But what I do understand, and this is a fact that evades a majority of the County Board, is that Milwaukee County is, by legislation, effectively a department of the state of Wisconsin. They may be elected to a local legislative body, but that does not mean that they should spend time beating the drum to things they cannot impact or change. Spending County dollars to lobby state legislators about things that do not directly affect County government is foolish. It is an exercise in futility, a waste of local property tax dollars and it is akin to poking a ferocious bear with a stick. Not smart.
When Governor Walker pushed through legislation that effectively decertified public unions, that was the law of the land. He has effectively won his fatwah against unions and that meant that local governments did not have to negotiate with a union that had no standing to negotiate. But it appears that that is exactly what Chairman Marina Dimitrijevic did. Why? Perhaps it was her philosophical belief that unions are a good thing and they ought not ignore the folks who claimed to represent the employees. Is it a bad thing to talk with employees? Of course not. Employees can find inefficiencies that cannot always be found by management. Audits of these processes can often ferret out these problems and employees must be part of the process — but if a union is effectively defunct, and the order from the State is to not negotiate with decertified unions, then it was Dimitrijevic’s responsibility to follow state law.
Now I have a certain amount of healthy skepticism about this. I know some of the veteran County Supervisors and they seem to get it. Others do not. One of the Supervisors who seems to get it right every time is John Weishan. If Weishan says it, I have a fairly high degree of confidence in this ex-Marine. And with Weishan saying that Dimitrijevic must go, well, I tend to believe him.
My skepticism comes from the sources of the stories in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. One such source is Rich Abelson. Abelson is the guy who is still collecting a paycheck from the decertified union, AFSCME District Council 48. Abelson is one of those guys who will say whatever helps Abelson. He lies and is a bully. Abelson said that Dimitrijevic was negotiating with him according to the Journal-Sentinel. If that’s true, and if it came out of Abelson’s mouth the truth of it is highly suspect, then Dimitrijevic made a bone head move.
Then there is the issue of the reporter. Steven Schulze is happy to write some pretty salacious sounding stories that have traces of truth, but when presented in his context have little truth to them. My recommendation to anyone who is interviewed by Schulze, whether you are a democrat, republican or non-partisan elected official – record the interview. Record the interview, inform him that you are recording the interview, and then podcast it if you find that he has taken liberties. Do not make the mistake of talking to Schulze about two different issues. He lacks the depth and understanding to separate issues. If he interviews you about an issue, do not let him stray to other issues. He will transpose facts in such a way that will make whoever the interviewee look bad and then the journalism community will give him an award for it.
So there you have it. Understanding what has happened, on this, the day that Governor Walker has signed legislation to single out the Milwaukee County Board for punitive legislative action, while giving the County Executive power than that position has ever had, provides the context to understand how it has happened.
But why has this happened? Historically there have been statesmen on that board who understood how things worked. Now they have almost no members who have been there for any length of time. Walker and his disciples made sure of that.
What they really need to do, and this will probably sound stupid to some, is reduce the sizes of the districts to the size of, say one of their neighboring communities — Waukesha. Do something simple. I hate to say this, but just compensate them as a part time board. Increase the amount of districts so that common people can actually talk to their Supervisor. Give them something like a buck a constituent, but only give them 10,000 constituents each. Do what so many of the other Wisconsin Counties have done — enlarge the board enough so that when people want to talk to their elected county Supervisor, they can. But don’t make the salaries enough so that they can live off of them. They don’t need to go to every Senior citizen and community meeting on the planet anyway. Bring them back into the private sector so they can be in touch with what the public is struggling with. You’re going to get some real goofballs on that board, but you’ll also get some real quality people.
Here’s the thing — whatever they want right now; it’s not going to happen. There is life after politics. If they make an effort to succeed, they will succeed. Things are not the same. Things cannot be the same. It’s a new day. Like it or not, deserved or undeserved, the rules have changed and so should the county board.Share ]]>
That’s not reform — that’s appeasement.
Reducing the salary of the board is pure ignorance. If there are supervisors who don’t do their job they do not deserve to be paid. The work is there. Districts are now large and each Supervisor represents over 50,000 people. If they’re not dealing with constituent calls they should be doing park walks, constituent contacts, attending district meetings, working with their colleagues to draft common sense ordinances or eliminating ordinances that don’t make any sense anymore. There are roads to be evaluated, projects to be assessed and community outreach to be done.
If they’re too lazy to do those things, they don’t deserve to be in office. If they are doing those things, they are underpaid. It is not for the lazy ones to agree to a lower salary for the work horses.
I have strong views that a district deserves the representation they have. You vote for a person who doesn’t work hard for you, you forfeit the ability to complain about the effectiveness of the whole body. It’s just that simple. Now we have a County board that is going to make $40,000 next term. That may seem like a fair amount of money to some people, but will it really generate good people to do the work? In the private sector that would be an unequivocal “NO”. People who have real life experiences and put the time in to do research are not going to want to work for that salary. I’m sorry for those who are offended by this statement but I understand the marketplace. What will now happen is that if qualified people run for the job, they will only dedicate themselves to the job part time.
Studies have been done that show that the amount of money a family must make so they do not have money arguments is $70,000. I’m not saying to increase the salary that much. I am saying that there are people on that board who work hard and deserve to at very least maintain their salary of $50,000 per year. To the folks who don’t make that type of salary and look at it with jelousy, here’s a little hard lesson for you — make better decisions in your life. I worked as a County Supervisor for 6 years. At that time I enjoyed the challenges, the constituent work and interactions and working with my collegues. I would not have given that experience up willingly but I will say this — it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Yes, it make me more cynical, some would say seasoned. Yes, I follow my instincts now as a business owner more than I ever have. If it doesn’t feel right now, it doesn’t happen. I have no problem telling a customer that we are probably not a good match if I have a bad feeling about it.
But that’s not how the County Board is working.
It’s more like the blind leading the blind.
Amusement. That’s the best way to explain the clowning around that is happening on the County Board these days. They’re passing resolutions in support of things they have no control over. It’s a typical union tactic to coerce Supervisors to support things that have little hope of passing. In fact, it’s pretty much the M.O. of decertified AFSCME union chief Chris Abelson to push for legislation that the county board has no real hope of impacting. All of that pressure, for a lousy campaign donation of about $400 and the promise of campaign volunteers that never show up? Seriously? Are the county board members really that stupid?
Apparently yes. They voted in Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic as chair. Marina, as she prefers to be known, is an approachable person who has made some smart decisions but has coupled them with facepalm moments. Reporters have said that she attempted to negotiate some sort of contract or agreement with a decertified union. Bonehead Abelson confirms this. Then she denied it. Now I’ll say this — Abeleson’s words are like the slimiest politician. He would sell out his own mother if he thought it would preserve himself and his own job. If he thinks it will give him some time in his job, collecting his salary, it will pass his weaselly pencil lips. Nothing that comes out of Abelson’s mouth should be viewed as true. If reporters are using his word as their primary source, they’re doing a great job honoring the Wisconsin tradition of former Senator Joe McCarthy and the yellow journalism that he was the beneficiary of.
But why has this happened? I shouldn’t even have to say this, but it is happening because there is not a culture of county legislative experience on the board. The great republican purge of 2002 made that possible. It’s the same thing for the County Executive. Poor little Chris Abele, a man with no private sector experience aside from running the family charity and deciding where to dole out an endowment here or there, won by buying the election. Then again, JFK was said to have bought his election so what does it matter?
It actually matters a fairly good amount since Abele has no experience working and playing well with others. I will admit that at first I thought it was just that he had poor communication skills but it goes deeper than that. Lacking any legislative experience, he has no respect for what goes into the legislative process. By eroding the power in another branch of government, his own power is increased. Is this a good thing? Probably not.
So what should have been done? Dimitrijevic should have stepped down as Chair. She was the one who allegedly negotiated against what was clearly the intention of the Governor sponsored Act 10. Since by statute, Counties are more like departments of the state than individual entities, she has to follow the rules. If she doesn’t, there are consequences.Share ]]>
They need to get tough for a change.
There’s a reason why liberals and even today’s moderates have the reputation for being pussies. There’s no reason why we’re having a discussion about gun control. Many liberals don’t give a damn about gun control. It’s not the guns that are the problem — it’s the efficiency in massacres that various firearm related products afford. High capacity clips for guns make it so that you can mow down a dozen people without even taking the time to reload. With today’s firearms that’s barely the time it takes a person to take a breath. So call it what it is.
The Massacre Prevention Act.
Now that really tells us what it’s about. It’s not about hunters. It’s not about someone being able to protect themselves. Someone can protect themselves from an unwelcome intruder if they keep a 12 gauge shotgun under their bed. Of course they could just as easily waste one of their own family members, but that’s not the issue that is in front of the nation today. The issue is these mass killings — these massacres.
Like it or not, we like to label things. The group that advocates for healthcare for women now is disavowing the label “pro-choice” because they are about so much more than one of two choices. I think they’re a little naive, but then my label of “pro-health” wouldn’t fly with many of those folks just as my label for their opposition wouldn’t fly with those folks.
Labels are here to stay. Slogans are here to stay. As long as people get their news and views from a 15 second TV commercial, political advocates will try to boil down their message to fit within that time frame and still have enough time to get in a bit more about their message.Share ]]>
They are wrong.
There is no reason to give Clarke more of a soapbox. The more attention he is given, the wackier he will become. Clarke is a bully. He thrives on the attention. It doesn’t matter whether it is positive attention or negative attention. Clarke loves to play the martyr. There is no reason and nothing that can be gained by giving Clarke any ammunition that can allow him to play the martyr card.
And really, what would censure do? Nothing. Nothing at all. Censure by the County Board is the equivalent of saying “naughty, naughty”. There are no ramifications.
