Doesn’t Sanfelippo Understand How Democracy Works?

State Representative Joe Sanfelippo recently had an op-ed piece published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explaining his authoring of a bill to limit the issuance of township and county IDs. There are probably a lot of things to talk about related to the purported issuance of such IDs but I am not going to go into that point with this post.

But what I am going to pull out of the context of the piece, is a bit of dullardry on the part of Rep. Sanfelippo. There has been a ton of interference in local government by the state legislature since the initial election of Governor Scott Walker and particularly since the Republicans solidified their control over both houses in the state legislature. So they are getting a little bit sensitive when the opposing Democrats or local government elected officials or local school boards or local school districts or agencies complain about interference in local affairs from Madison. But here is what the good representative wrote:

Since we began circulating the legislation in December, opponents and various media outlets have falsely labeled our proposal as an “attack on local control” (Journal Sentinel editorial, Jan. 1). But the bill only prohibits the issuance of municipal IDs by counties and towns, which are extensions of state government. So local control does not apply there. Since cities and villages are allowed to issue IDs under the bill, there is no issue there, either.

His bill will only interfere with the local officials elected to run counties and towns because they are extensions of state government. Rep. Sanfelippo is legally and (state) constitutionally correct. But that probably isn’t how his constituents actually see it or understand it. They actually expect their locally elected officials to act in the best interests of their local towns and counties. They don’t expect them to be plenipotentates of the powers that be in Madison.

So I suggest despite the legal niceties, we all still see these little interventions as attacks on local control. And I would think it would be a solid bet that if his predecessor had introduced any number of these bills, that former Milwaukee County Supervisor Sanfelippo would be hot under the collar at the interference in local governance…

Republicans attempt to usurp local control once again on issue of photo IDs

But remember, Republicans are 100% supportive of local control!

A pair of Republican lawmakers are circulating a proposal that would prohibit county and town governments from issuing — or spending money on — photo identification cards.

The legislation would also bar photo ID cards issued by cities or villages from being used for things like voting or obtaining public benefits, such as food stamps.

Critics say the legislation is an attack on local control and is targeting a plan recently approved by city and county officials in Milwaukee to issue local identification cards to the homeless, immigrants in the country illegally and other residents unable to obtain state driver’s licenses or other government-issued ID cards. They also say the bill is an example of anti-immigrant discrimination.

The measure’s sponsors, state Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), say they’re trying to fight fraud and prevent confusion.

“Preventing fraud and abuse in voting and state government programs has been a priority for this Legislature,” they wrote in memo seeking co-sponsors. “Creating another government photo identification card that people may believe qualifies them for benefits is potentially misleading, confusing, and unfair to the card’s recipient, and unnecessary.”

Joe Sanfelippo wants to make elected schools superintendent a gubernatorially-appointed position

So apparently Republican State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo doesn’t want the people of Wisconsin to be able to choose the superintendent of the state’s public school system.

After an appeals court overruled Republican attempts to weaken the powers of the state’s elected schools superintendent, a GOP lawmaker wants to let the governor choose the superintendent rather than voters.

It’s one of several changes that Republicans have made to weaken the powers of state and local officials aligned with Democrats, moves that GOP lawmakers say are needed to make government work more smoothly. Democrats scoff at that, saying the legislation is nothing more than a naked power grab transferring authority from voters to Republican officials.

The current schools superintendent, Tony Evers, has ties to Democrats and in 2011 Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers attempted to give the governor the power to halt administrative rules issued by Evers. But in February 2015 a state appeals court upheld a lower court decision striking down that move as unconstitutional given that the state’s charter says that “the supervision of public instruction shall be vested in a state superintendent” elected to four-year terms in officially non-nonpartisan elections.

That case is now before the state Supreme Court, but Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) isn’t waiting on the high court to decide it. Instead Sanfelippo is proposing a constitutional amendment to stop electing superintendents, saying that Evers and the Department of Public Instruction haven’t done enough to improve schools that are struggling in some parts of the state.

I’m not entirely sure why anyone would think it would be a good idea to hand over control of our state’s public school system to a governor who doesn’t exactly have a track record of educational achievement or know-how, but apparently Joe Sanfelippo sees logic where others see nothing but failure.

