Compare/Contrast – Democratic Primary Edition

Today I would like to compare/contrast two different letters sent by the two democratic frontrunners to be the next Governor of our great state.

The first letter was written by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and sent to Alberta Darling and Robin Vos: In this letter, Mayor Barrett brought up three points.

The first, he asked to also screw over the Milwaukee police and fire union members:

You should not give the Milwaukee police and fire unions a special exception to the changes in the bill, forcing all other employees to bear the burden of the cuts……

This year, the employee contribution for police and fire is $14.4 million, whereas the contribution for general city employees is only $8.3 million. Excluding police and fire would cause the City to miss out on the majority of the proposed savings.

Some people call it “savings” some people call it a forced pay cut, which side are you on?

Secondly, require ALL employees to contribute 12% to their healthcare:

For Milwaukee to fully benefit from the health insurance savings proposed in SS SB 11, the City of Milwaukee should be permitted to enroll its employees in the Wisconsin Public Employers’ Group Health Insurance Program. This bill prohibits employers participating in that program from paying more than 88% of the employee premium. Currently, Milwaukee is barred from participating in the program because we do not participate in WRS, and hence excluded from these savings.

Our healthcare costs are $128 million this year, up 121% from 2000. A savings of 12% from increased general city employee contributions would be $6 million. The savings for police and fire would be another $4.7 million. We need to be able to capture the full savings of $10.7 million, including police and fire.

Again, he is advocating taking $10.7 million from the police and firefighters of Milwaukee as a savings to the city of Milwaukee and as a benefit to the city of Milwaukee. Which side are you on?

Third, take collective bargaining benefits away from the Milwaukee police department.

That Milwaukee’s police union is specially entitled to unique binding arbitration provisions, unavailable even to other police or fire bargaining units in the state, is unfair to Milwaukee taxpayers. To avoid any favoritism among law enforcement personnel, the Milwaukee Police Association must be treated in a manner that is consistent with its peers, as outlined in Wis. Stat. 111.77. In order to accomplish this change, you will need to strike Wis. Stat. §111.70(4)(jm).

He wants to bring the Milwaukee police department down in terms of their abilities to collectively bargain, instead of advocating for all to receive theirs back. Which side are you on?

Now it comes time for the contrast version of this post.

This letter was written by Kathleen Falk to Scott Walker demanding an answer on why he is taking women's rights away.

We are writing today to request a written answer to a simple question on the minds of women and men
across Wisconsin: Why did you sign Senate Bill 202 to repeal the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, and in
doing so remove state legal recourse for women who are victims of pay discrimination?

Our request is necessary because the answer you have provided to the people of Wisconsin does not
appear to be honest when compared to the facts.

Now I am not Pollyannaish enough to think that Scott Walker will respond(heck no one is even sure if he can write) or that he will change his mind(David Koch’s big contribution was sent to keep him from changing his mind. The difference though, in my mind is the words used, while Mayor Barrett played in to the republican meme that these are savings and benefits, Kathleen Falk let him know in flat out terms that this is unacceptable and based on something that we all know is not true.

Which side are you on? I stand with Kathleen Falk!


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47 thoughts on “Compare/Contrast – Democratic Primary Edition

  1. Jeff, I never thought I’d say this about another BB blogger, but your post is disingenuous in the extreme. What you failed to quote from the letter was the following:

    This is the situation we face. We have been warned that the upcoming state budget will include large shared revenue reductions. We have also been told that we will be given the tools to offset these cuts. Now we find out that Milwaukee won’t get the same tools as other communities across the state. We also find out that these tools won’t apply to Milwaukee police and fire, which comprise 65% of our operating budget salaries.

    If we are going to ask our employees to shoulder the impact of the state’s budget deficit, it is only fair to apply it to all of them. You should not give the Milwaukee police and fire unions a special exception to the changes in the bill, forcing all other employees to bear the burden of the cuts.

