Impeach Governor Scott Walker!

No, not over Act 10 which gutted the rights of public employees and their unions, not over Act 14 that gutted the authority of the Milwaukee County Board, not the meddling in the Milwaukee Public School System, not Right to Work Legislation, not budget cuts to public schools, not budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin system, not the ineffective DNR, etc., etc., etc.

But Wisconsin Governor Walker should be impeached…now…for his total failure to protect the young people incarcerated at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls and the total ineptitude and arrogance of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. Since the closing of the Ethan Allen School for Boys in Wales just west of Milwaukee in Waukesha county, all minor males sent to the state for incarceration have been sent to Lincoln Hills near Merrill WI over 200 miles from Milwaukee.

There is a laundry list of mistreatment of inmates, lack of trained medical personnel and a chronic shortage of trained staff…resulting in overtime and overworked state employees. There is in fact little or no reason that this should exist and it can no longer be tolerated…and the blame goes right to the top…the office of Governor Scott Walker.

I suggest that you read this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But here are some excerpts:

For years, officials knew or should have known about the thicket of problems at Lincoln Hills and its sister facility on the same campus, Copper Lake School for Girls.

“It all went on in plain view of the Department of Corrections, but nobody at the Department of Corrections knew how juvenile corrections worked or how Lincoln Hills operated or what was going on,” said Troy Bauch, who until recently was the union representative for workers there.

The sweeping criminal probe, now nearly 2 years old, is examining allegations of prisoner abuse, child neglect, sexual assault, intimidation of witnesses and victims, strangulation and tampering with public records. A separate internal investigation uncovered four incidents where inmates’ bones were broken.

The crisis at Lincoln Hills is rooted in systematic breakdowns, lax management, confusion over policies, a lack of communication and chronic staff shortages, a review of more than 1,000 pages of records and dozens of interviews by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found.

Officials trained staff improperly, failed to preserve video evidence, didn’t document serious incidents, and often shirked their duty to report matters to parents, police and social service agencies.

The shortcomings intensified in 2011 when the Walker administration shut down two youth prisons in southeastern Wisconsin to save $25 million a year. The move put all of the state’s serious teen offenders in one facility — hundreds of miles from most of their families.

“The entire climate went from mildly hellish to the ninth ring of hell,” said Timothy Johnson, a former guard.

While a developing crisis quickly became apparent, no one moved to address it.

After nearly six years in office, Walker has yet to visit Lincoln Hills.

(emphasis mine).

There is absolutely no reason that young people should be treated like this while under the care and control of the State of Wisconsin…no matter what reason sent them to Lincoln Hills.

What is the governor’s most recent response to the issues al Lincoln Hills and the Milwaukee County Boards reluctance to continue to send juveniles there? Build a new prison in Milwaukee County as long as the county pays to run it.

Gov. Scott Walker is considering having the state help fund building a Milwaukee County juvenile corrections center, but the county would have to pay for running it.

Milwaukee County officials have sought a way to keep more teen inmates closer to home instead of sending them more than 200 miles away to Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls.

The two secure facilities share a campus north of Wausau and have been under criminal investigation for nearly two years for prisoner abuse and child neglect.

But nary a word about fixing the issues as Lincoln Hills…so why wait until the criminal investigations bring back the records of wrongdoing and indictments…IMPEACH GOVERNOR WALKER NOW!

Chris Abele proposes wheel tax for Milwaukee County

This is sure to be popular.

A $60 vehicle registration fee, or wheel tax, is needed beginning in 2017 to help pay for Milwaukee County’s bus transit system and costs of repairing county highways and parkways, County Executive Chris Abele said Thursday.

The new fee would be a dedicated source of funding for transportation and generate around $27.1 million a year, Abele told reporters at the courthouse.

The county fee would be paid on top of the state’s $75 registration fee for vehicle owners, for a total of $135. City of Milwaukee vehicle owners already pay a separate wheel tax of $20 so the total for city owners would become $155.