County Executive Chris Abele has a strained relationship with Clarke — for good reason. Clarke recently said Abele has penis envy. Despite his poor behavior, low class antics and combative attitude, Clarke continues to get re-elected.
Yes, Clarke takes positions on issues he has no control over. For the most part, his department doesn’t fight crime. The Sheriff’s department patrols the freeways, occasionally responds to calls in the parks, and oversees security in the courts and in the jail. Most of the calls in the County are responded to by the most populous city in the County — Milwaukee. That falls under the purview of Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, not County Sheriff David Clarke. Yet it is Clarke who is urging people to arm themselves and using tax dollars to do so, not Flynn.
The guy who actually is responsible for dealing with people who decide to arm themselves and go on rampages, isn’t Clarke at all. It is the Police Chief of whatever municipality that a problem might arise in. So Clarke really has very little impact on fighting crime.
Clarke is simply like the Emperor with no clothes.
Now why would the County Board choose to be like Clarke? Why would they choose to jump in and take a position on Clarke and his antics when their opinions are just that — opinions. They have no legislative authority to do anything about Clarke’s buffoonery.
If anything, Abele and Clarke are a match made in heaven.
Abele, who has no legislative experience, suggests that he knows best how to reform the legislative branch of county government. Not surprisingly, if he gets his way it will mean that Abele will have more power and more people will pay attention to him. Clarke, who has very little crime fighting experience is now suggesting to homeowners that they should arm themselves. The result here is that if Clarke were to get his way then more people will pay attention to him and he might even get elected to a higher office which will mean he’ll have more power as well.
All of these antics remind me of basic parenting skills. If every time a baby screams, yells or throws a temper tantrum they get picked up and rewarded with attention, they are taught that bad behavior gives them what they wanted in the first place.
I think it’s time for a “time out”.Share ]]>
In theory it should have worked out well. In reality it has resulted in contention, dishonesty and a scramble to assess blame rather than accepting personal responsibility.
Budgets fraught with phantom revenues and understated expenses have been sent to the board over the last three decades. The board has been forced to rewrite these budgets to reflect reality. Policies and ordinances have been sent to the board, stripped of critical information and insight with the demand that they be passed nearly sight-unseen. When problems happen it is the board, not the Executive, who has taken the heat.
Power struggles in politics are not uncommon, but adding the layer of County Executive has resulted in more of a fight for power than reasonable arguments over policy. Today County government is faced with a County Executive who cries that reform of the branch of government closest to the people must be reformed. That reform will allow him to concentrate his power.
Since when did concentrating power in the hands of one person become reform? Power mongering is not reform.
Even the elections for Executive have become a corrupted exercise in our democracy. To be elected you must be either wealthy enough to finance your own campaign or well connected enough to a political party that you can raise suitcases full of money from others. Neither option is in the interest of the public.
Optimally county government should be eliminated since legislatively it runs at the will of state government. State politicians overrule the actions of the county, pass along the costs of mandates, and pat themselves on the back for saving money that was never saved. Counties become scapegoats for lazy state politicians. Since politicians would rather diddle around the edges of real reform, county government is here to stay.
Now politicians are lining up to say the board needs to be reduced in size and only compensated with a part time salary. The vast diversity of talent and experiences that could be called upon to solve complex problems will evaporate. Qualified common people will not run for a position that will not even allow them to pay their household expenses. Less oversight and less accountability is not reform.
Still others claim that efficiency will come from reducing salaries. There’s just one problem with their claims — arithmetic. The County Board costs less than 1% of the budget. Eliminating oversight will cost more in missed efficiencies. Less eyes on the problem is not a solution unless you’re the one who wants to hide something.
There once was a time when smaller, local government was considered the best government. Those days are apparently over.Share ]]>
Los Angeles County is being held as the panacea. They only have 5 County Supervisors for the whole county, downsizing advocates cry. But here’s the problem — Los Angeles County is not at all like Milwaukee County. First, Los Angeles County has nearly 10 million residents. Milwaukee County has less than a million. A Los Angeles County Supervisor makes $178,789 per year. A Milwaukee County Supervisor makes about $50,000 (the same as it was over a decade ago). Each one of the Los Angeles County Supervisors represents about 2 million people. Try, just try to get them on the phone if one of their constituents calls with a problem. It’s not going to happen. In Milwaukee County, you can usually have your county supervisor call you back the same day — in person.
Financing a campaign for a seat where the incumbent represents 2 million people is ridiculously expensive. In the end, candidates who are not independently wealthy must figure out how to raise millions of dollars to run. Who do you think antes up that kind of cash? Do you seriously think for a minute that these seats will ever be able to be won by the common man with the interest only for the people he represents? The Los Angeles County board has only had one change in a board member since 1998. Effectively, Los Angeles Supervisor incumbents have a fiefdom where they can do what they want. Why would we want that system of government here?
Now why should we care? Really now, from a basic cost perspective, doesn’t it makes sense to reduce the board salaries? If you don’t care much about how government works, and can’t see past the dollar amounts being spent, then the short answer would be yes. Unfortunately that myopic approach just might pass the state legislature.
But there are other factors at play here. First, the entire legislative branch, even at current salaries is less than 1% of the County budget. That 1% gives county residents someone who can, to the best of their ability, assess projects to make sure that they are cost effective. That 1% buys someone who can advocate for issues of importance to district residents who may have otherwise been neglected.
That 1% allows people who have had expertise in an array of fields to come together to debate issues. A Supervisor who was a nurse can lend their expertise to a healthcare issue. A Supervisor who was a programmer can give their expert advice on technical matters in the county. A contractor can offer cost saving ideas for public works projects. Take away those three people and you could spend hundreds of millions of dollars that you didn’t have to.
I’m going to get specific here. In the interest of full disclosure I used to serve on the Milwaukee County Board. When I was a Supervisor we had a project come before us for the repaving of Lincoln Memorial Drive. Now I don’t recall the exact numbers, but I do remember that what was being proposed by the County Executive at the time was a simple repaving. It would have put 3 inches of asphalt over the entire roadway. For the sake of simplicity let’s say that the cost would have been 5 million. Now me and several of my colleagues looked into this. The project would have had to be repaved in another 6 years which, conveniently, was when the County Executive at the time planned to retire. We discovered that the engineers were calling the road bed “swiss cheese”. We found out that if we would spend about 8 million, we could have the road re-engineered and reconstructed and the new road would not only fix drainage problems but would last in excess of 20 years.
Now let’s do a little simple math.
The way the Exec wanted to go would have cost taxpayers $5 million divided by the 6 years it was estimated to have lasted. That is a cost of $833,333 per year to keep the road going but not fixing any structural problems.
The way the County Board wanted go (and what was eventually adopted) was a cost of $8 million divided by 20 years. That is a cost of $400,000 per year — less than half the per year cost!
There were other benefits. The new plan added much needed parking and also had several traffic slowing features which made the road safer for what is basically a parkway which many used to use as a high speed freeway. This improved the road and made it safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike.
With that one project alone, the Milwaukee County Board more than paid for itself as well as provided ongoing legislative representation for each of the 50,000 constituents that each of them represent.
But that’s not the only example over oversight and efficiency that an effective board can bring. Personally I recall sitting in a parks committee meeting. A railroad came by and needed local approval so they could access federal funds for a multi-million dollar enhancement to part of their railroad. The Parks Department was in favor of it. Simple enough right?
Not so fast.
There was a piece of land that the county had wanted to purchase from the railroad for a long time. The railroad was not using it. The railroad was not even returning calls. Why the parks department did not come out and connect the dots here, I don’t know, but I objected to us approving their grant proposal until they worked out an agreement with the Parks Department for the County to at least have a right of way to put a bike path adjacent to the land the railroad wasn’t even using. The railroad lobbyist was irate. I didn’t care. He was being paid plenty well and it was Milwaukee County residents who were getting the shaft. I asked for the item to be laid over until the railroad came back with an agreement with the parks department. That’s what a partnership is. That’s what an effective Supervisor can do.
There are many other examples of efficiencies that an effective full-time Supervisor can bring. But the point is that the public doesn’t know about these sorts of improvements. The media doesn’t publicize them because a longer lasting road isn’t a sexy issue.
Newsmen often say “if it bleeds, it leads”. Well, road improvements at lower costs don’t bleed.
Thinking people will understand that ramrodding Sanfelippo’s plan through isn’t a reform. It’s just a change. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes it isn’t. This one isn’t.Share ]]>
Rookie State Representative Joe Sanfelippo has decided to make his mark by pushing through legislation that would bring about one of the largest top down, statist controls that has ever happened in Wisconsin history.
Statist Sanfelippo, who serves as a Republican in the legislative branch of state government making more than $50,000 per year, wants to reduce size of the Milwaukee County Board (but not other, larger county boards in Wisconsin). Sanfelippo represents about 50,000 people, or roughly the same amount as he represented when he served one term on the Milwaukee County board.
It stands to reason that if Sanfelippo believes that he has earned the right to cut the salary of someone in another legislative branch who represents the same amount of people, that Sanfelippo would cut his own salary to just $15,000 per year as well, but don’t hold your breath. Sanfelippo follows the “do as I say, not as I do” approach to governing.
He wants to do this now because it will no longer affect him. This is not uncommon. Many politicians like to take away the benefits from other people who may serve in the future, but never themselves. As early as just over a year ago, former Milwaukee County Supervisor turned State Senator Chris Larsen took a parting shot at his colleagues by introducing legislation in that body to limit benefits for the County Board. When asked about this issue by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Larsen says he prefer to let local government make these kind of decisions.
Now Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has weighed in supporting Sanfelippo’s idea. Abele knows full well that this would neuter the current board of Supervisors. They would no longer be able to devote their full time attention to either district needs or to amending the budget that is sent to them from the County Executive each year. The board would be reduced to people who, like Abele, were not reliant upon a salary to serve and who had sufficient time on their hands. For the most part, a restructured County Board would consist of government hobbyists, individuals bought and paid for by contributors and wealthy retirees.Share ]]>
Walker has built his reputation as a penny pinching fiscal hawk but a closer look at his policies don’t reflect a lot of fiscal discipline. Borrowing to spend while cutting revenues to pay back the borrowing his been how he has managed to fund his brand of governing, but the public has been mostly shielded from that fact.
