Monday, March 16, 2015

Scott Walker's Mini-Me

What if I told you that there was a politician in Wisconsin that gave one of his political insiders a massive raise for cutting services to the most vulnerable citizens?  And what if I told you the same politician not only refused to give rank and file raises that were owed to them but cut their pay for the fourth straight year?  And what if I told you that said politician could get away with it because he had laws passed that removed any accountability to the public?

You'd probably think that I was talking about Scott Walker.  And that would be a pretty good guess because walker has done that very thing.

But in this instance, I am referring to Walker's Mini-Me, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.
In a year of planned pay increases for several hundred Milwaukee County employees, Department of Health and Human Services Director Hector Colón received the biggest bump of all with a nearly 39% raise in 2015.

The $48,682 raise lifted his salary to $175,000 a year.

That is on top of the 1% increase — equal to $1,250 — Colón received with all other county employees in April of last year.

There was no overall pay hike for all of the county's 4,000 or so employees this year.
Think about that for a minute.

 One county department head is making more money than a United States Representative.

Abele is able to get away with this because of Act 14.  Act 14 is the law he had written and introduced by his personally-owned state representative, Joe Sanfelippo, in order to decimate the county's representative government and consolidate power into his own hands.

County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic brings up valid concerns about the raise and its appropriateness:
County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic criticized Abele for giving those two appointees raises without informing the public or reporting the new salaries to the board. "It seems secretive," she said.

"These types of extreme salary increases have potential pension impacts as well," Dimitrijevic said. "Another reason for a full, public vetting."

Act 14, a 2013 law that cut the County Board's authority, bars the board from a role in approving raises for top county managers, according to county attorney Paul Bargren.

Dimitrijevic specifically questioned how Abele could justify a 39% boost to Colón just a few months after the administration and board debated cuts in funding to homeless shelters and indigent burials, and the closing of public pools.
As one might expect, Abele used weasel speak to try to justify his largess:
Colón has not had a merit raise in more than three years he has held the job, and the department's Behavioral Health Division ended 2014 with a multimillion surplus, instead of a perennial deficit, according to Abele. "That's money we can put back into services," he said.

After more than a decade of calls for reforms of county mental health services, with a goal of shifting patients out of institutions to community programs for care, Colón has accomplished much of the reform agenda, Abele said.
We saw that what Abele's reforms brought about - vulnerable citizens getting insufficient support and services which have led to people being maimed and even people dying.

It is more than ironic that Abele boasts of these "savings" that can be "put back into services."  Not only is Abele cutting services, but the $50,000 could have been used to hire a front line worker that, y'know, actually provides those services Abele pretends to be so concerned about.

Abele's line about Colón not getting a merit raise in three years is just plain insulting.

Not only have county workers been denied their raises for the past four years, they have had their take home pay cut each of those years due to Abele's draconian cuts, making him actually worse than Walker in that regard.

On top of all that, thanks to the diligence of AFSCME, 60% of the county work force is finally eligible for step increase this year (and trust me, they are no where near 39% increases), for the first time in years.  But Abele is refusing to give them out, claiming that the county is broke.  Keep in mind that the county has had surpluses in the tens of millions of dollars each year, much of which comes off of the backs of the same workers he won't give raises to now.

As the Democratic Party of Wisconsin starts their debate on who should be the next leader of the party and try to find a way to beat Walker and his Republican allies, perhaps they would be wise to listen to their own members, and realize they won't win as long as they continue to cling to this Walker wannabe.

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