Tuesday, August 27, 2013

MJS Tells Abele To Sign War Memorial Deal

Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele is losing his war against veterans and art lovers.

Poor darling.
Abele haz a sad.  He haz to grow up.
Photo by Mike De Sista

When the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center and Milwaukee Art Museum had reached an apparent impasse in negotiations, Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic brought in former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske to mediate.  She managed to get all the parties involved to reach an agreement.

However, Abele, being the acolyte of austerity that he is, made it clear that he would rather push the veterans into the lake.  He called the deal "bullshit."  He tried to sabotage the deal.  When he realized that he was the odd man out on this - and after he spent months crapping on the county board - he suddenly wanted to compromise.  Maybe he'd settle for just pushing some of the veterans into the lake.

Thank goodness that the adults in the room - the county board - held fast and stayed the course for doing what is right.

Now even the distinctly Abele-friendly editorial board at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is telling Abele to grow up and sign the deal already:
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele seems to have run out of options on a deal for a new governance structure and fiscal support for the War Memorial and the Milwaukee Art Museum. He has asked County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic to compromise on the deal so that it would provide less public support over a shorter period of time, but she has said the deal approved 18-0 by the board last month already is a compromise. He has threatened a veto, but that 18-0 vote practically guarantees an override vote by supervisors.

Furthermore, a veto would only prolong this fight for a few more weeks and could unnecessarily delay implementation of a $25 million renovation plan. To move matters forward and in the interest of county amity, Abele should simply sign the deal.

Like Abele, we would have preferred a different deal — but we can live with this one, worked out over 18 months with the help of Marquette University professor and former Supreme Court justice Janine Geske, who was brought in by Dimitrijevic to help resolve some key differences.

The deal does create a better balanced and more efficient governance structure between the two bodies, as well as several other entities that were under the War Memorial umbrella, such as the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. It also provides a set funding level of taxpayer support for the two entities at $1,586,000 for 10 years — about $1.1 million for the Art Museum and the rest for the War Memorial.

Much of that money will be used to help pay for utility costs and routine maintenance at the War Memorial, which has been deteriorating. Coupled with $10 million pledged by the county for major maintenance issues and the $15 million the Art Museum plans to spend on a major renovation, the funding will help restore the War Memorial to a building in which all county residents can take pride.

The guaranteed 10-year support and partnership with the county may also help reassure donors that their money will be well-spent, as Dimitrijevic has argued.

Furthermore, the nearly $1.6 million is not out of line with the average $1.5 million in annual support the county provided from 1999 to this year.

So the deal makes sense on several levels, and prolonging a hopeless political fight over the issue appears fruitless.
The fact that Abele still hasn't signed the deal and that even the paper has to scold him into doing so shows that Abele has a lot of growing to do - both personally and professionally.

It also shows that despite what his ghost writers (yes, there is more than one) would have you believe, Abele's concern does not lie with the people of Milwaukee County, but rather how he and his plutocratic pals can exploit it.

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