Friday, February 22, 2013

Senator Chris Larson On The Plutocratic Power Grab

From Senator Chris Larson's weekly newsletter:
This past Friday, LRB 1340, legislation to force a reduction in the County Board’s budget to a maximum of 0.4% of the county tax levy, was circulated for co-sponsorship by anti-local control legislators. For Milwaukee County, that would mean an 85% cut to the Board’s budget, and after taking into account the legacy expense of Milwaukee County retirement costs, would leave no funds available for current staff or supervisors’ salaries.

The Milwaukee County Board is comprised of 18 supervisors, each representing between 50,000 and 55,000 neighbors, which is the same size as most State Assembly districts. Additionally, the County Board employs about 38 full-time staff members, including constituent service professionals, committee clerks, auditors, and budget analysts. Having a board and professional staff of that size allows supervisors to remain informed about county issues, be responsive to neighbors’ concerns, and provide legislative oversight of the county executive and sheriff.

Furthermore, the proposed cut raises fundamental issues about maintaining a system of checks and balances in local government, and whether the Wisconsin State Legislature should have the authority to intervene in what is clearly an issue of local control. Although groups supporting the severe budget restrictions argue that no other Wisconsin county has a supervisory board comparable to Milwaukee, we must also remember that no other county in our state has such an economically and ethnically diverse population of nearly 1 million people, or more than one-sixth of the state's total population. Additionally, the Milwaukee Supervisory Board oversees a $1 billion dollar budget, and is responsible for oversight of a regional airport, county zoo, and county-funded mental health complex.

Critics of the current full-time board have compared the current structure of 18 supervisors and an annual salary of about $50,000 to the salary and structure of the Board in 1970. What critics have failed to mention, however, is that the Board in 1970 had 25 members, who were each paid a salary of $68,000 (when adjusted for inflation).

There has also been a great deal of speculation regarding some odd provisions in this bill that may prevent the board from doing their job properly and usurps local control, including:

  • Reducing term-limits from four years to two years
  • Prohibiting the County from adding a referendum question to the April 2014 ballot
  • Banning Milwaukee County Board Supervisors from speaking directly to county department heads, instead forcing them to go through the County Executive's Office
  • Preventing Milwaukee County Board Supervisors from crafting policies, instead only allowing them to approve or reject policies by the Milwaukee County Executive
  • Attaching a completely unrelated measure requiring the state to pay for erecting and maintaining a billboard on I-43

I agree with Chairwoman Dimitrijevic that this is an issue of local control and Milwaukee County, not the state, is responsible for conducting its own evaluation of how to reduce the cost of county government and increase efficiency, while still maintaining the Board’s authority and expertise for oversight of the county executive’s budget and the ongoing operational issues that the county routinely faces.
Despite what the propagandists and sockpuppets would have you believe, progressive people truly are against this horrible power grab and gross overreach.


  1. Larson forgot to mention the bill also raises the no-bid limit for contracts while also taking away board approval/oversight on those contracts and preventing the board from reducing any of the County Execs office budget, they are only allowed to increase it.

  2. LOL:

    "For Milwaukee County, that would mean an 85% cut to the Board’s budget, and after taking into account the legacy expense of Milwaukee County retirement costs, would leave no funds available for current staff or supervisors’ salaries."

    Did he even read the bill? Section 25 on page 17 specifically exempts legacy costs from the levy cap.

    "The Milwaukee County Board is comprised of 18 supervisors, each representing between 50,000 and 55,000 neighbors, which is the same size as most State Assembly districts."

    Supervisors in Cuhayoga County Ohio represent 116,375 people on a part-time basis.

    Supervisors in Hennepin County Minnesota represent 164,632 people.

    Supervisors in Allegheny County Pennsylvania represent 81,557 people on a part-time basis.

    Supervisors in Pinellas County Florida represent 130,935 people.

    Supervisors in Fulton County Georgia represent 131,512 people.

    Supervisors in Franklin County Ohio represent 387,805 people.


    1. Yawn indeed. Moving the goalposts and ignoring the facts gets you nowhere.

  3. Ignoring what facts? Was Larson accurate on the budget? Yes or no?

    Have those counties devolved into plutocratic dystopias? Yes or no?

    1. Are those counties in Wisconsin?

    2. Does it matter? What exactly necessitates Milwaukee County's board being far larger, far more involved in management, and far more expensive than every other similar-size county in the United States?

      Be specific.

    3. Does it matter? We would be much better off removing the county executive. Abele, Walker and Ament are all corrupt and have caused the most expense.

      The whole argument about the Board is a temper tantrum by a little rich boy who didn't get his way.

    4. So no answer then? That exposes the weakness of your argument.

      Ok get rid of the executive position...hire an administrator...again, for what purpose will far more taxpayer dollars be spent on supervisors and their staff than the average?

      Do you have an actual argument? Or will you just respond emotionally?

    5. I'm still waiting for a compelling reason to remove representative government for a buck. Oh no! They cost more! Yeah, and they do more. You get what you pay for and you get what you don't pay for.

    6. So no, you have no decent argument for why we should pay more.

      We get what we pay for? Can you honestly say their performance has been worth the money? How is the County doing financially? What significant reforms and ideas has the board come up with and implemented? What great ideas have they had?

      Advisory referenda? Hey that's great, how has that worked out?

      Anything else?

      What specifically can you point to that makes them "worth it"?


    7. Well, I'm pressed for time, but off the top of my head:

      -The board sought and gain stimulus funds that Walker refused. That money bought the new buses, repaired roads and built a place for homeless vets.
      -The prevented an illegal bonus program to reward Abele's cronies.
      -They sued Mercer to regain some of the loss on the pension scandal. They wanted to sue Reinhardt, but Walker balked at that.
      -They kept county responsibility, and the taxes to pay for them, from being unfairly dumped on the City of Milwaukee.
      -They started the investigation into Walkergate by exposing the illegal politicking Walker and his crew was doing.
      -They exposed and started to correct the deplorable conditions at the mental health complex.
      -They are active in the communities, promoting parks, transit and the many other amenities of the county.

      How's that for starters?

  4. Sticky fingers Larson - Speaking of grabbing something...

  5. oh yes because Larson (who used to be ON the county board and is BFFs with Marina) a totally unbiased source!

    1. Did you whine when Joe Rice offered his skewed opinion? I doubt it.