Chris Abele: It’s Time To Start Acting Like A Leader

Yesterday The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s JSOnline website published two more articles that outline the dysfunction that continues to plague Milwaukee County government. Now I am not holding the county board blameless in this, but post Act 14, the county executive has consolidated powers…something he fully supported to the detriment of county residents…yet he continues to pout inside the courthouse instead of reaching out to the board. It would be truly beneficial if he would finally act like the county leader he seems to want to be.

First article talked about the long drawn out attempt to come to a working agreement between the tenants at the lakefront War Memorial building. After the two parties couldn’t work out their differences, County Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic got involved and asked former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske to mediate a settlement. The resulting settlement has the approval of the veterans groups at the War Memorial, the approval of the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the unanimous support of the Milwaukee County Board. Why he is unable to get behind the agreement is totally inexplicable to nearly everyone except County Exec Abele:

County Executive Chris Abele said Wednesday he wants to reach a compromise to avoid vetoing a deal he says is too costly on upgrading the War Memorial Center.

Abele had insisted on freezing county support at no more than $1.3 million a year, some $300,000 less than a wide-ranging deal approved last month by the County Board on funding and management of the center. The center is owned by the county and its space is shared by veterans groups and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The board unanimously approved a deal that calls for a guaranteed $1.6 million in annual support from the county for a decade.

In the face of an almost-certain veto override, Abele suggested in an email to County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic Friday that she work with him on a compromise figure and a shorter guaranteed funding period.

“If we could do this, perhaps we could even find money to spend on actual services for veterans,” Abele wrote.

Dimitrijevic has not responded to the offer, but instead sought publicity for her call for Abele to back down and sign the measure approved by the board July 25, Abele said.

“She can talk all she wants on harmony,” Abele said, reacting to Dimitrijevic’s urging Abele to agree with the board’s stance. “I sent her an email and asked about compromise on this and haven’t heard back from her.”

Dimitrijevic, in an emailed response, said the board-approved version already was a compromise between the War Memorial and the art museum. She didn’t directly respond to Abele’s request for further changes to the deal.

Abele has called the $1.6 million county aid figure “a freaking insult to veterans and frankly to taxpayers.”

Now keep in mind that the county owns the facility…and would ultimately be responsible for its maintenance if this agreement is nullified. So the board is certainly eager to find a resolution.

But it’s fine and dandy for Exec Abele to call out Chairwoman Dimitrijevic for being uncooperative…but it looks like he is the one who doesn’t get communication here. He sent her an email? They work in the same building…he can’t call her…I bet he has her phone numbers…he can’t walk down the hall and talk to her? Has he reached out to any of the board. A leader doesn’t send an email out and sit back and await a response…that’s a manager and a poor one at that. Exec Abele, you won the Act 14 war, you lost this battle…go down the hall or get on the phone…talk it out and stop procrastinating until the last minute to sign the agreement.

Oh, and the crack about an insult to the veterans…dissing an agreement they negotiated and reducing the amount of county support they requested isn’t a freaking insult to veterans involved? Keep a civil tongue sir!

The second article talks about Exec Abele’s being fearful about seeking confirmation for his new County Parks Director John Dargle. Mr. Dargle has been on the job since May of this year and is technically the acting parks director until the board confirms his appointment. Now technically the board is on hiatus until September but there were plenty of opportunities before the summer break to submit a request for confirmation.

County Executive Chris Abele has held off seeking County Board confirmation for his choice for parks director out of fear John Dargle could become another victim of board backlash over Abele’s support for a new state law cutting the board’s power and budget.

“Before asking supervisors to confirm (Dargle), we wanted to make sure they are familiar with him and his vision,” Brendan Conway, Abele’s spokesman, said Wednesday. “We also want to make sure John was not caught up in some of the other actions the board took against other appointees this summer.”

The board ousted two Abele appointees in July. Corporation Counsel Kimberly Walker was fired by the board, an action upheld in an override of a veto by Abele. The board also voted not to confirm Kathleen Eilers, Abele’s choice to head the county’s Behavioral Health Division.

Abele has attributed those moves to a backlash over his advocacy of Act 14, the state law reining in the board’s reach. Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic has denied those ousters were payback.

The explanation for the delay by Abele in seeking a board confirmation vote on Dargle came in response to a letter from Supervisor Gerry Broderick Wednesday saying it was high time that Abele referred the Dargle nomination for a confirmation vote by the board.

Broderick, chairman of the board’s parks committee, noted that Abele hired John Dargle Jr. in May as parks director, but had not asked the board yet to confirm him. That means Dargle is technically serving as acting parks director.

