Whither MKE County: Time For A Dedicated Park District

By now all of you have read at least one article about the perceived risk of having the county executive sell Milwaukee County park land without input from the county board or the general public. The recent changes in state law that allow the county executive to sell non-park land without notice and without competitive bids begs the question of what is and what is not park land. The current interpretation of the law leans toward: it ain’t park land if it’s not zoned park land by each and every municipality that hosts a county park(s).

But in cased you missed it here’s something from the Shepherd Express, UrbanMilwaukee, and the good old Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

And even more recently we have the closing of the Mitchell Park Domes for reasons of safety for both patrons and employees as the deferred maintenance from both the Scott Walker and Chris Abele administrations has come home to roost so to speak. The Domes have gone from a weekend of closure to an unknown length of time or maybe permanently depending on who is doing the talking…and repairs have been guesstimated at up to $75 million.

And if you haven’t heard about that try these: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel or Senator Chris Larson.

So maybe it’s time to take the county park system out of the hands of Milwaukee County and create an independent park district with its own dedicated funding…basically with the half percent sales tax that Milwaukee County voters approved years ago…I don’t know exactly what form that would take but if they have tax levy authority it should include an elected board…not an appointed one.

The value of the park system as a whole can not be overstated. Beyond the pure beauty the green areas bring to the county…add the recreation value…the tourism value…the business/employee recruitment value…the environmental impact…etc etc…the park system is a resource that we can not afford to squander.

Conservative County Supervisor Deanna Alexander keeps it classy!

Via Twitter comes this tweet from conservative Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander:

It’s clear the intended target of Supervisor Alexander’s idiotic tweet was none other than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and when asked if she stood behind her tweet Sup. Alexander said she felt the tweet was appropriate.

Is it really appropriate to refer to the former first lady in this way?

Alexander, a conservative on the left-leaning County Board, thinks so.

She notes that people come up with nicknames for politicians all the time. For instance, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was dubbed The Governator and ex-President Bill Clinton was known as Slick Willie to his critics — and even some of his supporters.

Alexander, who is considered a possible candidate for the state Senate, said she found it interesting that people have jumped to the conclusion that she was referring to Hillary Clinton when she discussed “Ovary’s campaign.”

What’s truly disappointing is that as I write this, I have yet to see any condemnation of Sup. Alexander’s vile tweet by any of the progressives who have supported her in the past, leaving me to wonder if they support her vile rhetoric.

Where Are Barrett and Abele on the UWM Budget Cuts?

If you are reading this blog I highly doubt that you are unfamiliar with Governor Walker’s intention to cut state support to the University of Wisconsin System by $300 million over the next biennial budget.

Most of the articles talking about the ‘trickle down’ to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee expect the local university to lose $20 million per year in state support.

So my question is: where are Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele on the subject? Or any of our other local elected officials? The state budget is about to take $20 million out of the local economy each year and there has been pretty much utter and absolute silence?

If I was a local businessman whose business put $20 million into the local economy and I announced that I was thinking about moving my business to Racine or Ozaukee county or something…I imagine local elected officials would be tripping over each other to dissuade me of the move attempt. Why nothing on the UWM cuts? Does anyone actually think that the academics are going to prevail in getting this reversed? Really?

Whither MKE County: Pat Jursik Calls Out The Suburbs on Housing Discrimination

This is a surprisingly harsh assessment of the suburbs blatant disregard for equal housing…on top of the fact that they oppose regional public transportation at every turn…but County Supervisor Pat Jursik simply lays it on the line:

Supervisor Patricia Jursik today issued the following statement regarding the SEWRPC Regional Housing Plan:

“Ferguson, MO is the blueprint for the next phase of civil rights struggle: The Integration of the Outer Suburbs. This year, Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, (SEWRPC) created a Regional Housing Plan with recommendations for affordable, workforce housing and attention to patterns of housing discrimination. The Milwaukee County Board adopted this plan, which is supported by good fact-finding and fully noticed public hearings.

“The subtle signs of racism are already being planted here in Southeastern Wisconsin as displayed by the actions of the Ozaukee County Board and Waukesha County Board, with the Ozaukee County Board outright rejecting the Housing Plan and Waukesha amending the plan to point of gutting it.

“Will the State of Wisconsin be pro-active in encouraging affordable housing in the outer suburbs now they have chosen to run Milwaukee County? My guess is probably not, since it is the local Milwaukee County Board that had been proactive on affordable housing and workforce alternatives.

“The one sign of hope is the recent trend of both singles and recently retired people in moving to the metropolitan area where there is diversity, creative cultural offerings, open-mindedness and youthful vigor.

“Violence is never an alternative, but blandness is not a good choice either and that seems to come with this display of prejudice. It comes with discriminatory housing where the “haves” wall-off the very workers needed in their local community businesses while failing to provide the transportation needed to get around these “walls””.

Whither MKE County: Downsizing Physical Plant!