    Given the fait accompli of the Fitzwalker budget, what would you expect a Mayor to do? The state legislature was going to cut the shared revenue number with or without Barrett’s approval and he was in no position to stop it. What would you have him do? He could have laid off a bunch of people, would that have been better? Or should he have pitched to make it the “shared sacrifice” that it should have been? Frankly, I think his letter is an excellent example of his leadership.

    Jeff, your obsession with Falk has blinded you.

    1. What I read reminds me of the initial rules of Animal Farm, specifically “all animals are equal”. What Mayor Barrett is saying in effect is that Milwaukee can’t play favorites because that’s screwing over the city employees who don’t carry badges and guns.

      It’s hardly a secret that the root cause of the budgetary crises affecting nearly every municipality in America has been the Voodoo Economics strategy of kicking the can of funding federal legislative mandates down to the state and local levels. So why is Jeff Simpson putting the cumulative weight of 30 years of national obedience to destructive and divisive GOP policies on the shoulders of Mayor Barrett?

      Jeff, what were you saying before Mayor Barrett entered the Gubernatorial recall race? What were you saying when the redistribution if taxation was in full swing?

      Which side am I on? The side where it says “liberty and justice for all.

      With ambassadors like Jeff Simpson, Falk is looking far too risky to run against Walker.

      1. Nowhere does Jeff lay blame for 30 years of bad policy, blah blah on Tom Barrett. Jeff’s point is that, faced with massively bad policy, Barrett did not oppose it, he went along. He also repeated the Republican rhetoric.

        It’s a simple idea, actually.

        Again I ask, can you show us anywhere that Tom Barrett supported collective bargaining in practice in this case? He seems to have supported the Act 10 plan in part and principle that replaced collective bargaining negotiations last year.

  2. Phil if I wanted to not include anything I would not have linked to the letter unless of course you feel I should copy the full text of every article I reference in the future. I will take under advisement. However, here I had specific comments about these parts.

    I think his letter shows complete lack of leadership and what I am blimded by is seeing the movement hijacked by milktoast politicians and this amazing moment in history fumbled.

    1. I agree that this letter shows that Tom Barrett, who I do like, sadly did not rise to the moment.

      What’s more, those were *cuts in take home pay* due to employees being charged more for the benefits package. And that cut in take home is regressive – very. The benefit costs are pretty flat so the same amount taken from each paycheck means it’s the biggest percentage cut for the lowest paid workers. In some cases the lowest paid had wages cut 15%.

      Just one more reason why we should have had no truck whatsoever with Act 10. We the people rejected it in whole and called on Walker to negotiate. Tom Barrett should have stood with us and working families and should have supported collective bargaining in action.

      1. OK, before someone goes ballistic, here is why I say “Tom Barrett should have ….supported collective bargaining in action.”

        Because I have yet to see where Tom Barrett called on Scott Walker to negotiate with the unions that is, “collective bargaining in action.” Does anyone have an example of him supporting “collective bargaining in action?”

      2. Andy, are you accusing Mayor Barrett of deliberately waging “class warfare”? Are you saying that Barrett intended for these sacrifices to be permanent? The new norm? Can you honestly say that you believe that’s Barrett’s dogmatic plan for all of Wisconsin, and not a temporary measure for doing the best he could with vanishing resources?

        I can’t make up my mind whether you’re a GOP shill or just a GOP dupe. But the talking points are unmistakable. You’re accusing Mayor Barrett of being a bad Governor, as a reason to not elect him to actually be Governor. But Barrett is still the Mayor of Milwaukee. So on and so forth.

        Bottom line: if you have to resort to dishonesty, you don’t have a legitimate case to make.

        1. No, “Memory Man,” I said nothing of the sort and you are behaving dishonestly. You can’t address my points so, instead, you resort to a strawman argument and put words in my mouth. But you’re just debating yourself, not me.

          Try to stick to the issues and drop the personal attacks. Just because someone doesn’t support your candidate in an election doesn’t mean their evil.

          I am using my real name here, not a pretend name. I have been a longtime political activist, like when I was an officer of the Dane County Democratic Party and invited Tom Barrett to speak back around 1997 or `98.