“With the end of summer now approaching, it seems appropriate that we see his nomination before the committee by Sept. 17” so the full County Board can act on it Sept. 26, Broderick wrote.

Now, all I have available is what I read in the paper, but if Supervisor Broderick has to seek out Exec Abele requesting that he submit Mr. Dargle for confirmation, the county executive isn’t doing his job. Apparently he has not made his intentions known to Supervisor Broderick and by inference I would guess he hasn’t contacted anyone else on the board or the parks committee. He didn’t even email anyone this time? Has he introduced Mr. Dargle to the board members? A meet and greet with coffee and donuts some morning?

Yes I understand that the County Exec is reticent to submit a new hire for confirmation if he isn’t sure of the result…or as sure as one can be in any confirmation process…but has he been lobbying the board on Mr. Dargle’s behalf? It sounds like he’s done nothing so far. That isn’t leadership either. If Mr. Dargle is the right candidate, get out there in the courthouse and persuade the board member.s

It’s become clear that County Executive Abele would rather be an administrator or manager than a leader…but now that Act 14 has given the exec’s office more authority than is wise…it’s time he acted like a leader!! And leaders get out and confront the issues…negotiate with their opponents…and proactively do what is right for the residents of Milwaukee County!

Now here’s an old Lyndon Johnson type of idea…how about CALLING County Board Chairwoman Dimitrijevic and offer to sign the War Memorial agreement in exchange for confirmation of your new parks director! Just might work!!

Local Control and the Republican Wisconsin Legislature

Local Control used to be a sacred tenet…particularly in the Republican arena…and in a way it still is but the Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature have a funny way of expressing it.

Because a certain county executive got in a snit about being stymied in his efforts to make county government over in his own image, he found a Republican ally in a spiteful former county supervisor who managed to get elected to the state assembly. Did Milwaukee County residents get taken into account as their local county government got defanged? Well, only in passing and only if you count the farcical 2014 referendum on supervisor pay as local control. Did we get real input from county residents? Was there even lip service to local control? No, we got 90 some assembly members and 25+ state senators with no ties to Milwaukee County stuffing ACT 14 down our throats.

Now it’s still in litigation, but over the objection that it violated local control and was opposed by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities…did the City of Milwaukee maintain local control in residency requirements? Were the 100 other municipalities around the state similarly effected given any semblance of input? Was there even any valid public discussion on removing residency requirements? Not on your life…an issue that is the very essence of local control…a perfect candidate for local referendums…was snuck through in the 2013 – 2015 Biennial Budget.

But whoa, those dastardly traffic roundabouts…if the Wisconsin Department of Transportation tries to foist anymore of those, those things on the motoring public…well local control DEMANDS that local government has the final word on their construction!

The bill, a brainchild of state Rep. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon), requires roundabout projects to win approval from local governments, through a majority vote, prior to construction.

A release from Craig’s office said the bill had strong bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate.

“This legislation ensures that local communities have a say in the roundabout process and ensures that Madison bureaucrats — many of whom will never use the roundabouts they design — cannot trample on the voice of those who will actually navigate these roadway projects,” Craig said after introducing the bill.

The only one of the three things I have just mentioned where the pesky Madison bureaucrats just might know something more about than the locals…is roundabouts…I mean…we have a whole building of traffic engineers in Madison who do this sort of thing every work day of the week. It’s their job description!

But they might never use the roundabouts they design so they can’t be trusted to design them? What about those state assemblymen and state senators who will never use Milwaukee County government trampling on the voice of those who are actually affected by MKE county government? Or the same group of elected state officials who may never ever actually set foot in the City of Milwaukee (unless they need to use the airport) trampling on the voice of those who actually use city services and rely on their first responders?

But never fear, defending local governments from roundabouts is the first line of DEFENSE of local control!

Whither MKE County: Sheldon Lubar Will Show You Whither You Mindless Plotters

Mr Sheldon Lubar, Milwaukee business icon and one of the Machiavellian triumvirate behind the gutting of Milwaukee County elective government apparently is in a snit about the County Board’s firing of County Corporation Counsel Kimberly Walker. Whether you support the boards action or not, they are within their legal right to remove Ms. Walker from office…and if the board lacks confidence in Ms. Walker’s abilities…well she has to go.