County Supervisor Pat Jursik is preparing a resolution to reduce the number of buildings that Milwaukee County holds at their City Campus facility and start the move to dispose of other underutilized properties in the coming years. She would like plans set into to motion as part of the 2015 County Budget:

Milwaukee County Supervisor Patricia Jursik said today that she has proposed a resolution to reduce the number of properties held by the County, including the City Campus facility.

Almost five years ago the Milwaukee County Board engaged in Strategic Planning, which resulted in several initiatives: Foremost among them was the decision to move forward with downsizing the number County holdings with regard to facilities. Jursik said that at the turn of the 21st century, the County’s workforce was more than 7,500 employees, but it has been since been reduced below 5,000 employees. Yet the County occupies the same space as it did in the last century. The Courthouse fire last summer again reminded the administration of the folly in delaying maintenance and failure to downsize aging buildings.

“As the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee and the author of the resolution to bring in CBRE to help the county obtain the information needed to make good decisions around downsizing our real estate holdings, I am pleased to also author the first formal resolution to initiate the scope and schedule of this work,” Jursik said.

Jursik said that as the County plans for the budget for 2015, the resolution will set the policy for closing City Campus and requires the second phase of decision be given a time line. This next phase will require policy makers to strategically examine the utilization of the Marcia Coggs Center by year’s end. Next, she said, we must address planning for the Behavioral Health Complex and the Vel Phillips Juvenile Justice Center. The Courthouse Complex strategies must be determined by next year regarding the utilization or vacation of the Safety Building, the Medical Examiner’s Space and the Community Correction Center.

“After the fire, all of us learned that the Courthouse is the heart of all the satellite spaces owned by the County,” Jursik said. “It is imperative that we address which of the complex buildings we will keep and which will be deemed outdated and vacated.

“Realization of this initiative will take decades to carry out, but the failure of policy makers to adopt these time frames would mean many more years of deferred maintenance, high utility bills, and poor space planning. It is imperative that we set these plans in motion now so that doing nothing becomes untenable.”

Sup. Deanna Alexander (who isn’t an attorney or judge) interprets Citizens United decision

This is just embarrassing…

“Most people haven’t read the Supreme Court’s decision and the referendum question is rather biased.  Pro-referendum activists seem to be forgetting that corporations are invested in, and run by people.  Anyone embracing liberty – both classical and modern liberals – should embrace this SCOTUS decision because without the protection of this precedent, citizen-run organizations will be subject to government decree when they try to speak out on political issues.

“How would our political landscape look if organizations that many people support could no longer speak freely?  Planned Parenthood, The Sierra Club, the NAACP, and the ACLU – all corporations – are just a few that would loose their right to free speech.  Let’s not forget that federal law considers unions to be corporations for the purposes of campaign finance laws.  Do we really want to limit employees’ rights to collectively support one political candidate over another?  Overturning ‘Citizens United’ could do just that!

Putting aside the fact that Sup. Alexander apparently couldn’t be bothered to proofread her press release – it’s “lose,” not “loose” – I’m in awe of the fact that Sup. Alexander apparently thinks she’s an expert on constitutional law, despite no actual training or education in that area.

Dissimulation on County Board Referendum Right Down To The Wire

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is taking the lies and obfuscations about the Act 14 required referendum on Milwaukee County Board pay and benefits right down to the wire. In a front page article in their March 31, 2014 print edition, they continue the nonsense about cutting supervisor’s pay by half will result in a part time board. If Act 14 wanted a part time board it should have defined and required a part time board…but that probably isn’t practically feasible.

But once again they trotted out the $24,051 annual salary as part time money when it’s actually $11.56 per hour for a 40 hour week. I would think I’d win my bet easily if I wagered that it would be hard to find thousands of hard working county residents who are working full time for a lot less that $11.56.

And they repeated Rep Joe Sanfelippo’s canard that, well, there just isn’t that much to do in the courthouse to fill an 8 hour day…I can’t help it if Rep Sanfelippo couldn’t fill his day when he was county supervisor…and no maybe there isn’t 8 hours to do in the courthouse…but if he wasn’t working 40+ hours a week in the courthouse, civic events, town halls, or with neighborhood groups…he owes his former constituents some ‘splainin’

And of course the bill is also said to prevent supervisors from meddling in day to day county operations. I suggest that if it starts to attract retired individuals or wealthy individuals who look at it as an ego boost…it might in fact get much worse.

Yes, I have written about all of this before…several times in fact…and I am not saying that there isn’t support for looking at the board and all of county government and consider some make overs. BUT, this bill and resulting referendum is exactly the ‘formally crafted punishment’ that it’s author and supporters deny.

VOTE NO ON APRIL 1ST!

Whither MKE County: The April Fool’s Referendum

It’s amazing that the last nail in the coffin of the Milwaukee County Board as we know it is a bogus referendum that is just a week away. Except for two very minor articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this referendum has gone pretty much unnoticed. The left and the supporters of the board realize that 90% of the damage was all ready inflicted by Act 14 so this is just the epilog. County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic hit it right on the head when she declared the referendum a sham:

County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic has called the referendum a sham because last year’s law on the board already eliminated supervisors’ benefits, starting after the 2016 supervisors’ elections. The same law also will reduce the board’s budget so greatly that it would force a major salary cut, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, Dimitrijevic has said.