Walker has used his predecessor, Governor Jim Doyle, as a punching bag for passing blame. In fact, if you look at Walker’s entire political career he has built himself up by tearing others down. This project is going to be tough for him to blame on anyone else. After all, Doyle didn’t push for the taxpayer to borrow to pay for a kitchen remodel — Walker is.
As a contractor I understand that these types of projects can be done in-house. He doesn’t need an engineer or a fancy designer. All Walker needs is to use some of the competent people who already work for the state. Going to outside contractors isn’t going to save money — using in-house talent will.
Much of the money, Walker says, will be raised by private donations. Still, he is asking for nearly a half million to be funded by the taxpayers. If Walker and his wife, Tonette, want this renovation they should raise private funds to pay for it entirely. If we’re using tax dollars, we should be more focused on fixing the states crumbling infrastructure instead of whether Tonette can have a nicer kitchen to make a tasty crumble.
Here is the reality — major kitchen renovations are expensive. If Walker really wants this luxury, he shouldn’t be turning to the taxpayers to fund it. Like the french Queen, Marie Antoinette, Walker seems to be firmly out of touch with the economic struggles of the general public during this recession. But unlike the royalty of Antoinette’s era, Walker has to stand for election every few years. His actions don’t speak well for his decision making abilities. Those actions appear to be saying that the pubic is made up of foolish peasants here to pay for the whims and luxuries of an entitled Governor.Share ]]>
Executive Chris Abele is left to learn his role only by the example of his predecessor, County Executive (now Governor) Scott Walker. Walker tried to run County government in a top down fashion. His style of government was extremely divisive and partisan and if Walker wanted something, he didn’t hesitate to step on others to get. Although county government is technically non-partisan and has been run in a traditionally non-partisan fashion for decades, Walker changed that. Walker’s style of government was to divide, assign blame and to conquer. When he did not get what he wanted, he could always run to the AM talk radio guys whose own partisan loyalty enabled them to back up anything Walker said whether it was fictional or not. When Walker was elected Governor, the more democratic leaning Abele was elected to fill out Walker’s term. That left no predecessor of any political or philosophical similarity for Abele to turn to for advice.
County Board Chairman Marina Dimitrijevic was similarly saddled with a responsibility and no decent role model to turn to in order to understand how the County Board should run. Her predecessor, Lee Holloway, had been elected by a coalition of suburban republican Walker loyalists and racially loyal central city African-Americans. From the moment of his selection as Chairman by his colleagues, it was clear that nothing would be accomplished on the County Board for four long years. There was no way that Holloway would get his racially-centric agenda approved by the centrists or the Walker loyalists. Policy debates were for show and the only way that a majority of the board came together was when centrists, leftys and minority supervisors held together at budget time to oppose the more punitive parts of Walker’s budgets.
Walker had successfully divided and conquered the County Board.
But now it’s a different time and a different board. Neither branch has benefited from effective non-partisan predecessors and colleagues showing them the way to get things done without ripping each others throats out.
Dimitrijevic instituted a policy where Abele’s department heads are not allowed access to the County Board Supervisors offices without the aid of an approved escort. She then took it a step further by tossing aside a century of tradition and eliminating the formerly-lifetime-rights for past Supervisors to have hallway and floor privileges. She may not have realized it, but her actions are the equivalent of a “not welcome” sign. This is a severe departure from the past.
In the past, consensus building and hard working Supervisors not only worked with the County Executive on policy issues, but they also tapped as a healthy pool of picks for department heads. Abele has no such understanding of County history and Dimitrijevic has continued to culture an adversarial relationship with the Exec.
None of this is necessary. Abele and Dimitrijevic are leagues closer on political philosophy than either of their predecessors ever were. To make matters even more strange, if you set them both in a room together and peppered them with hundreds of questions on what should happen in County government in the future, they would likely agree on almost everything.
But the key there would be in getting both of them in the room together.Share ]]>
In politics it’s pretty much legal to say just about whatever you want. It is the responsibility of the person who is being accused of such things to disprove the claim. Folks like Klein hide behind the constitutional right of free speech but what Klein said goes a little beyond free speech — it appears to veer into electioneering and fraud. You see, Klein points out that the staff from their website, WND, made the two donations “using a Pakistani Internet Protocol and proxy server, a disposable credit card and a fake address”.
I’m not a legal scholar, but that sounds like intentional and willful fraud done with malicious intent and in this case, to cause harm to a political campaign and smear the name of President Barack Obama.
Klein, or the staff from his website, used the name “Osama bin Laden” to make two small donations. When websites generate large portions of their income from ads, they have motivation to make their columns as salacious or compelling as possible in order to drive up traffic. If traffic on a website is high, a small portion of those visiting the website will click on the ads. The more clicks they get, the more money they make. WND is filled with those types of ads.
Here’s an example of a PPC (pay per click) ad:
The more people who click on it, the more money that will go to support the website that published the column.
Now here at Watchdog Milwaukee, we make no claims that we are free of bias. Everyone has their bias. It is part of how we are hard-coded as human beings. But as a citizen journalist, I am at least honest in my columns. That is not something that all bloggers can say and it appears that Klein has taken such a great libertyShare ]]>
Well, not quite.
Clarke may call most of the shots, but he doesn’t control his own budget. He has to work cooperatively with the County Executive who puts together a budget, and the County Board that ratifies the budget.
Two weeks ago I was on jury duty. Although I served in the jury pool and was considered for the trial of the creepy gynecologist, I was not selected. I left my service with an appreciation for jury service and the importance of having a jury of ones peers decide upon the guilt or innocence of a defendant. That being said, one thing surprised me.
Deputies uniforms have changed. The brown shirts and tan pants have been replaced. They’re now wearing gray shirts and black pants. Should this be a big deal? No, of course not. But is there something to be said for tradition? Yes there is. It just seems as though Clarke is making these changes to make the department closer to the Milwaukee Police Department from which he came. Is there a reason? There doesn’t seem to be. This seems like just another wasteful and whimsical change for change sake.
And it’s not Clarke’s first one.
Clarke changed the traditional 7 point star to the 5 point star a few years ago — a change that matches his tattoo. Petty? Well yeah.
But I’m old school. If there’s a tradition that doesn’t hurt anyone, is recognizable, and adds to the consistency of the office, then by all means don’t fix what isn’t broken. If it’s a problem, then go ahead and make the change.
Was there a big cost to stroke Clarke’s ego? Probably not. But the point is, should taxpayers be shelling out money to stroke the ego of a Sheriff who publicly says he doesn’t intend on providing top notch security for President Obama because he doesn’t have the money in his budget? I understand that Clarke is not a supporter of any democrat, but it smacks one as a little petty to claim poverty when it comes to providing security for the President of our United States while squandering money on new uniforms.
As a business owner, I can appreciate the need for branding. If you invest time and money building up a positive reputation, a smart business owner won’t be quick to toss their invested in and earned reputation by changing things like their company logos or employee uniforms. What Clarke has done just doesn’t make sense from a business standpoint. Milwaukee County Deputies have a good reputation. Their brown uniforms have been recognizable and respected for decades. Why change the branding?
In all fairness to Clarke, I did manage to talk to a deputy who shall remain unnamed, and the deputy said that changing the pants from brown to black was probably a good idea because they’re easier to keep clean (it didn’t make sense to me either) but changing the shirt was just another effort to stroke Clarke’s ego.
Clarke should suck it up and admit he made a mistake. Return to at least the old shirts which carried with them the respect that the deputies have earned.Share ]]>
Union members got lazy and listened to the rhetoric. Rather than taking the time to examine what would happen if they elected a divisive neo-con, many listened the vague generalities. They drank the kool-aid Walker was serving.
Walker deserved the recall, not because of his radical policies, but because his entire political career is now stained by his organizing a recall that brought him to power in the first place in Milwaukee County. You can’t be for something when it benefits you and then against it when the same policy hurts you.
That being said, Wisconsin would be better served by changing the recall laws to reflect the law in Georgia where petitioners must first go before a judge and prove malfeasance in office prior to being allowed to move forward with a recall election. But why won’t we do that here? Because we have a state filled with cowardly politicians running to cover their own backsides instead of putting the needs of the people first.Share ]]>
The 46% of the state voters that cast a ballot for Tom Barrett feel that this Governor is deaf to their values. They know that this election wasn’t about union greed but Walker successfully made it a referendum on whether public employees were paid and compensated too generously. He succeeded in selling envy to the public and made people believe their pockets were being picked by unions.
Sometimes the best lie is believable when you add a sliver of truth. The teachers union has protected bad teachers for decades in Wisconsin. Only after they were told they could no longer run the union on funds automatically deducted from their members paychecks did they start to make concessions. The public saw that. Enough middle of the road voters saw specific instances where there were problems in education and Walker was able to blame the teachers. Even now, districts who wish to hire a teachers with their masters over a teacher with a bachelors degree must pay the higher educated teacher more. If a person stays in school and gets their masters before teaching with their bachelors, they are effectively unemployable as districts would have to bring an untested teacher on at a higher rate of pay.
Still, are all teachers bad? Of course not.
But the impact on public employees will be long and painful. Many people who would have otherwise gone into public service will just say no. And why should they work for the government? Yes they will get a salary, but they will be scoffed at by even people they know — in some cases friends. The most educated among us will not seek to improve the efficiencies in government because they will have no interest in working for it. No longer will bright little boys and girls want to be firefighters, police men, teachers or principals. Tonight voters cast a clear message — we’ve paying you too much.