Apparently in high dudgeon, Mr. Lubar wrote to Supervisor Theo Lipscomb, “you and the rest of your mindless plotters of 13 supervisors should be ashamed of yourselves”. Well, like any fine area citizen, Mr. Lubar is certainly entitled to his opinion, but he continues:

Lubar said the firing was done to get back at County Executive Chris Abele, who had a key role in advocating for the new state law curbing the authority and resources of the County Board. Lubar also pressed for the change.

“Your conduct is unfortunately more evidence of the dysfunction of the County Board”

Lubar criticized Dimitrijevic as “a child… She has no maturity.” He compared her unfavorably to her predecessor as chairman, Lee Holloway.

Lubar’s letter said, “the solution must be further change” and pledged to work to downsize the board. He said he had no specific plans to seek further legislation to cut the size of the board.

So, for supposedly acting petty and smug by firing Ms. Walker, the board was getting back at Executive Abele. How totally dysfunctional…so his response it to get back at the board by threatening to continue to work to downsize them? Mr. Lubar, it’s time to stand down…you are petty and hypocritical and just a wee bit dysfunctional!

It’s A Done Deal: Scott Walker Signs Bill to Gut Milwaukee County Board

Governor Scott Walker found his way to Milwaukee today and signed Assembly Bill 85 to gut the power and authority of Milwaukee County’s Board of Directors:

Gov. Scott Walker said Friday Milwaukee County government should function more efficiently, under a County Board reform bill Walker signed into law.

“This allows us to empower the taxpayer,” Walker said at a bill-signing ceremony at Serb Hall on Milwaukee’s south side. “It saves money for the taxpayers…and will result in government that is more responsive and efficient.”

The measure cuts the power and resources of the County Board, while beefing up the authority of County Executive Chris Abele.

Supervisors would lose power on contracts, labor negotiations and land sales, under the measure. The County Board’s budget also drops by two-thirds, though some staff and other costs previously counted as part of the board’s current $6.6 million budget are excluded from a new funding cap for the board.

Supervisor terms will change from four years to two, starting with the 2016 elections, under the law.

And supervisor pay would drop by 50% to about $24,000 a year, if voters agree in a 2014 referendum. Only that provision is subject to voter approval.

Walker stressed the importance of the referendum as giving voters the power to decide whether to in effect reduce the job of Milwaukee County supervisor to part time.

“”This allows us to empower the taxpayer,” Walker said…” What, you just took away authority and power from my elected representative which in effect removes my personal direct access to that authority and you call that empowering? Really? I am not feeling it!

And here’s a good one:

The County Board has voted to hire an outside attorney to review the legislation for a possible court challenge.

Walker scoffed at the notion of a court challenge.

Scoffed you say? It’s not like any of his previous legislation hasn’t ended up in court…aina?

And I see a very prominent County Executive Chris Abele looking like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas…Democrat my foot!

Walker Signs AB85

Photograph by Michael Sears and appears on JSONLINE with the article linked here and above.

Whither Milwaukee County: Why Hasn’t Scott Walker Signed THE Bill?

I would have thought that Governor Walker signing Representative Joe Sanfelippo’s Assembly Bill 85 to neuter the Milwaukee County Board was a slam dunk. Or is the governor really too busy jet setting from GOP enclave to GOP enclave?

But really, I would have expected an nearly instantaneous signing with tons of fanfare and rousing high fives all round…

So is there still some back room last minute dealing going on? Or is the governor carefully studying the bill with pen in hand crafting a Frankenstein bill after his own image via line item veto?

Whither Manitowoc County: Board Passes Resolution in Support of Milwaukee County Board

Quite frankly I am surprised that it has taken this long for other county boards to take notice and then take action:

MANITOWOC, Wis. —The Manitowoc County supervisors have passed a resolution criticizing Republican-backed legislation that would weaken the power of the Milwaukee County Board.

Manitowoc County is three counties north of Milwaukee County, but its supervisors weighed in this week to express their disapproval over the resolution that takes away resources and authority from their Milwaukee County counterparts. They passed a resolution 20-4 opposing the state’s legislation.

The resolution was written by Supervisor Jim Brey, who said the Wisconsin Legislature’s action violates the principle of home rule, the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter reported.

He said “there would be hell to pay” if state legislators tried to tell Manitowoc County supervisors how to do their jobs, and that the action opens the door to the state micromanaging county governments.