What is truly amazing is no one has started any kind of campaign to solicit a no vote on the referendum…it has been a forgone conclusion that it will pass.

But I was totally dumbfounded to read that Sheldon Lubar is supporting an eleventh hour effort to convince people to vote yes. He waited until two weeks before the election to start to campaign? And he needs other people’s money? WTF? Lubar can set up a $100,000 fund from his pocket change.

Well anyway, it will be interesting how many votes yea or nay this thing will pull in. After all there is nothing on most of the ballots in Milwaukee County…the only other county wide election is for MILWAUKEE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE, BRANCH 32 – contested by LAURA GRAMLING PEREZ and CEDRIC CORNWALL.

But I’ll urge everyone of you who votes on April 1st to vote NO on the referendum initiative. Here is the referendum for your consideration:

County Supervisor’s Pay – 2013 Wisconsin Act 14: “Shall that portion of 2013 Wisconsin Act 14 which limits the compensation of members of the board of supervisors of Milwaukee County other than the chairperson of the board and chairperson of the finance committee to receipt of an annual salary of not more than the annual per capita income of this county, which in 2012 was $24,051, and which limits the compensation of the chairperson of the board to not more than 150 percent of that amount and the chairperson of the finance committee to not more than 125 percent of that amount, subject to limitations and adjustments specified by law; and which prohibits supervisors from receiving any compensation or benefits not specifically authorized or required by law become effective in this county on April 18, 2016?” YES NO

By the way, this comes out to $11.53 per hour for a forty hour week…and the Republican’s claim this is part time money…yet they resist raising the actual minimum wage (and those making between minimum and proposals for a higher minimum) for people who work full time at the minimum. They are so totally full of it!

Hey, I Think We Found Another Miscalculation In The County Budget!

In an article posted to JSOnline this evening, writer Steve Schultze of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel outlines the staff cuts and budget cuts for the County Board that County Executive Chris Abele has proposed in his County Budget. Of course the majority of these cuts are required under the law passed by the Republicans earlier this year with the full support and consent of the county exec (Act 14). From JSOnline:

The Milwaukee County Board will lose three-fourths of its staff and almost 40% of its budget next year, when cuts to the board’s resources ordered under a new state law kick in.

At least, that’s what would happen under the budget proposed by County Executive Chris Abele, a prime backer of the law clamping limits on the board.

Supervisors said they may have some wiggle room to make some adjustments to what Abele suggested for the board’s budget.

And Abele’s budget could be targeted for cuts by the board, despite a provision in the new law its author said was aimed at preventing retaliatory action against Abele by the board at budget time.

Abele’s budget lops $2.5 million and 28 staff positions from the board for next year, leaving it $4.1 million and 11 staffers.

The reductions for the Milwaukee County Board are further moderated because nine staff jobs now under the board would shift to other departments — four research analysts, four committee clerks and a graphics designer.

Those staffers will still serve the board, though they’ll answer to other department heads.

Each of the 18 supervisors had authority to hire a legislative assistant this year, but several of those aides have left in the wake of Act 14. Abele’s budget calls for whittling the number of assistants to four, which would mean four or five supervisors would share one assistant.

The board will get a chance to rearrange the staffing suggested by Abele, said Supervisor Theo Lipscomb Sr.

Well, although that seems excessive it is within the confines of Act 14…but as Capper says…there is more…there always is more”

Abele cut the board’s budget by $45,000 below what the new state limit would have allowed. Lipscomb said that may be changed by the board.

“Yes, I think that was petty,” Lipscomb said.

Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said Abele’s extra $45,000 cut came as a surprise. She said it was never mentioned by Abele or other county staff.

“Didn’t he get everything he want with this Republican bill?” Dimitrijevic said, referring to Act 14.

Abele said he won’t veto the $45,000 if the board decides to add that.

$45,000? Really? “Yes, I think that is petty!

Miscalculations In County Budget Now Total $3 Million

So under legislation passed by his new cronies in Madison, County Executive Chris Abele got a hot shot County Controller who gets to check out the budget…and of course County Executive Abele has his own budget director whose total absolutely most important responsibility is to get the budget right…but instead we get a budget proposal from the County Executive’s office that is out of whack by $3 MILLION…so other than stabbing many of his original supporters in the back over his various anti-county stances…he can’t even do the job he was elected to do!

Here’s the original article from JSOnline that I stole the headline from!

Highlights here:

Errors of about $2.1 million were acknowledged by Abele’s budget staff Tuesday, while County Comptroller Scott Manske said he was to blame for another mistake of nearly $1 million.

The $2.1 million in errors were due to miscalculations, including understating the cost of Abele’s proposal to cut paratransit fares for frail elderly and disabled riders by $1, to $3 a ride; and low-balling the cost of salaries of deputies who work as bailiffs.

(County Controller) Manske apologized for overstating a fund transfer expected from airport revenue by $920,000, a figure relied on by Abele’s staff in crafting his 2014 budget.