As County Executive Abele eyes a run for governor in 2018, his proposal to levy a $60 wheel tax on Milwaukee County’s vehicle owners seems like an attack ad that writes itself.

Chris Abele Is Getting Ripped Off

This will probably only interest the subset of readers who have run for office or got deep into running campaigns…but way at the bottom it does actually bring up an issue we should consider when voting on April 5th for County Executive. But on with the story:

Obviously as a political activist, former candidate for office, and habitual voter my house gets all of the local campaign literature that it’s entitled to in the mail. Makes for some interesting reading some days.

Now campaigns usually have consultants who create and order the literature for the campaign based on a database…pulling a list of addressees depending on the demographics that the candidate wants to reach. And generally the candidate pays per piece of literature.

Now an ethical contractor…or an efficient contractor…will consolidate the mailing list if more than one individual lives in a single household. Just today for instance, I received a mailed lit piece from each of the candidates for alderperson from my district. One piece from each candidate…and it was addressed to my wife and myself…that is what I would expect. The same thing happens when Chris Larson’s campaign for county executive sends lit to my home.

But not when his opponent, incumbent Chris Abele mails things. As many Milwaukee county residents know, County Exec Abele’s campaign has been overwhelming our mail boxes with literature throughout the campaign season. But instead of getting one piece in each mailing, both my wife and I get one. So I am suggesting that someone contracting with the campaign isn’t protecting their client by merging the mailing list or worse are padding their fees by just mailing to everyone individually. Or the campaign staff isn’t supervising the counts against the population and making sure they make sense. One less piece mailed to my house is one more outreach to another potential voter.

So, why should most of us care? Obviously County Executive Abele can afford to run the campaign that he his running and either doesn’t care about the cost or doesn’t care to oversee his campaign sufficiently to efficiently control costs. Does that attitude carry over to his style of governing Milwaukee County?

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.

Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division employee files lawsuit, alleges racism

Meanwhile in the Behavioral Health Division of Chris Abele’s administration…

She has the most seniority on the job at Milwaukee County’s Behavioral Health Division, yet Doris Ellison says Milwaukee County is ignoring her seniority and she is alleging racism.

Ellison believes she has a good case, and so do some others.

Ellison, a certified nursing assistant for Milwaukee County’s Behavioral Health Division, came to the Milwaukee County Courthouse with paperwork in hand and the backing of her labor union.

“This week, the county forced her to work third shift for the first time since 1990,” Dennis Hughes, with AFSCME Council 32 said.

But there is more to this story than a simple shift change.

Ellison alleges racism and officials ignoring her seniority are factors.

Ellison was working in long-term care with psychiatric patients for the county. Milwaukee County officials closed the facility and Ellison said she applied to take other first shift positions, but never got one.

“They’ve been hiring people off the street and giving them positions over all of us,” Ellison said.

Representatives with Ellison’s union say Act 10 led to Milwaukee County officials ignoring seniority.

Sheriff Clarke Sues County Exec Abele Over First Amendment?

Well here’s a good one…Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is accusing Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele of infringing on the good sheriff’s 1st Amendment rights of free speech by trying to cut millions of dollars out of the sheriff departments budget last year. Really…I mean…really?

Well I guess if you take Citizens United to an absurd conclusion that all money is free speech…then maybe the sheriff has a point…except it isn’t his money…and from what I can see he is blathering all over the airwaves and in print as much as ever…so I don’t know what’s being infringed. But on with the story:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. scored a huge victory late last year when county supervisors overrode plans by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to cut the sheriff’s budget by $4 million.

But Clarke was not done with his longtime political foe. The sheriff has now sued Abele over that budget fight.

Clarke’s claim: His First Amendment rights were violated by the county exec.

“We’re asking a judge to enjoin the county executive from using the budget process to retaliate against any county official for speaking out on matters of public concern,” said Michael. A. I. Whitcomb, the private attorney representing Clarke.