The loss of talent in government will be staggering. An entire generation will grow up seeing public service as a scourge at worst, a necessary evil at best. Why would they decide to join any company that they know will make them a magnet for ridicule? And why would they spend thousands of dollars on a college education to go to work for a company that doesn’t appreciate them? That is how our young people will look at public service.
Hate and innuendo are not qualities we should look for in an elected official, but let’s not forget, we are the state that elected Senator Joe McCarthy.
I count myself as fortunate. Like many from a generation or two before me, I have a small summer cottage I go to. What I have heard from my neighbors in Winnebago County is eye opening. It is a different world up there. They think that all of Milwaukee is a morass of crime and poverty. Racism isn’t an occasional thing. It is a way of life. After the Walker commercials lambasting Milwaukee, the home of the Democratic Gubernatorial challenger, Mayor Tom Barrett, they think I live in a cesspool. Their impression is that Milwaukee sucks all the money out of the state and contributes nothing. There is nothing, ever since the Walker ads came out, that I can do to convince them that Milwaukee is a thriving community with culture, night life and commerce.
They see it as a city they don’t want to stop in, let alone get off on a freeway exit.
The damage that has been done to our state and the city I love is just staggering. And to think that it has been worsened by a politician hoping to score a few polling points to keep his job is mind numbingly painful.
Update: The vote totals are in.
Name Party Votes Vote %
Walker , Scott (i) GOP 1,327,152 53% ($33.90 per vote most donations from out of state donors)
Barrett , Tom Dem 1,150,642 46% ($7.82 per vote, most donations from Wisconsin residents)
Trivedi , Hari Ind 14,238 1% (seriously, who cares?)
Walker dodged the question.
Walker claims that District Attorney John Chisholm doesn’t want him talking about the case but Barrett called him on it. As it turns out, Walker could release any and all of his emails into the public domain. He simply chooses not to — and, like Richard Nixon didn’t want to release the Watergate tapes, Walker has his own reason; self-preservation of his political career.
Next Tuesday voters will go to the polls to decide if they want to toss out Walker in a recall election. With Chisholm remaining tight lipped about the ongoing John Doe investigation, it is no shock that Walker wants to keep wrongdoing out of the news.
Of course this begs several other questions — why is Chisholm taking so long in his investigation when clearly the people who are being charged are available and at his disposal? It is understandable that he does not want to politics to influence the outcome of justice, but he himself was elected and now he is responsible for investigating other politicians. Try as he might, he cannot divorce himself from the fact that politics will have an influence regardless of the outcome of his findings or of any trial. Just as Nixon claimed, if Walker is found to have been involved in the criminal activities in his own office, Walker will claim it is all because of his enemies.
There is no small irony here. Just a few years earlier, Walker accused former Governor Jim Doyle of wrong doing in the Aldelman travel fiasco. Contracts were found to have been steered toward Adelman travel who were contributors to the Doyle campaign. Doyle stated that he was unaware of this. Walker said that anything that happened in Doyle’s office showed misconduct by Doyle and he was responsible. Now that Walker’s staffers have been charged with felonies for activities in Walker’s offices, Walker claims he knew nothing of their activities and he cannot be held responsible.
Walker will continue to stonewall the public and any reporters who dare to ask the hard questions but that does not mean they should stop asking. Former Milwaukee County Executive, now Governor, Scott Walker has in his possession emails relating to illegal campaigning while being paid on the county taxpayers dime. It is no shock that he does not want those emails released.
As reporter Dan Bice‘s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article points out, there are serious problems in the Walker camp.
(Assistant District Attorney Bruce) Landgraf‘s filing is the first public suggestion Walker’s office later reversed course and quit cooperating. “As part of the pre-Doe investigation, Investigator Jeffrey Doss sought to obtain documentation that would form the basis of tracing the funds from Milwaukee County to the Order,” Landgraf wrote in his May 2010 petition. “The Office of the County Executive has been unwilling or unable to provide such documentation. It is unclear at this juncture why the Office of the County Executive has not produced (or has not caused another Department to produce) these records.”
The public would be best served by having the information released prior to the election but Walker clearly knows what it says and the only reason he would have for not releasing it is it’s damaging effects on his political career.
Just as Nixon did not want his secret tapes made public, Walker does not want his secret emails made public.Share ]]>
Walker has big money allies that will throw a lot of mud. They will keep throwing it until they find something that their pollsters believe will stick.
Barrett needs to return fire and he needs to return it hard. If Walker lies, Barrett must be willing to say that Walker is a liar. If Barrett can not stand in front of a crowd of people and say “Scott Walker is a liar”, he should not run.
Barrett has been truthful in his dealings with both businesses and the community. Walker has not. But truth is often not something that matters in Wisconsin.
This race cannot be solely won on Barrett’s experience or integrity. It must be won by matching everything that Walker claims with a response. It will be expensive and exhausting.
But if Barrett wants to win, this is the time. Republicans are being exposed nationally for their extremist views and Walker is no exception. Walker’s claims that his policies of cutting taxes for millionaires (repackaged of course into something that doesn’t sound nearly as straight forward) will help. It has not. Wisconsin is dead last in job growth — even worse than another state that hates taxes; Mississippi.
Barrett needs to highlight these flaws if he hopes to win.
For now, the only candidates who are planning to run are former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout. Neither candidate has generated much excitement among democrats. Barrett’s entry into the race would change that dramatically.
The political tide is favoring democrats and Barrett could ride that tide, better than either Falk or Vinehout. The facts are that voters are frustrated. Barrett could use that frustration to his benefit but he has to decide if he’s willing to be a scrapper. Simply showing up and decrying what is right and what is wrong will not work when fighting Walker.
Walker will enter the race as he always has — brandishing any weapon he can find and recruiting any thug he can to do the dirty work for him. If Barrett isn’t willing to meet weapon with weapon he should continue to serve as Mayor of Milwaukee where he does a great job and is appreciated for his efforts.Share ]]>
But let’s say you are interested — fascinated even with what is going through the mind of the man who is running our state. You can find out what he’s eating, where he travels and about his pastors sermons.
Here are just a few of his tweets that the DWD is spending our money advertising:
GovWalker Had some really good meat loaf for a late dinner. 9 hours ago · reply · retweet · favorite
GovWalker Ran over to Walgreen’s to get a prescription filled. What a beautiful day! yesterday · reply · retweet · favorite
Governor Walker @GovWalker Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
Our pastor spoke on Beatitudes @ church. Very interesting.
How this relates to promoting employment in our state is lost on this writer. Walker also tweets about businesses he has visited and plants he has toured. Again, not a benefit to taxpayers and not a way to create jobs which begs the question as to why one of Walker’s Department heads is using public funds to promote a political candidate.
Unfortunately what is happening in Wisconsin under Walker is the opposite of workforce development since the state is losing jobs. And while Walker’s twitter account has a banner that says “Wisconsin is open for business”, the numbers don’t seem to support Walker’s claim or for that matter his promise to add jobs. Simply cutting business taxes has not drawn businesses to Wisconsin.
The old saying “Nero fiddled as Rome burned” may reflect a different culture, but todays modern day equivalent could easily be “Walker tweeted as Wisconsin suffered”.Share ]]>
One would think that Pasch, who was a nurse in the private sector, is a horrible human being. Darling is using her ads to allude that Pasch is even worse that Darling is so that Darling looks sweet in comparison. The reality is that the voters of this highly educated district have already started to tune out television commercials maligning Pasch because they know what Darling has really stood for.
Darling’s votes to support Governor Scott Walker’s tax cuts for millionaires will not be forgotten by her voters, even if she is busy making outrageous claims about her opponent.
Clearly Darling is desperate.Share ]]>
Really now — who cares.
Are these wonks so seriously out of touch with the economy that they are incapable of understanding the dynamic of our recovering economy? The answer is yes. This is a recovery period — we shouldn’t be measuring ourselves against an impossible standard which was artificially created by a decade of bad lending practices.
Yes, it is true that “housing starts” were huge 5 or more years ago. Banks were giving away money to people who should have never qualified. At the same time, many of our urban centers were bulldozing established homes which helped create a need.
Now things have changed.
Rather than look to larger, more palatial estates that you could drive a car through, homeowners are looking to fix what they have. They know they will not get top dollar for their existing home if they sell it for a bigger home so they are turning to remodeling instead of building. Remodeling allows them to have many of the comforts, and even luxuries that they would have likely purchased with a newly constructed home a few years ago.
Small remodelers are doing well. Builders are struggling. But the economy is changing and many of the legitimate builders are now looking to the remodeling field.
It’s an easy call to say that a new house will need not only the services of the tradespeople to build it, but goods and services to furnish and decorate it. What is also true is that there is a large supply of existing homes for sale and home buyers can purchase more home today with their dollar than they can build one today.
It will take time — probably quite a while, before the housing market rights itself. The population must grow to create a need for all of the homes on the market today. Home prices will either continue to fall or will stabilize as inflation of salaries makes the American dream possible once again. New college graduates cannot afford the prices homeowners were asking and therefore existing home prices will continue to stagnate until they reach a point where those entering the workforce can afford a mortgage.
Times like this are opportunities to remodel — not build. Until the economists understand this simple fact, they will continue to play chicken little and offer little understanding and no value to an honest analysis of our current economic climate.Share ]]>
Unions have made tremendous gains and they have suffered devastating losses in the last several decades. Their problem is that they have been fighting the wrong fights and it is finally catching up with them.
Republicans have become very good at dividing the public. Union leadership and their stranglehold over rank and file members has led to the death of some unions and others feeling pain. If unions are to survive, they must reform their own structure but this is unlikely.
