Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Damage From AB 85 Would Go Far Beyond The County Board

By far, the discussion regarding AB 85/SB 95, the Plutocracy Bill, has focused on the Milwaukee County Board.  This makes a certain political sense, since it's always a popular move to give the taxpayers a chance to stick it to the government.

It's also been repeatedly discussed that this is a bit of a red herring, since the
damage will be done long before any referendum gets to the voters.  The pay issue for Milwaukee County Supervisors is a small distraction compared to the other things contained in the bill.

I've already touched base on how the bill would greatly diminish our representative government, taking the citizen's voice away as the power in government is concentrated in the hands of the county executive.

But as Dan Cody had pointed out, there are many other issues facing the county, all of which would be affected by this bill, usually in a very negative manner.  Let's take a look at these issues and how County Executive Chris Abele is looking at "resolving" these issues.

Transit and Parks

Two of these issues, the transit and parks systems, have common problems.  Due to insufficient shared revenue from the state and then County Executive Scott Walker's austerity agenda, these two system usually took the brunt of any cost cutting, since they are not mandated systems.

The fact that the parks have hundreds of millions of dollars worth of untended repairs and maintenance and that that the transit system is on the verge of collapse is not due to mismanagement as it is due to lack of a dedicated funding source.  Even Cody is aware of this fact, since he was an integral member of the Quality of Life Alliance, which had pushed for a 1% dedicated sales tax.

So far, Abele's only effort on the transit system was to join in on what I'm sure was a strongly worded letter to the state asking for some more money, which is fine in the very short run, but completely insufficient as a long term fix.

And the letter is more than he's done for the parks.

Giving him more power won't resolve any of these issues, unless you consider spinning both systems off so that they could fail on their own, as Abele has advocated for, as a solution.

When and if the transit system fails, this will put tens of thousands of people out of work and further damage the local economy.  The parks system will likely end up in a private-public partnership, which has proven to be rather detrimental in New York City.

Mental Health Services

The mental health services in Milwaukee County are a wreck.  This time it's not insufficient funding as much as it was Walker refusing to adequately staff the mental health complex and his putting in the incompetent John Chianelli as its director.  In fact, the horrible conditions at the complex would not have been known if were not for the acts of former Supervisor Lynn De Bruin.

Abele's solution is to close BHD, starting with the two wards that deal with chronically mentally ill patients and severely developmentally delayed adults.  Abele's argument is that this is more cost effective and would allow patients to be close to their families, even though many of them don't have any families to be close to.

While it is a noble goal to move as many people that can safely be placed in the community, the sad fact is not everyone is suitable for the move.  There are insufficient resources that could ensure that some of the people wouldn't end up being a danger to themselves or to others.

Despite this, and ignoring the concerns of the guardians of these individuals, Abele is continuing to proceed with this plan, including looking for placements around the state, as opposed to keeping them close to their families as he touts.  The fact that the county board had to act on Wednesday to address Abele's lapses in this area should alone be enough proof to show what a bad idea this bill is.

Economic Development

As I had just written, economic development has been a major issue for Milwaukee County.  Most, if not all, of the blame can be laid at the feet of the county executive's office due filling this important job with unqualified cronies and campaign workers.

The other complaint that has been made is that the county expects to have land developers and contractors follow prevailing wages and to use a certain percentage of minority contractors.

Abele hasn't said anything about this issue, but given his previous expressions of disdain for unions, it would not require a great leap of faith or logic to presume he would waive those necessities.  And the Plutocracy Bill would give him those powers without the Board being able to call for these economy boosting safeguards.

Cutting these requirements might help sell the land, and would definitely help the land developers bottom line.  But as we have seen across the state, taking money away from the workers in this type of austerity stunt only serves to harm the economy and will cost many more jobs as the economy tanks even further.

Privatization and Austerity

Abele has repeatedly said that he wants to privatize as many services as he can.

However, we have seen that privatization all too often ends up being much more expensive than the public sector would be.  We also seen what a dangerous thing that privatization can be, as evidence by the Milwaukee County child welfare system.  Their most recent failure as cost three children their lives.

Furthermore, just looking at the state numbers for the last two years has shown just what this type of austerity can do.  It has all but stopped job growth in the state.  With the Milwaukee area having an 8.4% unemployment rate, one would have hoped that Abele would have wanted to address this problem at some point in time.  If one had hoped that, one would have been greatly disappointed.

In summary, while the Plutocracy Bill might be aimed at the County Board, it has much greater ramifications for many more than just that small group.  This bill will hurt the voters, especially minority voters; vulnerable citizens; taxpayers; and workers in both the public and private sectors.

But at least the select special interests, like the plutocrats of GMC, will be taken care of.


  1. We're kinda screwed. They're gonna do what they're gonna do. Let's just hope it serves as an example after the fact for others what NOT to do.

  2. Whoa, JimSpice, you sound rather down in the dumps.

    So is the push against moving the Milwaukee County board into line with all the other boards in the state simply an I-hate-change charge? You make it sound like Milwaukee County will slide into the lake.

  3. Cindy, please get your facts straight instead of simply regurgitating right-wing talking points. AB 85 would not simply "move the Milwaukee County Board into line" with other boards in the state. It would leave Milwaukee County with the weakest board and the most powerful county executive in the state. Also, no other county has the pay of its supervisors tied to the county's per capita income.

  4. What do you expect? Cindy writes a biography of Scott Walker and misses ten years of his life. She lives in a fact-free world.