          Again, a simple question: Can you show us when Tom Barrett did what tens of thousands of the rest of us did at the time Barrett wrote this letter – call on Walker to negotiate with the unions? How did he support collective bargaining in practice then? Simple question. He was tested, we all were. How did he act?

          1. Andy, I asked you a few reasonable questions. All I got back was a denial (of what I have no clue) and a lot of personal attacks against me.

            I was actually on the Ars Technica forum when the now famous “NO YUO!” epithet was first hurled. So I’m not impressed by your amateurish use of it.

            Andy, when will you stop beating your wife? Why do you continue to refuse to answer this question?

            1. OK. So I take it you cannot show us where Tom Barrett opposed Walker’s refusal to engage in collective bargaining talks.

              Beyond that, you make histrionic misrepresentation of my words, and then claim that’s “reasonable.” Have a nice conversation with yourself, anonymous person.

  3. Here is an alt letter…

    Dear Vos and darling. We are aware that you are about to give every city/ town/ village a major cut in revenue followed by asking for some of our workers to take a major hit in pay to cover this revenue shortfall. As I am sure that you know, some unions are excluded and we are unable to participate in the same health care system as other cities.

    Your cuts benefit no one and your tools are a machete. They also take away local control from negotiating with our valued employees that perform such important duties for us.

    Please reconsider the effects that this bill will have on our state and lets work together to come up with a compromise that everyone can agree on.

    1. Jeff, if you think that what you wrote constitutes leadership, then I don’t think you know what that word means.

      So let’s say he writes that letter or some variant of it. Then the Satraps of Fitzwalkerstan make their cuts. Now what do you do?

      To me, leadership is ensuring that, in the face of the economic violence inflicted by the Satraps over which you have no more control than you would a raging tornado, ensure that the pain is spread as evenly as possible instead of asking 35% of your employees to cover for everyone.

  4. I am not voting for either of these candidates in the primary but I do think both of them would be very good governors and have voted for each of them in previous gubernatorial races.

    But Mayor Barrett is still actively trying to run a city while Ms. Falk resigned her position and hasn’t had to face the restraints that every other elected county executive, city mayor or village president has had to face since Governor Walker’s attack on WI values and citizens. She can play white knight while the mayor has to be the realist. In one way it makes him a more attractive candidate.

  5. Of all the things I don’t like about Barrett’s rule in Milwaukee, his wanting the awful police union to be treated like all other public employees rather than the entitled, outside force of occupation that Walker desires is NOT one of them.

    As previously noted, the cops and firefighters drive the majority of the operating budget salaries. Both unions also endorsed Walker (and have again in the recall), likely because of promises Walker made to eliminate the residency requirements for Milwaukee fire and police.

    Just like SB10, eliminating the residency requirements for police/fire while leaving it in place for other public employees would be rewarding the most reactionary, right-wing, and Walker-loyal of public employee unions while continuing discriminatory practices against unions that actually give a damn about trade unionism any more. I’m not swayed by this argument at all. Please try again.

  6. I am so mad at the Milwaukee Police and Fire endorsing Walker. It seems that they are saying that Walker’s cuts are fine even though they don’t have to suffer them. They think the cuts are so great, they can have them.

  7. Actually, Kathleen had to address the millions lost in the recession of 2008, 2009 and 2010. She did it by working directly with each union and reaching agreements that reduced $10 milliion in costs to Dane County. She didn’t need draconian statutes to help her. she actually talked to the people affected by the reduction, and she made sure that everyone shared the pain equally. She was county exec for 14 years, longer than anyone else. She has a much longer record than anyone for handling annual cuts from state, federal and local sources. I think most people don’t know what she did personally in the human services programs that lost all their state and most of their federal funding. She actually worked every day for long hours – unlike our current governor. I don’t know about Barrett’s work habits, but I know he never figured out how to talk to the various unions and never got the savings for the county that it needed. As a leader or manager, I’d vote for Falk’s ability to manage difficult situations any day.

    1. I am not belittling Ms. Falk’s leadership nor her ability to manage the tough situations in Dane County. As I said, I voted for her. But she wasn’t hung out to dry and handcuffed all at the same time. Cities lost shared revenue, tax authority and rights to bargain with employees all at the same time since February 2011.

