Over the past ten days or so I received a number of unusual campaign style literature pieces. They prominently feature Milwaukee 14th District Alderman Tony Zielinski although they aren’t actually election related pieces. I live in the 14th so it makes sense that I received them. But they obviously were sent to discredit the alderman ahead of the local elections on April 5th. And they were paid for by Milwaukee Works, Inc. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Both pieces bring up Ald. Zielinski’s involvement with the Milwaukee County pension scandal during County Executive Ament’s administration. Ald. Zielinski was a county supervisor at the time and voted in favor of the pension changes. So far they are still in factual territory. Well sort of…they keep calling it the Milwaukee Pension Scandal despite this affected only Milwaukee County elected officials and employees. But they need to do that so they can make the leap across the chasm to demand the end to defined benefit pensions for City of Milwaukee Alderman. But in the lit they don’t call them defined benefit pensions…but fat tax-payer funded golden parachute pensions. Well here’s the lit…take a look…and then I will continue the discussion:
This past week:
Both pieces have same address side:
Although this doesn’t oppose Ald. Zielinski in the election the timing just two weeks and one week prior to the election of course makes it suspect. And of course if you look at the addressee tag it is addressed to me “or resident voter”…so it is aimed at the election…if I were doing this as an ‘informational’ or a ‘policy’ piece I would have addressed it to “or current resident”. But that’s just me…shrug.
So these pieces piqued my curiosity. Who is Milwaukee Works, Inc and why do they hate pensions and why are they targeting Ald. Zielinski? Well I visited their website (http://mkework.com/) and I still don’t know. But first, lets see who they are. From their Who We Are page:
Milwaukee Works, Inc. is committed to educating citizens about the value of good government, risk-taking enterprise, and inclusive communities. These are values inherent to thriving metropolitan cities around the world.
Milwaukee’s commercial and cultural communities are vibrant – but are held back by political dysfunction that rewards cronyism, incumbency, and stakeholders in the status quo (the “political class”). This dysfunction does not value cooperation and accountability.
We’re fed up with politicians captured by special interests who sacrifice the common good to hold their positions of power. Unfortunately, the political class thrives on “asymmetric information,” insider knowledge that allows self-dealing at our expense.
A well-informed citizenry will force elected officials to do the right thing – not the politically convenient thing. Without well-informed constituents, too many elected officials will continue to default to benefiting their political class, not the common good.
Partisan labels aren’t interesting to us – we’re focused on educating on issues to improve Milwaukee as a place to live in real, not political, terms.
Milwaukee Works, Inc. is a 501(c)(4) non-profit, non-partisan issue advocacy organization. We are a completely volunteer organization with no paid staff. Directors are not compensated. We aim to use all raised funds for research and education.
Not quite what I was looking for. But now we know they are a non-profit with a volunteer staff…but no mention of where their funds come from (I know – I know – they don’t have to disclose that) nor a mention of the civic minded directors who are directing the place.
And so far they have weighed in on four local issues. Prior to the Milwaukee Pension Scandal…they are against Chris Larson’s campaign to unseat incumbent County Executive Chris Abele because it might reverse the county board reforms, the are aghast that the Estabrook Dam hasn’t been removed yet, and they don’t like County Board Chair Theo Lipscomb Jr. much. I am starting to sense a theme here. And it seems to lean against the county board past and present.
So I asked around to three local people who might be in the know on who is behind Milwaukee Works, Inc and the unanimous reply was: Dan Adams. Well in case you don’t recognize Dan Adams…and I’ll admit I only remembered him vaguely until I googled him…Dan Adams was backed by Exec. Abele in the 19th State Assembly district back in 2014. (A seat eventually won by Jonathan Brostoff who had worked in the office of Senator Chris Larson.) And he’s garnered quite an odd reputation in local politics since then. Our own editor Zach Wisniewski has posted quite a number of items in the past year or so. But now you can start to understand the positions being taken by Milwaukee Works, Inc…they are the same positions held by the county executive. I wonder how they overlooked the Domes Scandal?!? A faux Democrat, Mr. Adams has taken any number of right turns on his own as Zach’s blogs will attest.
But I still couldn’t actually link Mr. Adams to the site or the organization…after all they weren’t naming names. But something interesting turned up in my Google search. A job listing for Milwaukee Works, Inc: Investigative Reporter. And unlike the website that has a generic gmail account for contact information, the job listing suggests that you apply to firstname.lastname@example.org. So that case is solved and yes, Dan Adams apparently is behind MKEWorks!
So I get their stands on county issues if they are stand ins for Exec. Abele…but what’s with their animosity against Alderman Zielinski? That I haven’t figured out yet…if one of our dear readers knows…I’d appreciate the insight. Even on their site’s position against pensions for Milwaukee alderman, Ald. Zielinski is the only one called out. The only reasons I can surmise on that is they are lazy and UrbanMilwaukee had already done the groundwork. Shrug…
Now to be fair I emailed them this afternoon about the lit pieces and did they only mail to the 14th District…and yes that really isn’t fair because it’s Sunday and yes I should have done it earlier. When they respond I will update this piece accordingly.
Off track a bit but some additional commentary on their attack on pensions. They correctly say that defined pensions fell out of favor because of their cost. That’s correct but that doesn’t mean they should have gone away.
A defined benefit pension plan is one that promises a specific monthly payment to a former employee based on their past earnings, length of employment, and age. The financial health of the employer has no bearing on the its obligation to pay. These plans were in vogue during the middle of the 20th Century, but due to their cost, fell heavily out of favor in the 1980s and 1990s
Pensions have fallen out of favor almost everywhere, except with local governments, including the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin.
But this position is just another lean to the right and into the pockets of big business in opposition to labor. And it’s a typical ploy…let’s take it away from someone who has it instead of making it standard for all!
We can take all of the guessing out of it…courtesy of the internet (I received this two hours after the rest of the post was written – just leaving the rest as is):
P.S. I tried to Join them…but the boxes to enter email and name are white on white when you click on them to do the entry. So be a good typist if you try!
UPDATE APRIL 4th: From a comment on my Facebook posting of this article: Jan Pierce works with this group…which makes it clear why this lit piece attacks Ald. Zielinski. Mr. Pierce lost to Ald. Zielinski in 2012.