Sunday, March 30, 2014

Milwaukee County Supervisors Earn Their Pay

Even as Chris Abele and his plutocratic pals at the Greater Milwaukee Committee spend hundreds of thousands of dollars urging people to give up their right to representative government, the truth is coming out in force.

Larry Hoffman recently had an op-ed piece appear in the local paper that spells out very clearly many of the great things that the Milwaukee County Board has done for the community, usually in the face of opposition from the county executive/emperor, whether it be Scott Walker or Chris Abele:
Being a county supervisor is a rigorous, multifaceted, full-time job. Serving nearly a million people, they oversee some 25 departments, including those that run our bus system, airports and zoo; care for our elders, our disabled and addicted; maintain roads and parks; and more. Each month, supervisors analyze dozens of issues and make difficult decisions involving millions of dollars. We the people can speak our minds to them and testify at committee meetings.

Supervisors reflect the values of the community — people affluent and poor, of color and otherwise. The board fights to protect workers and assist the weakest among us.

Residents and businesses ignored by the wealthy power structure are helped by supervisors to build alliances. Should supervisors have to juggle additional jobs at the same time they're fighting to give constituents the tools to make a decent living?

With diminished funding and staff, supervisors are already hard-pressed to carry out crucial tasks: communicating with constituents; analyzing the multitude of materials required for decision-making; overseeing the executive and departments; and developing ideas into complex proposals.

Representing 53,000 citizens and paid $51,000, a supervisor gets about $1 a year per constituent. Isn't an open, vibrant democracy worth $1 a year? Or should we vote "yes" for a 50-cent discount model?

From thousands of board actions since 2003, here are some of the board's excellent accomplishments, mostly over opposition from Abele or Scott Walker:

■Contributed $10 million to save the War Memorial and the Milwaukee Art Museum's collection.

■Prohibited parking meters along the lakefront.

■Prevented shutdown of Pulaski and Noyes indoor pools for seniors.

■Saved vital bus routes targeted by Walker.

■Provided training and competition for hundreds of kids through Youth Sports Authority.

■Removed the House of Correction from Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.; refocused on rehabilitation.

■Switched county employees' health insurance plan, saving $37 million.

■Instituted $11.32 an hour living wage for county workers.

■Rejected Walker's 25-year, $400 million lease of St. Michael Hospital.

■Trained and employed 500 workers, averaging $18 an hour, through WRTP/Big Step.

Members of the state Assembly receive $50,000 a year. Milwaukee aldermen make $78,000. County supervisors do comparable work.

After five years as a board aide, I made $24,000 a year. It's hard to imagine an elected official, responsible to the people 24/7, overseeing professionals making six figures, who gets no insurance or pension and the salary of an aide. If anyone in your family would ever feel called to run for office, would you be encouraged or discouraged?

Poorly paid elected positions won't attract good candidates, particularly minorities, who aren't wealthy. But they'll attract candidates who don't need the money — candidates oriented toward wealthier constituents.

They say this vote will let us take full-time salaries away from part-time workers. In reality, it would do the opposite, relegating full-time workers to part-time pay. If we pay them less, we'll be less able to hold the executive accountable. It would be an affront to democracy. Our vote Tuesday should be "no."
A lot of people think that by voting to cut the salaries, they'll finally be "sticking it to the man." The sad truth is that the only people they'll be sticking it to is themselves. They aren't really going to be voting to cut the supervisors' salary as much as voting to cut their own voice and authority.

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