    2. You don’t know anything about Barrett, and that’s why you support Falk unconditionally.


  8. Ben and Phil beat me to it, but I can add a few details to why this is such a disgraceful post by Jeff.

    Remember that the City of Milwaukee had its shared revenue cut by millions in Walker’s budget, and because the City of Milwaukee has ZERO LOCAL SALES TAX AND ZERO LOCAL INCOME TAX, this didn’t leave the city any money available to pay for anything. In addition, police and fire protection are much larger departments in Milwaukee than they are in any other city in Wisconsin (especially when compared to the 262-area code suburbs that Walker favors), so to cut Milwaukee’s ability to have money and prevent them from being able to cut expenses in 2 of their largest departments put a ridiculous squeeze on every other service the city has- like libraries, streets, garbage pickup, etc. Barrett was rightfully pointing out that Act 10 was written in such a way that it unfairly penalizes the City of Milwaukee- and probably by design.

    And by the way, that “favored status” that police and fire got over other public sector unions in Act 10 was the biggest reason parts of it got struck down by a federal judge in the last few weeks. So it turns out that TOM BARRETT WAS RIGHT to oppose the politicially-driven, two-tier system that Act 10 had.

    Jeff, you’re embarrassing yourself with your whining partisanship. Posts like these are dishonest and you’re better than this. It’s these type of cynical antics that have Kathleen Falk well on her way to finishing second…among candidates named Kathleen.

    1. Thanks Jake for the reminder of why these cuts are taking place in the first place.

      It’s the same tired, old and oft-debunked Voodoo Economics promise of something for nothing. “I want the very finest municipal services ever seen on the face of the earth!” followed by “Go to hell, you greedy politician, you’re not raising my taxes!”

      When faced with unreasonable people from all sides, it’s inevitable that nobody will be sated. But the job still is there, and it must be done regardless.

  9. Lets get real here. How did this letter work? It had the same exact effect as falk’s will. Zero. The republicans do not give a shit what anyone says logical or not.

    What this letter does though is give political cover to walker if Barrett is the nominee.

    Phil. You yourself has said that words matter. Irregardless if the police and fire unions should be included or not, to describe what fitzwalkerstan is doing using the words “benefits” and “tools” is inexcusable.

    Anyone who thinks that what act 10 brought us was “tools” to balance the budget is no qualified to run a budget in my book.

    By the way if Barrett foes won get used to seeing this letter. It will be plastered everywhere.

    1. Phil. You yourself has said that words matter. Irregardless if the police and fire unions should be included or not, to describe what fitzwalkerstan is doing using the words “benefits” and “tools” is inexcusable.

      Yes, Jeff, words have consequences and context. Let me give you an example.

      1. An young African-American refers to his friend as “my nigger.”
      2. A middle-aged white slave owner refers to a young African-American as “my nigger.”

      Same word. Different contexts. Very different meanings.

      Same with “benefits” and “tools.” In February of 2011, those words were not loaded in the way they were after the protests began in March. You’re projecting the meaning back in time.

      Simply using the words “tools” and “benefits” in a letter from mid-February is certainly not inexcusable. It’s understandable given the context.

      By the way if Barrett foes won get used to seeing this letter. It will be plastered everywhere.

      Frankly, I think the letter shows strong leadership early in the process. Telling the Satraps that if they’re going to attack public workers, they need to attack them all, not just the ones who didn’t support them.

      Jeff, IMVHO, your sad attempt to smear Barrett with this letter is… sad.

        1. Wow… That is so weak, Jeff. So pathetic and weak.

          I’m embarrassed for you having posted this unsupportable screed against Barrett.

              1. I am only going to comment this time and never again on this but you actually makes my point.

                In neither situation is that word ok to use, no matter who uses it.

                1. Epically disagree, but I’m a child of the 21st century who graduated from MPS and appreciates rap music. I may not use the word for obvious reasons, but I don’t begrudge my non-white friends who do. Lot more complex than it seems on the surface.