Union leadership is controlled by long-standing members with seniority. They negotiate contracts that are thought to benefit their membership, but disproportionately benefit more senior members. By now everyone has heard Republican Governor Scott Walker talk about the bus driver who made over $100,000 in a year. He is happy to drag out examples of the highest paid union workers and present them as though they were the norm. Understanding that many Wisconsinites who live outside of Milwaukee County look at Milwaukee with disdain, he has fueled that hatred and division by pointing to the most extreme examples in Milwaukee and suggested that Milwaukee is a drain on their tax dollars.
I say that reform is unlikely because those who are closest to retirement are unlikely to give up the gains they have made and are just as unlikely to retire early. Senior members have seen other senior union members enjoy the generous pay and benefits of their final years of employment and will believe it is their long awaited turn.
The real problem with most labor unions is that younger members are not given the opportunity to be in leadership. Therefore the more senior members decide what is best for the entire union. Although union members call themselves brothers and sisters, their family relationship is often contentious with the younger members not having a voice or way to express their frustration.
Case in point; when I served on the Milwaukee County Board, the Milwaukee County Deputies union was in negotiation with the county over a contract. County negotiators made it clear that there was only a finite amount of money that was on the table. Union leadership came up with a plan that would raise the top pay of more senior deputies while reducing the starting pay for newly hired deputies to about $23,000 per year. Milwaukee County was at that time seen as a great place for a young person to get their training, but they would often leave (and take their expensive law enforcement training with them) for better paying jobs in other communities. Had the County accepted what union leadership wanted, the County would have continued to hemmorage newly trained deputies while senior deputies said no.
A little full disclosure here — I believe in unions. One of my grandfathers was a union milkman, another was a teamster who worked his entire career at a freight company. They worked hard for their companies and didn’t switch jobs. Neither was in union leadership but they were both able to support their families in relative middle class comfort. While I am a successful self employed businessman, my customers are in the middle class.
But back to the County. I was on the Personnel committee at the time. What I am about to tell you was confidential information from closed meetings in which we discussed the best position for the county. I will admit that I was the Supervisor who was upset at the closed meeting when I was told what union leadership wanted. I was the one who said “no way in hell”. It did not make any sense to me that we would take the easy route and give even higher salaries to more senior deputies when we were losing new deputies because their union wanted to pay the new deputies a pittance. Many of these new deputies were college graduates. They knew that, at a minimum, they would have to serve 5 years of jail duty before they would be considered for other assignments. Many had student loans that had to be repaid. I was able to get enough votes from my colleagues to send the negotiators back to the table and tell the unions the minimum salary for a starting deputy would be at least $28,000. That was the minimum amount we figured would be necessary to keep other deputies from fleeing the county for other, higher paying communities.
I have no kind words for the man who was their union president at that time. He was greedy. I’m proud to say that he didn’t get what he wanted. He then led the deputies to vote against a generous pension plan which their entire membership later regretted.
The deputy’s union is not unique. Historically teachers unions have protected low quality teachers at the expense of providing our children a quality education. WEAC, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, deserves kudos for their recent reversal of their position where promotions and pay can be based on merit — not seniority.
Reforming unions means that younger members must be included in leadership. Younger members can no longer be used by senior members as a tool for better pay and benefits for only the senior members. They need to start treating each other as brothers and sisters who care about each other rather than treating each other like Cain and Able. In families a big brother looks after his little brother. Unions need to return to that model.
Right now we are experiencing the most polarized electorate I have seen in my lifetime. Republicans are attempting to build a powerful majority by building malice and division among the public. Making public employees and unions look greedy will help them do that. When unions negotiate contracts which allow their more senior members to have the best pay and all of the overtime opportunities, they give Republicans more fuel for their campaign fires.
They are eating their young.Share ]]>
Irony abounds in this race. Walker was the Milwaukee County Executive who won not just one but three elections in Milwaukee County before leaving the county post for the Governor’s mansion. But Walker’s was a classic case of over-reaching by thinking that voters gave him carte blanc to pursue the radical agenda he wasted no time in passing. Stone made the mistake of thinking that talk radio would deliver him the votes he needed to win the seat. After all, it worked for Walker, it should work for Stone, right?
Voters across the state had one of the most contentious Supreme Court races to choose from than they have ever had on their plate. Incumbent, and former Republican Speaker of the State Assembly, David Prosser was defending his seat against Assistant Attorney General Joann Kloppenburg. Prosser is part of the 4-3 Republican sympathizer majority on the court and if he has the chance, he will certainly uphold the Walker legislation stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights.
The Supreme Court race has been dominated by outside interest ads including those from billionaire David Koch‘s Americans for Prosperity PAC. Koch used his ads to smear Kloppenburg.
One of the advertised criticisms of Kloppenburg has been that she has never been a judge. This is true. However, David Prosser was never a judge before he became a Justice on the Supreme Court either. Kloppenburg and her allies failed to point this out in her ads and even as this is being written, the results of that race are within 1000 votes and it is too close to call. (It astounds the mind that a state Supreme Court race would come down to less than 1000 votes.)Abele’s race however was anything but close. He played his cards very well. Although the GOP muck raking machine was as effective as they have ever been, Abele neutralized their claims by running a great ad which quickly dismissed the Stone mudslinging and identified Abele as a leader needed for changing times.
Stone took the unusual approach of touting his education and degrees which are impressive. He contrasted himself to Abele who has not completed a college. But this is Milwaukee County. Our blue collar roots run deep. Voters have already made it quite clear in the past 3 County Executive races that a degree does not matter. After all, Walker had been criticized for dropping out of college but it never affected his winning his Exec races. It was a poorly thought out calculation to claim he was more experienced based on a college degree that voters don’t care about.
This race was more than about whether Chris Abele or Jeff Stone were good guys. This race was also a referendum on Scott Walker. Never in the time that Walker was in office in Milwaukee County did he ever try anything as radical as killing the unions. He underfunded departmental budgets. He created a yearly fiscal crisis by understating expenses and overstating revenues. He borrowed heavily to continue to fund programs and infrastructure the local public holds dear. He even kicked privatization up a notch above and beyond the privatizing that his predecessor, Tom Ament, had already done.
But as County Executive, Walker never had the ability to attack all nearly all unions at the same time. When he did that, under an all too transparent guise of balancing the budget, the pendulum swung back to hit him. When Walker went on television and said that the protesters were dominated by out of state union representatives, anyone of the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who had traveled to Madison to protest were outraged. They felt belittled. They were correct in thinking that their voices were being ignored. Walker sent a very clear message to Wisconsinites who disagreed with him — they did not matter.
And then Jeff Stone voted with Scott Walker.
The public was enraged. Walker continued his policy of dividing people against their neighbors. Everyone has an opinion about this issue. Firefighters, who were hailed as selfless heroes in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attack on the world trade center are maligned as overpaid and selfish. Teachers who dedicate their days to teaching children and their nights and weekends to grading papers are being portrayed by the Walker allies as being greedy and out of touch. Every public employee throughout the state has at some time in the last few months had Walker fanatics tease them or mock them for their pension or benefits package that is part of their negotiated compensation.
Walker made these public servants feel unappreciated and a target for malice and envy.
And then Jeff Stone voted with Scott Walker.
Walker’s use of class warfare has been effective in the past but many union members have still voted for him. This has emboldened the GOP and their funders to dial up the class warfare fight. They have made it clear that they want to tie public servants to greed. Even in the Supreme Court race, Joann Kloppenburg was called a “government lawyer”. In the past, being a prosecuting attorney or an assistant Attorney General would have great on a political resume. Since that would not serve the Prosser campaign, the Prosser allies attempted to tie Kloppenburg to those greedy government workers.
Clearly allying himself to Walker was not a wise move for Jeff Stone. He should have smelled his own blood in the water when two committees to recall republican senators turned in enough votes to force an election to toss out Walker’s rubber stamp allies. It is a monumental task to gather nearly 20,000 signatures to force a recall election and anti-Walker activists are close to filing against a third Republican Senator.
Abele, who ran a great campaign, was certainly a beneficiary of Stone’s alliance with Walker. This wasn’t just a small slap on the wrist for Walker. It was an uppercut that will daze the GOP and will likely force them to change their strategy going into the 2012 elections.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has instituted his policy of stripping public workers of their rights to bargain collectively. The republican controlled legislature has rubber stamped all of Walker’s policies. State Rep. Jeff Stone, who is running for Milwaukee County Executive, voted for the plan but then said he would not have proposed such a plan. Maine Governor Paul LePage has ordered removal of a labor mural on a building housing his states Department of Labor, because it appears to be pro-labor. The Maine legislature is poised to pass a bill to lower the minimum wage to $5.25 an hour and allow businesses to keep 16 and 17 year old students at work until 11pm on a school night. New statistics have come out showing that private schools under perform public schools even as Governor Walker wants to lift the cap on choice schools which take money away from public schools and give it to these under performing private schools.
How did we get here? Are Americans really that stupid that they would knowingly vote for people who would screw the middle class?
The answer is that the media perverts the facts in ways that benefit their advertisers. Our laws allow slander and misinformation in political commercials. Americans believe that if it’s on the news, or if it comes over the radio, it must be true. Even good people have been convinced that it is their taxes that will go up if candidates who would actually benefit them, were to be elected. The corporately controlled news media has it in their best interest to support large business tax breaks because their advertisers will stay with them if their bias is with them.
Republican candidates who endorse the corporate policies made to redistribute wealth from the poor and middle class, receive generous support from their corporate bosses. This Nottingham-esqe approach is the opposite of the Robin Hood approach of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. In the new Republican world order, it is the filthy middle class that wants to ruin everything for their hard working corporate bosses.Share ]]>
For weeks now all that Sykes has had to attack Abele for has been the fact that Abele seems to rack up an average of 3 parking tickets each month. He pays them, but apparently Sykes believes this is akin to a crime.
In his lust for muckraking, Sykes is howling about an old OWI ticket. It turns out that 15 years ago, which incidentally is about the same time that Sykes left his wife and children to pursue an adulterous love affair with his now-wife, Abele got behind the wheel after having a few too many drinks. I’m not going to try to excuse it, and neither is Abele, but a little context is needed here.
