Thursday, July 25, 2013

Abele Calls Support For War Memorial, Art Museum "Bullshit"

During the tenure of Scott Walker as Milwaukee County Executive, he was infamous for refusing to do proper maintenance and upkeep on county-owned facilities and property.  The results of his negligence ranged from cornice falling of off the courthouse to the tragedy of O'Donnell Park, where a facade fell and killed a boy and seriously injured two others.

One of the more seriously neglected buildings was the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, which is also home to the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Water damage and other issues of neglect was not only threatening the building, but also valuable piece of art.

After nearly a year of struggling to reach an agreement between the War Memorial Center and the art museum on who would be responsible for what, the County Board asked former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jeanine Geske to step in and help mediate a resolution.  Geske's effort did not go to waste and agreement was made.  Several members of the board held a press conference on Tuesday to announce the agreement. This is from their press release:
Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, along with Supervisors Gerry Broderick and John Weishan, today announced that a new agreement between The Milwaukee Art Museum and The Milwaukee County War Memorial, Inc. will help ensure the long-term vitality of the buildings and grounds of both organizations.

Under the compromise, the War Memorial Center/Milwaukee Art Museum will receive $1,586,000 per year from the County from 2014 through 2023. This includes an investment of $1,100,000 to the Art Museum and $486,000 to the War Memorial. The annual funding commitment ends after the ten-year period, but the other portions of the agreement could extend for up to 84 years.

County capital improvement funding of $10 million between 2013 and 2017 will supplement the Art Museum’s planned private funding of $15 million for a total $25 million investment in improvements to the publicly-owned portions of the War Memorial and Art Museum buildings and grounds.

Supervisors Weishan and Broderick, members of the Committee on Parks, Energy and Environment, praised the accord.

“This is a historic agreement because not only do both organizations benefit, but all of Milwaukee County benefits,” Weishan said. “This is especially a victory for veterans because the pact promises to keep the War Memorial as a tribute to their selfless actions in service to our country.”

Broderick said the pact would help preserve both institutions for generations to come.

“This agreement is the product of leadership and vision by all who were involved,” Broderick said. “The Art Museum is a true jewel that is known world-wide as a symbol of Milwaukee, and the War Memorial honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Dimitrijevic said that she was pleased to help assuring the pact was reached when she asked former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske to mediate talks after the two groups had reached an impasse.

“I believe that having Justice Geske mediate the discussion between the two groups was a key to reaching this historic agreement,” she said. “This is a win-win-win for the Milwaukee Art Museum, the War Memorial and the taxpayers of Milwaukee County. It's time to come together and make a long term commitment to our veterans and arts community. This investment will pay off for generations to come."

A special meeting of the Finance, Personnel and Audit committee will be held to consider the measure Thursday at 8 a.m. in the Courthouse before sending it to the Board at its 9:30 meeting.
Milwaukee County Emperor, who is no stranger to deferred maintenance, such as that which caused the Courthouse to catch on fire, is also opposed to the plan to restore the center and museum.

Between stamping his feet, screaming and holding his breath in his ongoing temper tantrum, Abele took time out to say he would veto the support for the veterans center and art museum.  In fact, Abele made it abundantly clear on what he thought of the deal in an interview with the Daily Reporter:
But Abele said he is committed to reducing the county’s support of the memorial and museum. Through negotiations, he said, he repeatedly told the museum and memorial they should not expect the county to continue contributing much money to their operating budgets.

He bolstered that, he said, by referring to the 2011 audit, but, he added, the museum and memorial seem not to have taken his comments to heart.

“Not only are they not more efficient,” Abele said, “they’re getting more expensive. … At what point do we kind of call bullshit?”
It should be noted that Abele is purposely misconstruing the findings of the 2011 audit done by County Auditor Jerome Heer, who had this to say about it:
Heer said when he wrote the 2011 recommendations, he was less concerned about continuing budget commitments to the museum and memorial than he was about the shape of the complex they occupy.

“Our No. 1 priority was to get the deferred maintenance addressed,” he said. “The nature of who funds it or how long they fund it is secondary.”
Showing the level of Abele's misrepresentation, Heer also said that he has no objections to the increased funding.

Abele had also lamented that he did not know where he would find an extra $300,000 out of the $1.4 billion county budget.  May I suggest that the exorbitant pay increases he gave to his cronies and the made up jobs he created for political favors would just about cover the increased money.

Given the level of incompetence and/or corruption we've seen from Abele's administration - from his spokesman to his corp counsel - the money would be put to better use in restoring the War Memorial Center and art museum.

1 comment:

  1. Can you fix the editing problem in the first paragraph? I can't follow it..