  10. So Jeff, are you saying you think that certain public employee unions should be exempted from the provisions of Act 10 while others are made to suffer?

    It’s worth noting that a federal judge threw out the provisions of Act 10 that were applied to some public employee unions and not others, citing equal protection under the Constitution.

      1. To your question:

        a) He went along with much of the Republican game plan of Act 10 and did not oppose it. He complained it didn’t go far enough.

        b) He echo’ed the Republican talking points. That’s a blunder done by many Dems that VALIDATES the Republican message.

        c) He did not call for Walker to change his ways or to negotiate under collective bargaining, supporting Walker’s legislative alternative.

        I’ve yet to see how this letter is strong leadership when it follows the Walker game plan. No doubt, he faced a tough economy and tough choices. That’s part of the gig and he will face more such tough choices if he wins the Governor’s office. Will he stand up to Republicans?

  11. Fine. I stand with Falk on her letter about oranges.

    And I stand with Barrett on his letter about apples.

    What I can’t stand the ridiculous lengths to which you are going on this blog to trash Barrett. He was absolutely correct in his letter, as we Milwaukeeans know.

    Your Madisonian ignorance of the largest city in this state convinces me that we cannot afford to have another Madisonian as governor, after the damage that Doyle wrought to state workers even before Walker.

    1. Other Anon- I identify myself as Madisonian, and I view Jeff’s act as stupid and whiny. This is not some Madison/ Milwaukee thing, I assure you.

      But I also agree with Phil and Zach. I see this letter as a “do you understand how this will work, you GOP dimwits?” type of letter, and indicative of the fact that Barrett bases his work on reality and results instead of poser ideology. God knows we need that right now. And the fact that the federal judge threw out parts of Act 10 FOR THE EXACT REASON BARRETT’S LETTER SAYS THAT IT IS WRONG (a 2-tier system of benefits based on whether or not you supported Walker in 2010), makes Tom look pretty intelligent if you ask me.

      1. Good; you reassure me that there is hope for agreement, east and west on the I94 trail, after dozens of comments by Jeff Simpson trashing Tom Barrett on many threads — and now this.

        Is he reflecting his candidate’s thinking on Act 10 exemptions for certain public employees but not others? And, in terms of his candidate’s letter on an entirely different topic, is she aware that the police and fire employees exempted primarily are men, while most public employees hit by Act 10 in their take-home pay and pensions and health insurance are women?

        That is, is he aware that Act 10 was part of the war on women — and that Tom Barrett was standing up to its discriminatory exemptions mainly of men?

        Is this news to this Jeff Simpson? I can only hope that it is not news to his candidate.

  12. Accepting that as part of his role as Milwaukee mayor, Barrett needed to ask for what would give him flexibility to not totally decimate other areas of the budget, I still believe his letter should have included a request that they not decimate collective bargaining as part of the budget repair bill.

    Phil, I think your reference to the budget repair bill as a “fate accompli” ends up proving false – this letter was apparently dated Feb 14, and plenty was done to potentially interfere with the passage of the bill in the following weeks. I don’t fault Barrett for advocating for what he felt he needed for Milwaukee – Lord knows Walker left him with a lot to do for MKE & little to do it with. But progressive leadership, IMO, would have at least acknowledged that an attack on bargaining itself wasn’t necessary to balance the budget.

    Ultimately, I want a candidate who FIGHTS for the middle class, women, and workers and this letter does nothing to bolster that for Barrett.

  13. I really don’t understand why people would defend Barrett’s letter. Most of the defense is either the police union and Firefighters deserved it or that it right to spread the pain.

    Actually the main thing this letter shows is that Barrett agrees with a main principle of Act 10. It is ok to change union worker’s pay and/or benefits without negotiating. If you think there is a financial crisis and you need to change pay and benefits just pass a law and ignore the rights of the workers. That is the logic Walker used and Barrett agrees with. To say that another group is losing their rights so everyone should seems even crazier.

    Falk did have to live under the beginning of what Walker did and sat down and negotiated a fair way to get to the concessions. She and the unions negotiated and they kept their voice, their rights and their unions.