Abele was in his 20′s.
Clearly it wasn’t the most mature thing to do, but it wasn’t like he was a mature man well into his 30′s running off with some tart while he had a wife and children at home. That would be Sykes.
It’s a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Meanwhile, the candidate who Sykes hopes to benefit, Jeff Stone, is happy to chortle over the new found ticket. But really now — there are massive protests of 100,000 plus Wisconsinites marching at Madison to protest Governor Walker’s budget and Stone just rubber stamped the plan. Stone’s approval of the Walker plan wasn’t a bad decision 15 years ago, it was this month. There are several Republican Senators who are going to be facing recall elections within the next few months to pay for their complete and utter contempt for the middle class, but Stone doesn’t seem to care what his constituents thing. If not for a Wisconsin law that protects politicians in the first year after they are elected, Stone would be facing a recall himself.
So if we’re going to talk about credibility, let’s talk about what’s going on now, not something that happened when one of the candidates was in their 20′s.Share ]]>
Let me step back and tell you why I was at his town hall meeting. For the last few weeks, I have been volunteering to remove Alberta Darling from her role as State Senator. I was in Menomonee Falls this weekend collecting signatures when I found out that Congressman Sensenbrenner would be holding a town hall meeting at the Menomonee Falls Village Hall on Sunday.
I thought I would attend because the Congressman invites state representatives to be at his town hall meetings with him to address any state issues that might arise. This meant that Senator Darling might be there.
I arrived to a packed room, but no Alberta Darling. I stayed anyway, wondering what I would hear.
It didn’t take long. In response to the first audience question regarding light rail, Congressman Sensenbrenner said, in part, that in order for high-speed rail to work in Wisconsin, it would have to have a feeder system like they have in Europe and Japan. Then he said, “Or like they had in Japan until a few days ago. Heh, heh.”
Yes, he guffawed.
And, guess what, most of the audience laughed with him.
I was sickened. I couldn’t believe what I had heard.
I stayed for another 30 minutes, but after a few more uncomfortable moments like this, I just had to leave.
I know that the Congressman has video of it because one of his staff set up an iPhone to video the meeting. I am sure he will not share it.Share ]]>
You would think from the news media that pensions greatly inflate costs to taxpayers. That is not true. In fact, if invested right, they don’t have to cost taxpayers anything. What better deal could government get? Rather than paying the larger salaries of the private sector, government could use its larger collective investment abilities to pay for the pensions entirely.
So picture this — a large pool of money, which has grown from taxpayer money, could be used so that taxpayers never have to contribute again? Sounds perfect right?
Well, not so perfect when you add politicians to the mix.
First you need to understand that pension funds are segregated funds. A local or state government cannot simply draw off of these funds to pay for ongoing expenses. Yes, if you get a whole bunch of politicians in a room and they’re talking about a fund that has done well, they’ll say it’s been under their watch and they should have access to those funds. However, and this was wise legislation that was once passed at the federal level, it is illegal to tap into those funds for anything but pensions.
So schemes have been developed to tap into those funds to lower the tax burden. Essentially these are schemes to work around existing law but still allow the government to tap funds that should not be theirs to tap.
One such scheme that backfired helped to bring Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to power. In Milwaukee County workers agreed to take lower pay in exchange for fatter pensions. The County had the actuarial firm Mercer & Associates look at their fund and Mercer testified to their County Board that increasing the pensions for all county employees would be cost neutral. In other words, it would cost taxpayers nothing.
Now you have to understand that it sounds like candy to a politician when they hear they can solve a problem and it won’t cost anything. You can then run back to your district at election time and tell them you didn’t raise taxes. It frees them up to work on other quality of life projects.
Here’s where the personal part comes in. I was serving on the County Board at the time. The Executive sent a proposal to us to approve union contracts with lower salaries but higher pensions. He based his decision to submit this proposal based on numbers from Mercer & Associates. He then sent his people to the county board and they presented it to board members as a responsible program that would not be extremely lucrative but would be fair and could cost taxpayers nothing. He also sent his people to give presentations to the unions and they presented it as a program that would enrich county workers when it mattered the most — in their senior years.
It was two stories and the county board was never the wiser. It was a ruse on the County board but he was unaware that the big ruse was on him — Mercer never did their homework and they were telling him what he wanted to hear.
Fast forward through the drama of the next 6 months and Scott Walker rose from being an obscure State Representative known for putting out weekly press releases on everything under the sun (Opposing the Million Man March) to being the County Executive of Wisconsin’s most populated county.Share ]]>
Anti-teacher bills like this do not have a temporary impact. The impact is long lasting. If you cut a teachers pay, then you increase the cost of their benefits and reduce their pensions the profession of teaching sounds much less appealing. Yes, people get into teaching because of their love of children and because they want to make a positive impact on the world. But they do so at a cost. Public workers do not make the same as private sector workers do. This is not conjecture, it is fact. The Wisconsin Policy Institute did a study of Wisconsin public workers versus private sector workers in the same type of field and they found that public workers make less.
But how will this have a long term effect? As we watch the Walker fiasco unwind in Madison, young people in college are studying to go into their preferred fields. To be a teacher requires specialized training including in-classroom experience. These teachers in training have hands on requirements which are unpaid but contribute to well run classrooms. Think about what these young people are grappling with as they hear that todays teachers are finding their pay and benefits slashed because some politician gave away a massive tax break to his buddies who supported him in the last election, is paying or that tax break by cutting teacher compensation.
Why would anyone go into teacher knowing that they will be treated like that?
You’re made the punching bag of many dirty politicians. Rather than being seen as someone who has dedicated your life to children, you’ll be seen as the enemy.
Now let’s say that you get your masters degree. If you’re in the private sector and you have your specialized degree for your field you can expect to make a sweet $100,000 per year if you include your pay and benefits. As a teacher, you can make up to about $70,000 after many years on the job.
That’s a 30% discrepancy.
First, yes that is a lot of money. I will not dispute that either of those salaries are very good salaries. The difference is that the public employee, who has spent the same amount of time getting their career specific degree, is compensated at a lower rate because they are a public employee.
Starting salaries for teachers tend to be in the mid to high $20,000 range. As you hone your skills and earn your raises those amounts can go up but are limited by how far you went with your degree. Teachers with bachelors degrees obviously earn less since they have less college training — the same way the private sector works.
The problem right now is that states are having problems balancing their budgets as healthcare costs continue to explode. This problem is not going away. Healthcare costs are expected to continue to rise as Congress failed to enact sufficient healthcare reform in the last session and in this session there are tea party activists who have been elected who have vowed to try to reverse what was passed. Rather than see healthcare for the comprehensive issue that it is, they choose to stick to the simplistic idea that the private sector does everything better and that insurance is the way to go. Now that insurance costs have exploded and deductibles soared, the public is experiencing record high costs.
Healthcare costs will continue to rise whether you strip teachers of their benefits or not.
But if you strip teachers of their benefits, you will have fewer young people who take classes in teaching. They will simply switch their majors to pursue careers in the private sector where they will not be vilified and their salaries and benefits will not be scrutinized by uneducated, ill informed, low paid private sector workers who see only the dollar signs and discount all of the work, commitment and years of study that teachers have put in all for the right to teach their children.
I have no horse in this race. As a business owner I have to deal with high costs too but I understand the benefits of a highly educated workforce. My wife is a former teacher who left the profession because of the long hours coupled with low pay. As a family we made a decision that it made little sense for her to continue to dedicate up to 18 hours per day plus many Saturdays working to educate the children of other people while being compensated the same as an administrative assistant with no college what so ever. Having the summers off is little compensation for the amount of time that we lost her during the school year.
But to those who do have that commitment and have chosen to stick with it, hat off to them. Most work long hours. Some work in hostile school environments. It is easy to get jaded. And when those same teachers are told that they are the problem and the way to fix it is to take away that which they went to college to earn, the best will leave the profession and the education of our children, who are our future workforce, will suffer.Share ]]>
That means that even a passport, the ID which is the most difficult to duplicate in our country, would not be deemed sufficient to prove your identity at the polls.
Wisconsin may have a proud progressive tradition of same day voter identification, but that will soon change. We will go from being one of the easiest states in the nation to vote in, to being one of the most difficult — at least in the part where a voter identifies themselves. What is next — pre-registration? A 30 day waiting period after registering but prior to voting? Will we make it more difficult to vote than to buy a handgun?
Extremism in any form is not healthy for our republic and this bill is no exception. It is certain to pass since Stone has the support of former Milwaukee County Executive, now Governor Scott Walker. Both men are in the same party and both houses of the legislature are controlled by Republicans. It is highly unlikely that the republicans will fracture. Even legislators like Alberta Darling, who ten years ago was seen as a moderate, are clamoring to jump on the tea party express or risk being tarred a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by members of her own party and talk radio.Share ]]>
There’s nothing in the handbook they give you when you give up your private sector job to go work for the state that says you could receive up to a 15% cut in pay but as your bonus they’ll give you 15% of your time back in the form of furloughs. With the 7-8% in furloughs that former Governor Jim Doyle gave state workers, and with Walker promising to balance the budget with even more furlough days, that 15% could quickly become a very real number.
Here’s a little news for the folks that think the recession makes it so the workers have no where to go. The national unemployment rate for white folks, and if you go to any Wisconsin Departmental office you won’t see much diversity, stands at 8%. Folks with Bachelors degrees are only at about 4-5%. Most of the folks manning those offices have a degree.
I spoke with a Kelly Services executive last week and he said that he placed twice as many people in 2010 than he did in 2009. I know we’re not at the point we were in 2002 when the economy was still amazing and employers had no where to turn to find those educated workers, but this policy will make state government shed their best of the best.
