Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Milwaukee Plutocracy Power Grab Bill Revealed

At the beginning of the year, it was revealed that Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and his friends at the Greater Milwaukee Committee had drafted a bill that would allow them to usurp control of Milwaukee County.  They found their patsy in the state government - Joe Sanfelippo - who was ignorant and greedy enough to take their bill and run with it.

After many false starts and bald-faced lies, Sanfelippo dropped Abele's bomb for him and revealed the bill.  And what a nasty piece of work it is.

There is so much wrong in this bill that it would be impossible to give it a thorough analysis in just one article.  The gentle reader can read the bill here.  Or for an easier read, here is the memo prepared by one of their staff attorneys.

In a nutshell, this bill does the same thing to Milwaukee County that Scott Walker and the Republicans did to the state, but even more so.  It consolidates all the power into the hands of one man - Chris Abele.

As I said, there is too much for just one article, so I will have to do a series of them to fully explain the amount of malfeasance and evil behind them, but I will say that there will not be many people happy with it and it will serve to destroy the county very effectively.  Not just the government, but everything that we enjoy and all too often take for granted.

Here are some of the major horrors included in the bill:
Except for the purpose of inquiry, the bill specifies that the County Board and its members may deal with county departments and department subunits solely through the County Executive.
This means that if you have a county-related problem - such as vandalism in a park, poor treatment at the mental health complex, or a county road in need of repair - and you call your supervisor, they have to get permission from the county executive to contact the department to resolve the problem, again, with the executive's permission.

Given how petty and insecure Abele is, if you live in any of the more progressive supervisors' districts, you might as well forget about it.  He's going to punish you by punishing your supervisor and denying him or her the right to do the job they were elected to do.
Subject to approval by the County Board, acquire, lease, or rent real and personal property for public uses or purposes of any nature, and take and hold land acquired from the sale of tax delinquent property.
In other words, Abele will have the authority to give, sell or lease any county property to his friends at GMC for sweetheart prices.  The bill notes that the Board will not be allowed to correct any parts of the deal.  This probably spells the demise of the Monarch Trail, the Eschweiller buildings, the mental health complex and any lakefront parks.

And since Abele is not about to charge his friends fair market value, guess who will be making up the difference.
Hire or contract with attorneys to provide support enforcement for health and human services programs.
This is related to Abele's plans for the mental health complex.  Abele wants to relocate all the patients in there, even though there are not sufficient resources to keep the patients or the public safe. Needless to say, the guardians of the people hospitalized are very alarmed and concerned about this.  They know that their wards would present a danger to themselves or others if not given the proper supervision.

This section allows Abele to hire a slew of attorneys to either override the guardians' concerns or have the guardians removed in favor of someone who won't stand up for their wards.
Call a special meeting of the Milwaukee County Board with a written request specifying a time and place for the meeting, to be held at least 48 hours after the request.
Given that they will also make the board part time, the supervisors, unless independently wealthy, will have to find other jobs.  Calling an arbitrary meeting time will guarantee that there will be some supervisors who won't be able to attend due to having to work their other jobs.

This will keep constituents from having proper representation and allow Abele to force through anything he wants by just manipulating the times of the specially called session.
Sign all contracts, conveyances, and evidences of indebtedness on behalf of the county
And who is going to oversee to make sure that these contracts, etc. are in the best interest of the taxpayers or any other citizen of the county?  We have already seen him try to foist county responsibilities, and the costs associated with them, on the City of Milwaukee.  We've also seen him try to give away county property in an illegal fashion.  Who's going to be footing the bill for all the lawsuits stemming from his rash and uneducated stunts?
Hire and supervise the number of employees that the County Executive reasonably believes are necessary to carry out the duties of the County Executive’s office.
And you thought Walker was bad with his crony-laden government? Wait until Abele is done.  And don't forget, Abele is paying his crony political appointments tens of thousands of dollars more than even Walker did, plus he wanted to give them a half a million dollars of bonuses with our tax dollars.
The bill specifies that in Milwaukee County, the County Executive is the entity authorized to bargain collectively with county employees.
This one is also going to cost taxpayers an arm and a leg.  Abele is extremely anti-worker.  He's gone above and far beyond what Act 10 called for.  And now that Act 10 has been struck down, he is refusing to negotiate with the unions.  Thus the unions have filed lawsuit after lawsuit, all of which the county is losing because Abele likes to think he is above the law.

Instead of trying to negotiate down the costs, Abele is arbitrarily and unilaterally enforcing his whims.  Thus the taxpayers have been footing the bill to defend his legal actions and still paying for what should have been done in the first place.  On top of that, the county is paying $500,000 every time Abele changes something and another $500,000 to change it back when he loses the court fight.
The bill allows forbids the county board from entering into contracts for the services of retired county employees.
This is especially hilarious since the board did it once.  Just once.  Yet Abele has done it dozens of times.  In fact, there are a number of these "double dippers" working county jobs right now, all under Abele's directions.

In pushing this bill, Abele has repeatedly said that this wasn't personal.  He claimed that he only wanted to make Milwaukee County Government more "efficient" and "cost effective."

This bill does anything but those things.

It will greatly slow down services - or at least the ones Abele hasn't privatized yet.  It will make things more expensive for taxpayers as they foot the bill for sweetheart contracts with his friends, cronies and campaign donors.

To show you how bad this bill is, the only people who have come out in support of it are the ones paying the legislators to pass it, the teahadists, and one crank who has an irrational hatred for the County Board.

The sad news is that this bill will probably pass.  The Republicans have more than clearly shown that they are willing to do anything for a price.  And Chris Abele and GMC have more money than what they know what to do with.  So they'll be able to buy its passage.

The only faint good points to this is that it will give progressives like me ample fodder to write about since Abele is sure to fail.  The other good point is that because Abele is sure to fail, this will lock him in as a one term wonder and then we can get an adult into office who can fix things without being stopped by the teahadists.


  1. And once the new person is in, s/he will surely have immense power!