Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chris Abele Runs Away From His Own Budget

Like many other governmental entities, Milwaukee County is in the midst of their budget process.  Unlike most other governmental entities, Milwaukee County doesn't have an executive leader that presents, explains and defends his budget.

This morning, I received an extremely rare official email from Abele's office, stating how proud he is of his budget:
We’re officially in the midst of budget season at Milwaukee County. I’m proud of what my team and I put into this year’s budget – from unprecedented investments in transit, to an ambitious initiative to end chronic homelessness, and multiple investments in our employees – all while maintaining the financial stability and sustainability that I’ve fought so hard to create over the last several years.
He then boasts about the false praise offered by the Public Policy Forum.  This praise is basically meaningless since PPF is funded by Abele and his friends at the Greater Milwaukee Committee.  It's the equivalent of Scott Walker bragging about the praise he gets from the MacIver Institute.

But just how proud is Abele over his budget?

To the date of this writing, Abele has willfully failed five times to appear publicly to discuss his budget.  Five times, the Milwaukee County Board's Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee has invited Abele to come to speak to his budget proposal and five times Abele has refused.

UPDATE: Make that six times now!

Now, one would think that if Abele was so proud of his budget proposal, he would want to talk about it every chance he gets.  Even Walker, when he was county executive, would talk up his budget all the time.  Of course, Walker was always lying through his weasel teeth, but at least he would appear and defend his decisions.

Chairman Theodore Lipscomb raised some good questions after the third time Abele failed to appear:
“We have offered the County Executive three scheduled opportunities to answer direct questions about his budget since it was released, and he continues to refuse,” Lipscomb said. “This sets an unsettling precedent and stands in stark contrast to both Walker and Barrett.

“What is Abele hiding, and why is he hiding? Doesn’t the public have a right to know what’s going on?
Abele has offered to meet with each of the supervisors individually and privately, but added that he would still be deferring questions to his aides. That would indicate he doesn't really know what's in there or if he does, he's not so proud of it after all.

What is also alarming is the great lengths he is going to to prevent the public from knowing what is in his budget. Proposing to meet with supervisors privately is meant to keep the public out of the loop. But even worse, under Act 14 - Abele's power usurping law - the County Board and its committees have the authority to require the presence of any county employee or officer. Not only is Abele disrespecting the board and the taxpayers, he is willing to break the law in order to keep the taxpayers from knowing how he is spending their money.

To be fair, it might not be just that Abele is ashamed of his budget and doesn't want the public to know exactly what is in it, such as tapping into the reserves to pay his $80 million obligation to help build the Bucks arena.  Or that he has endangered public safety with draconian cuts to the Sheriff's Office.

It might be that he is afraid that he will commit another gaffe like he did when he first presented the budget (a week late and tens of millions of dollars short) to the County Board.  The gentle reader will remember that this was when he said that he was "helping" the African American community by improving the House of Correction, boosting child support enforcement or giving more money to privatizing the mental health system.

The ironic thing is that if any other county employee would refuse to obey the law five times like Abele is doing, it would be grounds for termination.  Fortunately, the voters will have a chance to do just that in a few months, when we elect Chris Larson to replace the elitist Abele.

In the meantime, if you happen to stumble across Abele wherever he is hiding, please return him to the Milwaukee County Courthouse so that he can actually do his job.

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