Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wisconsin Soapbox's Take on AB 85's Public Hearing

While I'm giddy with excitement to see what Capper has to say about today's Public Hearing on AB 85, I wanted to share with the gentle reader my take-aways from today's testimony.
For those of you who aren't usual readers of my own Soapbox, you should know that I am originally from Fond du Lac and have only relocated to Milwaukee this past December. Sadly, this means I have nowhere near the vast breath and depth of historical knowledge that my esteemed elder blogger Capper has on all things Milwaukee County. However, being new to Milwaukee doesn't mean that I am unable to see a bill that usurpts power and sets precedent that should make all 71 other counties worry.

My take away is cross-posted at my blog, Wisconsin Soapbox, but for your convenience, I have provided it here as well:


While the Joint Finance Committee was taking up residence on Wisconsin Dells Parkway, the Assembly Committee on Government Operations and State Licenses took over the Finance Committee's hearing room at the State Capitol to hear public input on AB 85.

And what a long, long day it was... as testimony went longer than the Finance Committee, ending at  7pm. You can watch the entire event on Wisconsin Eye HERE. 

I was lucky enough to dip in and out of the coverage during the day, and saw many of the "heavy hitters" testify, including County Executive Chris Abele, County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, and State Sen. Lena Taylor. Additionally, there were SEVERAL other government representatives who testified, and it seemed to me that a vast majority of the people who I saw were either Village Presidents, Mayors, County Board Supervisors of counties all over Wisconsin, not just Milwaukee, and members of the State Legislature. And boy, did the testimony show just what strange bed fellows this bill has created.

Two of the initial news stories of the hearing came from Steve Schultze of the Journal-Sentinel, who has been on this story since the beginning, and the (free to view articles on the) Bay View Compass.

One person mentioned in both articles is Fond du Lac County Board Chairman Marty Ferrell. His testimony was fiery, and coming from a generally conservative county in Wisconsin. From the Bay View Compass:
“Today is a sad day as we see a new attempt to dismantle local government,” said Farrell. “First they took away our funding; now they are working to take away power from the local representatives who are closest to the people. What will be next, our public buildings to congregate? Local officials statewide should be concerned as the most aggressive take-over of local government is on the move.”
Damn straight!

The Journal-Sentinel even quoted Mr. Ferrell, and echoed a point that MANY people in the Cheddarsphere have made:
Martin Farrell, chairman of the Fond du Lac County Board, warned that if the Legislature approves the Milwaukee County bill, it could easily be extended to other counties. He called Sanfelippo's bill an "extremely dangerous precedent."
Makes you wonder if someone directed him to the Soapbox? Mr. Ferrell is very right to be worried about precedent. That comes to a point I raised on here about Fond du Lac County and their own reforms that have been undertaken over the last few years:
I mentioned at the very end of my initial posting about AB 85 that the Fond du Lac County Board contracted from 36 to 18 Supervisors in 2006, but then subsequently re-expanded to 25 members in 2010. I mean, what if the State Legislature told them they couldn't expand so soon after contraction? Or if they felt like they were spending too much money? Or like they were too dysfunctional? Or that they didn't need to expand when they occasionally cancel meetings due to lack of business?

The state setting the precedent of meddling in County Government affairs because of perceived dysfunction by some former members of the Board is "extremely dangerous precedent".

Additionally, I was also told by the lovely Blue Cheddar, who was live-tweeting much of the proceedings, that several people raised an issue brought to you FIRST on the Wisconsin Soapbox - That there are several places where the bill will applied to counties of 500,000 for some issues, and 750,000 persons exists. This would have ramifications for Dane County in at least 2020, and possibly Waukesha County depending upon their growth.

While this was the only hearing for the bill as it is in the Assembly, State Senator Lena Taylor gave her word that when the bill is brought up for a public hearing in the State Senate, there will be a hearing in Milwaukee County. (I will believe it when it's scheduled) That promise did little to sooth the feelings of people like Committee Member Rep. Christine Sinicki, but it is at least some feeling of hope that more average voters will be able to have their voices heard on this legislation.

As to where we go from here, the bill will be in front of the committee again tomorrow as amendments will be proposed and added. Then, the bill will go to the floor next week for a vote. However, the waters are a little less clear in the State Senate, as to when the public hearing(s) will be. Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. Soap, thanks so much.

    If it had not been for a County Sup, Lynn DeBruin, John Chianelli would still be running a County Department and Karl Strelnick would still be billing Medicaid to sexually assault his female patients.

    If the CB is dysfunctional, the solution is higher pay. That will attract better candidates. MC runs a billion/dollar a year budget with 1.8B pension. The "savings" from salary cuts doesn't even come close to registering.