million cut in shared revenue that massively hurt city police departments.

The game table may have looked stacked against Burke, but she was unaffected, comfortable with all comers and actually managed to dismiss how often Walker tried to drag Jim Doyle into the debate. This is happening a lot, as you will see below.

She clarified fiscal issues as Walker didn’t. How  if you haven’t paid your bills or if you delay moneymaking projects you could have a surplus state budget today and a $1.8 billion projected deficit for tomorrow. She revealed his only first in the nation – the biggest cuts to education funding among all the states.  

She not only won and outdid him on insights into economic repair, she topped with more believable conviction their common and politically required optimism about Wisconsin’s future. She seemed determined to make inroads not only with her base but also with people who previously believed in Walker, not by attacking him but by exposing that his approach to tax cuts was ham-handed economic ineptitude.

Dan Sebring: conservative majority on U.S. Supreme Court conspiring against Scott Walker

This is bizarre, even for a fringe candidate like Dan Sebring.

Republican Dan Sebring, who is running to represent Wisconsin’s 4th District in the House of Representatives, told ThinkProgress he suspects a political motive behind the Supreme Court’s recent ruling putting the state’s voter ID law on hold.

“The United States Supreme Court said we can’t implement it for this election,” he said at a Milwaukee County Republicans party this week. “My personal feeling is that this is a play to steer the outcome of the gubernatorial election so that Scott Walker wouldn’t have a chance of getting on the ticket in 2016 for the White House. I think that’s what they’re trying to do.”

I’m not sure what tortured logic Dan Sebring employed in order to surmise that the conservative-led United States Supreme Court is conspiring to keep Scott Walker from running for president in 2016, but Sebring’s comments were telling in that they made it abundantly clear that Republicans believe they can’t win an election in which they don’t rig the rules to disenfranchise groups of voters (the poor, the elderly, minorities) who tend to vote for Democrats.

MJS editors wonder: What if we lived in a Wisconsin without Act 10?

This is worth a read…

If Walker could travel to that other universe — the one where he negotiates with unions instead of breaking them — here’s what he would find: The budget deficit is closed through negotiated employee concessions, cuts to programs and a little fiscal magic. There are no new taxes. There are no angry protests around the state Capitol, no nasty threats aimed at Republican legislators. Democratic senators remain in Madison; they do not not run off to Illinois. They don’t have to; they are working with the governor. There are not 15 recall elections, either, and Walker, though disliked by Democrats, is no target. The Democrats know better.

Very few people in this strange land have ever heard of Eric O’Keefe, the head of Wisconsin Club for Growth. The group does not coordinate with Walker’s recall campaign because there is no recall election.

Imagine: labor peace, a balanced budget, a successful governor, a new kind of Republican who works with his political foes instead of crushing them. It’s easy if you try.

But alas, in the universe Walker created, we have Act 10.

As the editorial rightly noted, any deficit in the state’s budget – which was the reason Gov. Walker gave for “dropping the bomb” with Act 10 – could have been dealt with by working with public employee unions, instead of seeking to destroy the unions as Gov. Walker did. As noted in the editorial, Massachusetts passed a law giving mayors and other local officials the authority to set co-payments and deductibles for their employees after a 30-day discussion period with unions, a measure which led to $250 million in savings for towns and cities in that state.

The fact is, no matter what Gov. Walker and his supporters may say about Act 10, his motivation for Act 10 wasn’t fiscal in nature (as he admitted under oath to Congress) and had everything to do with eliminating a potential obstacle to his political aspirations.

Milwaukee County to release more John Doe emails

Hold on tight…its gonna be a fun Tuesday:

Milwaukee County officials are planning to release thousands of emails prosecutors collected during the first secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s former aides and associates when he was county executive

A spokesman for Chris Abele, the county’s current executive, says Abele’s office will make nearly 16,000 emails and attachments that prosecutors seized from county and personal computers available Tuesday.

Abele’s office has already made tens of thousands of documents related to the probe public and expects to release even more material beyond Tuesday’s release.

Its awesome that the County Executives office is releasing these to the public in a timely manner before the election.Kudos to them.

What kinds of interesting things do you guys think this next batch of emails will hold?

Wisconsin “Jobs Coalition” attacks Democratic Assembly candidate….but not on the jobs issue

Recently the “Jobs First Coalition,” a dark money organization, sent out a nasty mailer attacking Democrat Dana Duncan, who’s running to unseat incumbent Republican State Rep. Scott “CAFO” Krug in the 72nd Assembly district. Because the Jobs First Coalition is registered as a 501(c)4, its funding sources don’t need to be publicly disclosed, but as noted by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Jobs First Coalition has received at least some of its funding from tobacco giant Reynolds American – to the tune of $60,000 in 2013.

Here’s a copy of the mailer in question.

Dana Duncan mailer

According to its website, the Jobs First Coalition is “devoted to making the creation and retention of family-supporting jobs the top priority of government and community leaders in Wisconsin,” but for a group that is “devoted to making the creation and retention of family-supporting jobs the top priority of government” it seems to do very little to advocate for the creation and retention of family-supporting jobs. Instead, the group seems to be spending a lot of time attacking Democrats on a host of issues not at all related to job creation, just as it did in 2010 and 2013.

I attempted to contact Bob Reddin, the registered agent for the Jobs First Coalition, to hear his explanation for why a group focused on jobs spends so much time attacking Democrats on issues not related to jobs, but I have yet to hear back from him.

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