The low productivity workers will stay through massive cuts. Many of them aren’t exactly what you would call highly marketable. It will be the most productive, and most effective civil servants who will leave to pursue more lucrative private sector opportunities.
In the end, Walker’s quick fix cuts may balance the budget, but the level of service for nearly every area that State workers perform, will be eroded.Share ]]>
Stone said, “I’m the only candidate for Milwaukee County executive that has voted against increasing government pensions.” But is this really true?
The problem with this question is that it is misleading. It creates a doubt in the voters mind making them think that all of the other candidates have voted FOR increasing government pensions. That’s just not true.
So why would the Journal-Sentinel encourage this sneaky deception and then rate the statement “true”?
Earlier this week we pointed out that Journal Communications is the parent company of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, WTMJ AM620 radio and WTMJ Channel 4 (television). Each of the 3 sources appears to reinforce each other. None of them will criticize one of their sibling media sources. After all, Journal Communications is a business and criticizing one, discredits all.
For years it has been obvious that WTMJ AM620 has been a shill for the Republican party. It is now becoming clear that the Journal-Sentinel is now whoring their columns out to the GOP just as their radio station has been for years.
By lobbing this softball question to Stone, and letting him manipulate the wording in order to earn a “true”, the JS has discredited themselves.
Chris Abele continues his ads with this one explaining why he thinks County government is broken. He talks about “perks” such as cell phones and cars. Unfortunately for Abele he appears to be out of touch with how businesses and government works. Nearly everyone today owns a cell phone — even many seniors. Cell phones allow high level workers to communicate with their staff. Abele unfortunately doesn’t understand there are not many department heads that have “company cars”. It’s really disappointing because Abele is normally a smart guy who is deserving of respect, but he is clearly pandering to voters who want to think the worst about County government and the fear-monger voters have already lined up behind Jeff Stone. Abele is unlikely to pry those voters away from Stone and it is safe to say that his strategy of trying to win the hearts of Republicans isn’t a smart primary strategy.
Abele’s website states, “Chris will grant a short-term property tax exemption for new small business startups based on new net jobs created in Milwaukee County.”
The JS honed in on what is legal versus what is possible.
Technically the JS is not wrong, but in practice they blew it. It would not have taken too much work for the columnist to find another recent example of a tax break that was not legal but was enacted shortly after it was proposed. Former County Executive, now Governor, Scott Walker announced that he would issue pension obligation bonds to pay for Milwaukee County’s pension liability. It was illegal at the time but Walker pushed it through anyway. Both the Wisconsin legislature as well as Governor Jim Doyle approved legislation that would allow Walker to borrow money to pay for present day expenses.
So is it fair to hold Abele to a higher standard than the man who was in the seat Abele hopes to win? We rate this a double standard.Share ]]>
This is the case of a recent story the Journal-Sentinel ran “Ament backs Sullivan in County Exec Race”.
Our problem is not so much the substance of the story, which is simply misleading, but the way that they chose to portray the long time former County Exec. Columnist Daniel Bice starts out the column with “F. Thomas Ament, the disgraced former Milwaukee County executive”…
We rate this story “deceptive”.
A journalist cannot start out their column with the premise of a lie and expect following that lie to be given credence. Ament was not disgraced. He committed no crime. He was never charged with a crime. Ament’s first mistake, and this is the one that led to the rest of the pension scandal, was to be a democrat. Journal Communications Republican talk radio show host Charlie Sykes (WTMJ) railed non-stop against Ament in order to drum up support to recall Ament. Journal Communications reporters and editors (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) ran stories supporting their own guys (Sykes) positions and restating an accusation of a generous benefits package that could have never benefited the exec in the amounts they claimed in the first place because it would have been illegal. Journal Communications television (WTMJ Channel 4) supported the whole thing by running non-stop anti-Ament stories. Fox6 also got in on the act since Fox pretty much always oppose Democrats, leaving only 2 other mainstream television sources who jumped in on the action because it seemed like it was thing thing to do.
It was a classic case of the tail wagging the watchdog.
Now, nearly 9 years after the feeding frenzy, and millions of dollars earned by Journal Communication which unethically manufactured the frenzy, they’re taking cheap shots at Ament again.
The substance of Bice’s story is that Ament wrote a check to candidate and former State Senator Jim Sullivan. Sullivan, who was Ament’s State Senator, and before that Ament’s Alderman, gave Sullivan $200. Sullivan is facing philanthropist Chris Abele who is already running television ads and can afford to drop a million dollars of his own money into the campaign if he chooses, and State Representative Jeff Stone who has the benefit of a virtually non-stop pro-Stone radio station promoting his campaign. And who owns that radio station? You guessed it — Journal Communication’s very own WTMJ.
So the big story here, and Journal Communications would prefer it not be laid out this simply, is that Sullivan took a $200 campaign donation from a former County Exec who served the people of Milwaukee County for over 30 years. Meanwhile, Journal Communications, whose radio station will be providing what would otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in free advertising, is supporting another candidate with their donation of free air time.
While the story about Sullivan is a stretch, the premise of the story and the portrayal of Ament is certainly deceptive.Share ]]>
This will be interesting as the political races unfold in the coming weeks.Share ]]>
This is why today, we at Watchdog Milwaukee will be introducing our own fact checking — WATCHDOG FACTCHECK. We will be rating those who do the ratings. Our ratings will be less about the candidates themselves, but more about how the mainstream media presents issues and candidate positions.
We appreciate the fact that several years after creating Watchdog Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel created their own Watchdog Reports. What we don’t appreciate is that they have not doled out their brand of watchdogging with the same balance and level of objectivity that we have used here. Now we understand, and know that our critics will not bother to read this whole paragraph, that we are not the pinnacle of objectivity. We certainly have our point of view and there is no question that we approach issues with a thorough and complex understanding of issues that cannot be summed up in a short slogan or campaign bumper sticker. But what we do pursue, and we do it fairly well, is to provide needed analysis and in some cases expertise where others bring only an agenda. Sometimes our critics agenda is partisan, and sometimes it is commercial.
This is our foray into watchdogging those who claim to be the watchdog.
Therefore we will provide the ratings, especially in cases when we find egregious and flagrant abuses in journalism, to the public. Our ratings are not meant to be the sole and final decision for readers to adopt. What they are meant to do is to create an understanding and dialogue of often complex issues which do not always make their way into the public discussion. We will call upon past experience and insight to provide insight and understanding. We will also open up the comment section so others, who have opposing views can respond as they see fit. What we won’t entertain in our forums, is personal attacks or profanity. Our forums are not meant to be a ring for a vicious dog fight, but rather a way for our readers to sniff out the facts and bark out their own point of view.
We will start out with the pinnacle of reporting. “Accurate” is what every reporter and columnist should strive for. The accurate report provides information which gives the reader real insight and provides a public service. We believe the reporters or columnists who consistently put out “accurate” information are those who espouse the principles of the man who has inspired Watchdog Milwaukee — Edward R. Murrow.
“A stretch” is reserved for reports or assessments which have an element of truth but don’t really provide an accurate portrayal of events, opinions or comments.
“Strained” shows a lack of objectivity and either an inability or unwillingness for the reporter to do their homework. A strained column may be the result of a reporter not having the time necessary to do an accurate and in-depth analysis due to a variety of reasons ranging from attempting to file their story with inadequate time due to an impending deadline, or simple laziness.
“Deceptive” is usually reserved for the worst of the worst. We will attempt to use this rating sparingly because it is our opinion that most reporters and columnists attempt to do the right thing. We call on our readers and even those who have been tarred with unfair labels by the media, to contact us with their side of how “Politifact” just blew the story. We will not give out the “deceptive” label lightly. Deceptive reporting is all that we are not, and sadly, is the most closely espoused by another Wisconsinite, former Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Finally, we will give the rating “double standard” to politifact and its reporters who treat different candidates so utterly different that their bias is glaring upon analysis. For instance, if Politifact analyzes the statement of one candidate in order to entrap them into making a statement which they may not have all the facts on, and then asks their opponent a different question which is clearly a softball question, we will call them on it.
An example would be, if Politifact asks Candidate A “Do you like puppies” and Candidate A replies “yes” and rewards that candidate with a “True” and then asks Candidate B “why didn’t you get your dog vaccinated in 1978″, those questions are no where near the same and we would rate that a “double standard” along with an explanation of why that rating was assessed.Share ]]>
Although this race is non-partisan, both Sullivan and Abele are democrats while Stone is a republican.
Since Stone has free non-stop commercials running as talk radio in the Milwaukee market, expect him to make it through the primary election. That means that Sullivan and Abele are left to fight it out for the other position.
Both Sullivan and Abele have a few things going for them.
As a former State Senator, Sullivan has one of the highest voter turnout areas in the County that he can count as his base. Wauwatosa has an extremely high voter turnout and despite his loss in November, Sullivan carried the Milwaukee County portion of his district. That means that his base of Wauwatosa, as well as the West Allis / West Milwaukee areas he carried could be enough in a low turnout election to vault him over the top in a primary.
Abele also has a benefit — he can self-finance his own campaign and in fact he has already started running television commercials. Being able to go to the television airwaves this early gives him a distinct advantage. His non-partisan good government approach does have an appeal that many voters will like.
Whichever of these two wins the primary will likely beat Stone. Simply put, Stone has been more of a paperweight in the legislature than a mover and shaker. Either Sullivan or Abele could capitalize on that.
The one thing that Stone has on his side is that talk radio will give him as much free advertising as he wants and if recent actions from the Journal-Sentinel are any indication of Milwaukee’s sole major newspapers intent, they will be taking it easy on him at least but more likely they’ll be promoting him.Share ]]>
So what was this plan that a private citizen led to save so much money?
It was the idea that Milwaukee County should borrow money in the form of pension obligation bonds, invest that money, and hope that the spread between any earnings would exceed the amount of interest that was being paid for via the bonds.
