Milwaukee County 2012 budget hearings, Day 5

We made it through the first week of budget hearings, and we’re all standing. That’s a good sign.

This post has a lot of juicy tidbits if you’re interested in how an elected governing body carries out its duty to determine its own future course. In particular, check out the stuff about the corporation counsel and VISIT Milwaukee/DAS.

The first week of the budget haerings been an exhausting process, but nothing  shows you how a government works like sitting through and participating in the crafting of its budget. It tells you a lot about who does what, and how things work—or the opposites of those.

Here’s all the matters that were covered today. I was only present for part of the meeting. My notes are in [brackets.] Otherwise the list is as prepared by board spokesman Harold Mester. Minutes are available through the Milwaukee County Legistar system as well.

• • •

• DAS – Risk Management
• DAS – Administration and Fiscal Affairs
• DAS – Procurement Division
• DAS – Information Management Services Division
• Land Sales

[Several supervisors had questions on this topic. I asked about if a revolving loan fund had ever existed, and if a similar fund was set up for the Men of Color Task Force. As I understood it, nothing had been set up for that task force.]

• Corporation Counsel

[A very interesting discussion emerged from this when Finance Committee Chairman Johnny Thomas stated that a new policy detailing how supervisors could make requests of corporation counsel, who is the County’s primary lawyer. As described, a request for an opinion would need to come through either the chair (of the wholy board? or of a committee?), of a committee, or from the Body of the Whole, which is a meeting of the full Board of Supervisors. Thus under this provision, individual supervisors  would either be not allowed to, or at very least strongly discouraged, from asking for a written legal opinion from the corporate counsel.

[There was confusion among the committee as to the existence of a policy on this. Assistant corporation counsel Jeff Grady said that a policy had been in place for several decades indicating something to this effect. I had not heard of it, and two of the longest-serving members of the board who were also present at that meeting had no recollection øf such policy either.

[Supervisor Jursik, who is the only lawyer serving as a county supervisor, made very strong points about the possible effects of barring individual supervisors from soliciting an opinion from the body’s own legal counsel. I also asked a few questions about the origin of this statement as well. Several other supervisors asked questions about the nature of the policy. The general consensus was that if a policy on making requests of corporate counsel was to be made, it would need to come out in the light of day and very carefully thought through.]

• Litigation Reserve Account
• DAS – Office for Persons with Disabilities
• Civil Service Commission
• Human Resources Division/Labor Relations/Personnel Review Board/Ethics Board – Amendment approved 6-0 to deny the proposed consolidation of Labor Relations, the Personnel Review Board and the Ethics Board within the Department of Human Resources

[I was not present for this, but I do support the measure.]

• DAS – Employee Benefits Division
• DAS – Economic Development (New Department)
• VISIT Milwaukee

[This department would be absorbed into a larger and more powerful DAS (Department of Administrative Services) under the Abele’s proposed budget. Questions were asked about the veiled nature of its funding, which was not listed as a line item under the new DAS.]

• Milwaukee County Automated Land Information System
• County Clerk
• Register of Deeds

• Committee voted 6-0 to approve the 2012 Special Charge for Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC)

[Supervisor De Bruin was once livid at SEWRPC for presenting the County Board’ vote against endorsing the expansion of I-94 as a vote in support of the expansion. The description of this process caused several people in the room to become slack-jawed. That said, Supervisor De Bruin moved to approve the issuance of the slightly reduced county funding for SEWRPC.]

The Committee will continue its review of budgets and consideration of amendments throughout October in Room 203-R of the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

The Committee will continue its review of budgets and consideration of amendments throughout October in Room 203-R of the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

Click here to access the 2012 budget meeting schedule
Click here to listen to live audio from the meetings  (available while meetings are in progress)
Click here to access the Budget Overview presented by County Board Staff.

The County Board of Supervisors, under the leadership of Chairman Lee Holloway, will adopt the 2012 Budget on Monday, November 7 at 8:30 a.m. in Room 200 of the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

The County Board’s annual Public Hearing on the 2012 Budget is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Monday, October 31 at the Washington Park Senior Center, located at 4420 W. Vliet Street in Milwaukee.

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Highways and transit: Are you listening, Wisc. DOT? (And a bit of praise for jrowen)

James Rowen has done the sort of blogging I aspire to do on the topics of highways and transit. First, he cites a report rightly predicting a “mass exodus of vehicles off America’s highways” when gas prices hit $7/gallon. (Diesel, by the way, is already at $4.68 in Milwaukee. I paid $67.86 for 14.56 gallons of it just tonight. It’s not going to go down even if we drill in every wildlife preserve in North America.)

The first post, specifically, is the sort of writing that I aspire to. Rowen asks if the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission are doing the same sort of critical thinking and analysis as the authors of this report. The report was not written on behalf of some wacky lefties, but for a Canadian bank. Institutions of that sort want realistic projections of what is likely to happen, not candy-colored descriptions of how great the future will be.

WiscDOT and SEWRPC seem not to share this clear-eyed view, as they still plan to have I-94 widened to no end while making no plans or accommodations for the sort of mass transit that’s rapidly becoming needed. I often brag about my car’s fantastic combined mileage of 48 MPG (a Volkswagen Jetta TDI, if you’re wondering), but at $6 or $7 per gallon for fuel, even I’ll be on the road as little as possible.

Rowen’s second post is short but sweet. I quote it here: “Douglas and Superior Counties want a high-speed passenger rail link to the Twin Cities across the state border.

Maybe our railophobics in the southern part of the state could learn a thing or two from their upnorth counterparts.”

Hats off, Mr. Rowen. Well said.