Monday, October 13, 2008

County Board Does Budget Shuffle

Watching the developments as the Milwaukee County Board goes over the 2009 Proposed Budget from Scott Walker is sort of like watching a poorly choreographed dance number. It involves some steps forward, a step back, and an almost tumble.

First I cheered when the County Board voted to do away with Walker's foolish idea of privatizing Mitchell International Airport. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Privatizing the airport is a bad, bad idea. There are just too many unknowns and no way to guarantee that the best interests of the airport, the passengers, the County or the people living in the area would be even considered, much less protected.

To paraphrase what Supervisor Jursik is quoted as saying in the article, if Walker is so concerned about gaining a source of income for the mass transit, he needs to grow up and sit down with Mayor Tom Barrett and reach a compromise regarding that $91.5 million that is sitting around doing nothing. Unless, of course, he isn't really vested in doing what's best for the County and is only worried about how it might help his perpetual campaign for governor.

I was also pleased to see that the County Board is slowing down to take serious looks at some of the gimmicks that Walker has tried to slip in the budget. Such things like giving his cronies overly generous raises while trying to give the axe to over 300 county employees. Meanwhile, while Walker is bemoaning a supposed $6 million dollar deficit, there still has been no complete answer to where the money went. And that is not including the money that he has from not filling, but fully funding, 717 position countywide. Just where is that money, Scott?

The County Board does commit their fair share of blunders as well. One example is the "statement" from Board Chairman Lee Holloway, when he is criticizing Walker for wanting to raise fees on the golf courses, the pools, the zoo, and put parking meters along the lakefront. I hope that this statement was made tongue-in-cheek, else it appear to be pure foolishness.

For the record, with the exception of the parking meters along the lakefront, I have no problems with these proposals. I think those things are luxuries and should be treated as such. The lakefront, however, is public property and should be as open to the public as possible.

Another possible faux pas by the county board is their decision to send out a flyer informing the public about the sales tax referendum on the upcoming ballot. I haven't seen said flyer yet, so I can't say for certain that it is indeed favorable one way or the other regarding the referendum. Judging from what I read, it sounds like a fairly straightforward explanation of the referendum. Of course, even if it is by the book, that won't keep right wingers from putting up the usual moaning about it being slanted. They usually do do that whenever the truth is told.

I also would be much more upset, except for the fact that they have to do something to get the truth out there. After all, even while Walker misuses his office to spread his propaganda and to run for office, he is not about to present the full, honest truth on something like this. It might make him look bad.

The biggest disappointment was the fact that the County Board let Walker get a step ahead of them regarding the Wisconsin Counties Association's convention. Walker did the correct thing by bowing out of the convention, but several members of the Board are insisting on going to this thing.

I can understand the importance and the desire to go to an event like this, and I think that they could learn a lot from it. However, I also know that when other things like training and/or informational seminars are being held in locations like that, county workers are often told that they either pay for their own lodging, or are required to do the commute. The County Board members that insist that they attend could have ponied up the cash to pay for their hotel, or at least shared rooms to cut the cost.

Given that the County Board is again doing the yeoman's work of having to straighten out Walker's budget, they might feel that they deserve a little slack. And they may be right. But when they are also working on the premise that there is a multimillion dollar deficit, and that over 300 county workers' jobs are on the line, they could have at least the decency to show a little support to the people and workers of Milwaukee County.

So giving credit where credit is due regarding the work they have trying to hash out a functional budget out of the garbage Walker's given them to work with, I still have to say it is high time that they are also reminded of the quality services that public sector employees provide to the community, and that ensuring the continuation of these services should be on the top of their agendas.

That is why there will be a rally outside the court house on Wednesday, October 15th, beginning at 5 pm. The rally will be on the south side of the courthouse at Clas Park. Please plan on attending to show your support for County and City workers as they strive to continue to their ability to provide quality services to the people of the City and the County of Milwaukee.

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