In other words, the sheriff is asking a judge to issue an order telling Abele to follow the U.S. Constitution.

Well at this point this is as absurd as it seems but here is a little more of the rationale behind it:

In his November veto message, Abele said he could not support raising property taxes by 1.4% “to validate the sheriff for his repeated incendiary comments and his out of touch views on criminal justice and our society.”

So yeah this is a little bit personal but I think the sheriff dost protest too much…considering stuff like this:

In the past, Clarke has accused the county exec of having “penis envy” and being an “expert on immaturity.”

If you follow through on this link there is plenty more such talk from both sides.

But here is a bit of the logic from Sheriff Clarke’s suit:

“Executive Abele violated Sheriff Clarke’s First Amendment rights by vetoing the County Board’s amendment that added $4 million for the Office of the Sheriff in the 2016 budget in retaliation for Sheriff Clarke’s speech criticized by Executive Abele in his veto,” Clarke’s suit said.

Yeah well except it seems to me that would need an actual infringement of some sort but Sheriff Clarke is still all over the airwaves on Milwaukee radio and I even saw him on Fox News spouting off about something while I was in Thailand recently. So his ability to speak his mind has not been inhibited in anyway.

But maybe this is the kicker from Sheriff Clarke:

He also said the remarks were made in his capacity as a citizen and not as a part of his official duties

What? Then why do most of his written pronouncements come out on official stationary of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department or in public service announcements produced by his department and why is he in full uniform and regalia whenever he appears at a press conference or on Fox News? When he is acting as a private citizen he should look and dress like one!

I expect the courts will toss this for the frivolous lawsuit that it is and not waste another dime of the sheriff’s department budget…i.e taxpayer dollars!

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…

Part Time County Job Available: Supervisor Jursik To Retire

County Supervisor Pat Jursik has announced that she will not run for re-election in 2016. Here’s the whole story from JSOnline:

Milwaukee County Supervisor Patricia Jursik will not seek re-election in April to a third full term on the County Board.

Jursik has represented the 8th District communities of St. Francis, Cudahy and South Milwaukee since she was elected in a special election in August 2007. She was re-elected in April 2008 and 2012.

Jursik announced her retirement in a newsletter distributed this week to constituents.

A district resident interested in running for the 8th District seat in the April 5 spring election can file a campaign registration statement and begin circulating nomination papers on Dec. 1.

Jursik is a former chair of the County Board’s economic and community development committee. She currently serves as vice chair of the judiciary committee and is a member of the finance committee.

Those of you in her district have a chance to be involved in county politics…unfortunately she isn’t giving anyone much time to put together a campaign before the period for circulating nomination papers begins. And that’s a shame. Because I am sure there are some interested parties who wouldn’t run against the incumbent but would love to run for the open seat.

Chris Abele’s broken promises

Yesterday Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a piece about a couple of campaign promises that County Executive Chris Abele appears to have broken since being elected to office.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is finding out that it’s easy to throw around campaign promises when running for office the first time.

Super easy.

The hard part comes if you get elected.

In 2011 — when Abele was first vying for the top county job — he made a bunch of campaign pledges, including one “to freeze the executive office budget” and another to cut “taxpayer-funded cars.” He hit these themes repeatedly.

“They’re driving on your dime,” one of Abele’s fliers intoned with a picture of a luxury sedan bearing the license plate “U PAY” in front of the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

“As county executive,” Abele said in a TV ad, “I’ll freeze the executive office budget and cut perks like cars and cellphones.”

Today, Abele tools around the county during the work day in a GMC Yukon XL driven by one of his two private security guards as part of a taxpayer-funded $100,000 annual contract.

And the executive office budget? Not frozen. Not even chilled.

Abele just recommended a $1.6 million budget for his office in 2016 — a 30% increase from the $1.2 million budget that he inherited when first elected five years ago.