This is not a new idea. Several years ago then-County Executive Scott Walker wanted to borrow money with this scheme so that he wouldn’t have to raise taxes. The problem is that it is risky.
Very, very risky.
If the investments don’t make money, the taxpayers are on the hook for the money that was borrowed on their behalf, the interest that must be paid, and covering any loss should the investments lose money.
This same idea, which was originally floated by Walker, got shot down by the County Board and the idea was sent to a referendum. Voters overwhelmingly said “no” to this borrow to invest scheme. This is just bad policy. In subsequent years Walker was able to get the Governor and State legislature to let him float these bonds. Walker managed to luck out since the stock market has been doing well over the last few years but anyone who is banking their long term financial future, and worse yet the taxpayers financial future, on the market continuing to perform exceedingly well is taking a huge gamble.
Abele has opened himself up to a huge attack in the general election should he make it through the primary. His opponent, if their own hands are clean of this mess, could point to this scheme and use Abele’s own commercial footage to show that Abele led an effort to do exactly the opposite of what the taxpayers wanted in the referendum. However, the political reality in this race is that all of the 3 top candidates had a hand in enabling the pension obligation bond policy to take effect in Milwaukee County.
Still, Abele should play on his own strengths of being a community leader. He has plenty of positives to point to as to why voters should choose him. He’s just muddying the water when he exaggerates his role in the pension obligation bond scheme.
Next week: How the Journal-Sentinel is using their “politifact” meters to distort the facts.Share ]]>
Abele is looking more impressive every day. He has created a concise “why I’m running” message and has managed to finesse the campaign staff of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to join him. One of his potential opponents, County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijecvic, who was planning to run has chosen not to, leaving only former State Senator Jim Sullivan, State Assembly Rep. Jeff Stone and self-appointed acting County Executive Lee Holloway to fight it out for the rest of the votes.
Establishing himself with donors and other key groups, Abele has effectively turned off the spigot of support for many others. Rather than focus on the negative, he has garnered support because of his own strengths.
He has managed to create a presence on social media as well as the web and is quietly gathering an impressive list of supporters without belittling his opponents.
Abele is certainly the candidate to beat in this election.
(Disclaimer: I have no connection to the Abele campaign. I have met the man only once, several years ago, and can say that he seems like a regular guy who likes good beer. At the same time, I can’t help but admire that whoever Abele has chosen to do his writing has the same writing style as yours truly.)Share ]]>
Victims of child sexual abuse by priests are claiming that the church would turn a blind eye or just move a priest who was known to have a preference to little boys to another parish. Abuses continued and the church, or so the plaintiffs say, did nothing and now they want them to pay.
Whether the church can survive this is yet to be seen. It’s not the first state this sort of thing has hit.
A note of self disclosure here. I am a cultural catholic. I am a non-practicing, higher power believing man who considered the priesthood in my youth and served as an altar boy. I am not nor ever had any physical contact with a priest or any member of the clergy and have, in my life, admired many people in the clergy.
But this story is a long one. It has some roots in a political fight last year between State Senator Julie Lassa, who it is safe to say hates the church, and her former priests. They have earned her ire.
But still, there comes a point when the question has to be asked — how much do you want? How much do you think is fair? How much would they need to accomplish their goals and declare victory. Also, do they have problems that so entirely make it impossible to rejoin the catholic church or is their goal to destroy it?Share ]]>
Holloway will undoubtably be a contender for the primary since Milwaukee County seems to sadly have a racial schism which will favor a lone black candidate in the primary. Unfortunately for Holloway, the majority of Milwaukee County will not vote for a candidate with so much baggage and he has little to no chance of being taken seriously in the general election even if he gets through the primary. He can, however, be a spoiler for a candidate who would be a real contender against Governor-elect Scott Walker’s hand picked successor, Jeff Stone.. Holloway should maintain his dignity and realize that while you can appoint yourself County Exec, the voters are the ones who will decide in the coming months and Holloway comes with too much baggage to ever make it through the general.
Sullivan, had he announced a month ago, would have sewn up the race but he now must contend with others in the fight for a finite amount of campaign contributors, many who had already committed to either philanthropist Chris Abele or County Supervisor Marina Dimitrajevic who, like Sullivan, has dragged her feet in this race.
News outlets, especially the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel have missed the boat on an analysis of this race. Sullivan, like Holloway, has a built in base that several others cannot draw on. Sullivan, despite the ignorance rampant at the JS, actually won his last race if you count only Milwaukee County. Waukesha County voters, who ousted in in favor of Senator elect Leah Vukmir, will have no influence in this race aside from their campaign donations which will certainly flow to Republican Assembly rep and County Exec Candidate Jeff Stone.Share ]]>
That’s an important message in this race as some key influential folks who could have been players are now all but irrelevant.
The right side of the contest is Jeff Stone, the Greenfield republican who will follow Scott Walker’s lead, minus the charisma.
On the center and left philanthropist Chris Abele and County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic have sewn up much of the support out there. Unless something big happens, the rest of the candidates who have said the are running will be a bunch of “also rans”.
An interesting surprise in this race is that Abele has teamed up with millionaire businessman Sheldon Lubar. Lubar has taken the same position as we have here — eliminate County government.
That being said, the position is not even yet open as County Executive and Governor-elect Scott Walker, who is expected to vacate his County seat at the end of the month. As of now, who will run is a matter of great speculation.
County Board Chairman Lee Holloway is rumored to be considering a run. Realistically, Holloway is unelectable County wide. His spate of bad press and some poor decisions could easily be exploited by any viable candidate who makes it through the primary. That being said, if there are more than 4 candidates, Holloway could win enough votes in the primary from the African American community which, if the pattern and the election numbers of recent years is a good indicator, will support Holloway if he is the only minority candidate. Holloway is also expected to be assuming the Executive’s seat as interim County Executive when Walker leaves so Holloway would be running from the position of being the incumbent, albeit self-appointed, but the incumbent all the same. Holloway’s chances of emerging through the general are slim to none.
State Representative Jeff Stone has already announced his intentions even before Walker has vacated it. He is Walker’s hand picked successor. Stone represents the City of Greenfield and other parts of the Southwest side of the County and will have a base. Plus, he is expected to be the only Republican to be entering this non-partisan race and for nearly a decade has been one of the darlings of right-wing talk radio. Stone is likely to emerge from a primary race as he has both his district and talk radio on his side.
Multi-millionaire philanthropist Chris Abele will soon announce. Little is known about him other than he donates to democrats. He will certainly have a monetary advantage as he could easily self-fund his own campaign. Abele has supported some worthwhile causes as well as candidates in the past. But little is known about him personally. He has never before, to the best of our knowledge, expressed an interest in running for elected office. Abele is a likable guy and to his credit, he has already lined up some great campaign advisors. One of those advisors is businessman Sheldon Lubar who has publicly stated that the County system should be disassembled, the same argument we have made here at Watchdog Milwaukee. The entry of Abele would serve to make that possible if he were to essentially advocate a position that would put himself out of a job. One thing that was not expected of Abele was his connection with Lubar. It is possible that this would put Abele in contention for more conservative votes, changing the entire recipe of a Jeff Stone candidacy.
County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic who represents the Bay View neighborhoods on the southside will certainly be the darling of the left side of the blogosphere. At just 29 she is smart, young and charming. She is said to have been the leader of some key County legislation that has made unions very happy so she has the potential to garner union support. That being said, union support in recent years has waned as they have made up a small portion of a candidates overall campaign funds. In most cases the unions have not bothered to do anything on races that would benefit their members. Dimitrijevic would be a good candidate as she already has a voter base as a sitting County Supervisor. She has been a vocal opponent of County Executive Scott Walker. All of that being said, Dimitrijevic would certainly have a leg up on the competition as she is expected to be the only female candidate and if she makes the right overtures, could garner a great deal of campaign funding from EMILY’s LIST.
County Supervisor John Weishan, who served his country as a Marine, represents West Allis and has been a leader on the County Board. As one of the most vocal opponents of Walker, he has gotten a decent amount of media attention in the past. He also has a sizable base of voters as his West Allis district has a respectable percentage of residents who vote. Weishan’s challenge would be campaign fundraising. That being said, if he runs he could be a formidable candidate in the general election.
County Supervisor Johnny Thomas represents a portion of the northwest side. He isn’t known to be a dynamic or proactive Supervisor and he would not be able to raise the kind of campaign cash necessary for a race of this size. Plus he has angered unions by voting for a contract in committee only to vote against it when it went to the full board.
State Senator Jim Sullivan who has served as a Navy Reservist and as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs committee, has the largest political base of any candidate in the field. Novices and partisans will incorrectly point out that his loss reflects his electability. A look at the numbers shows they would be gravely wrong. Sullivan’s State Senate district includes Republican strongholds in Waukesha County which Sullivan lost. If the race were held in just the Milwaukee County portion of his district, Sullivan would have retained the seat he narrowly lost. Having just come off of a race in November, Sullivan would still have the campaign organization and volunteers from his last race who he could fairly quickly mobilize. His populist message would resonate well with Milwaukee County voters. If Sullivan chooses to run he would be the immediate front runner as he would have a base of approximately 30,000 people who have already voted for him.
County Treasurer Dan Diliberti left the County Board to run for a seat with no legislative impact and no influence on legislation. He has served in the peace corps and is known to be a supporter of veterans issues. Perhaps he misses the policy aspects of County politics but there is no apparent, nor obvious attraction that Diliberti could have. He currently holds a primarily administrative constitutionally elected seat that has little influence on the policy workings of Milwaukee County. He would likely draw from the same base that Jeff Stone will draw from as his voting record as a County Supervisor were certainly to the right of center.
Former State Representative Sheldon Wasserman would certainly make a formidable candidate if he ran but that is unlikely since Chris Abele is in the race and Wasserman has said he would not run against Abele or Sullivan.Share ]]>