    That is the difference in the two candidates and what Barrett’s letter means. Do you agree with fair negotiations or do you think a governor and legislature should be able to just change union contracts without talking to workers – i.e. you have no union rights in WI if the politicians feel any reason to take them away?

    1. “Falk did have to live under the beginning of what Walker did…”

      Dave: Since I live in Milwaukee, I am NOT up to speed on everything that went down in Dane County last spring…but considering the events in the Capitol that we are talking about went down from basically February to March 2011 and Ms. Falk left office in April 2011…I am not sure how much time she had to negotiate “a fair way to get to the concessions”. I doubt she had time to put together a new budget for the following fiscal year when the governor’s signature was barely dry on his legislation.

      If I were a true cynic, I would suggest she bailed out before she had to deal with the mess…so if you’ve got some more details about Dane County spring 2011, I’d love to hear them.

  14. Here’s the thing: This letter sent by Tom Barrett was sent in February of 2011. Why did he think it would do any good? That the Republicans would change their ways due to the advice of the Democratic Mayor of Milwaukee who just ran against their candidate? Hullo? For that he agreed with them and echo’ed them.

    That’s very close to Obama thinking some early concessions would get House Republicans in the compromising spirit. How did THAT work?

    And, when we were uniting and demanding that Walker negotiate with unions, and not pass Act 10, Tom Barrett was echoing the call for Act 10 and, to my knowledge, did not support collective bargaining NEGOTIATIONS (yes, he supports the rights, but comes up short on the practice).

    We’re in a unique moment in history and we need someone who will not waver before the Republican machine. We need a strong alternative. Falk, yeah!

  15. No one said Barrett did not have it hard due to act10 what we are saying is he should have been more forceful in saying why instead of kissing vos’s ass and agreeing that these are benefits and tools.

    I agree with Andy where is there ever a letter from Barrett disagreeing with any scott walker policy?

    1. Gosh, now, where did I read that long list of statements and letters and more by Tom Barrett about those policies when Walker dropped the “bomb” in February 2011?

      Oh, yeh. That list was right here in Blogging Blue not long ago. But maybe you were too busy reading your assigned daily anti-Barrett talking points to post them here.

      Here’s just some of what you can find at this site I can recommend called Blogging Blue, where your fellow blogger wrote: “If the people asking this question can’t remember Tom Barrett’s role during those crucial weeks, allow me to take you down memory lane,” courtesy of Cory Liebmann:

      Tom Barrett Comments on Collective Bargaining February 2011

      “The budget adjustment bill pits general City of Milwaukee employees against the fire and police unions,” – Tom Barrett [2/16/11]

      Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett voiced strong support Thursday for the state Senate boycott by fellow Democrats trying to save public employees’ collective bargaining rights. [MJS 2/17/11]

      “Instead of talking with teachers, nurses, and law enforcement personnel to work together on a solution to our budget crisis, Scott Walker is dividing Wisconsinites by attempting to end the collective bargaining rights Wisconsin public employees have had since 1959.” – Tom Barrett [MJS, 2/22/11]

      “I fundamentally disagree with the attack on the right to organize,” – Tom Barrett [MJS, 2/22/11]

      Barrett offered a budget-repair bill alternative that removed the attack on collective bargaining [MJS, 2/25/11]

      “It’s now clear to us that this is an ideological war, and it’s a national ideological war, and the purpose of it is to take away the rights of people who work for the government” -Tom Barrett [MJS, 2/25/11]

      “It is time we return to our Wisconsin, the Wisconsin where we can sit down at the table and work out our differences…” -Tom Barrett [MJS, 2/25/11]

  16. Jeff, have you seen the latest attack ads against Mayor Barrett? They tell of a Milwaukee that is a national leader in joblessness and poverty. They blame the Mayor of course. Yet in your Barrett letter quote I see someone who is working for the people of this maligned city, asking public workers to play fair with limited funds. Falk, despite her good intentions, will be seen by most as a union stooge playing to the moment.

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