The “reform” of Milwaukee County Government: Massive power transfer to county executive

We have received the text and attachments of the Milwaukee County government “reform” bill that is now circulating in the state legislature. Please read through these documents carefully.  The bill would have a binding referendum in April 2014. While most people would be happy to cut elected official’s pay and benefits, there are a lot of things that you would not vote on, but would take effect with bill’s signing.

What I would like to point out to you is the total transfer of power that this bill would perform. The County Board would be strippe of virtually all powers to interact with county departments, be they Transit, Parks, the Airport, Highways, Dept. of Aging, Human Resources, etc. Every request for contact would have to be approved through the county executive’s office. Every single one. So if you wanted a change to Humboldt Park, while right now you would call my office, under this, I’d have to grovel before Abele. If you have a problem with a bus stop, I couldn’t touch it. I’d have to grovel before Abele. You would lose your voice in the county government. It would all be run by the unaccountable executive.This is akin to the president of the United States getting a bill that would remove Congress’s oversight and checking of executive power. The president would have unchecked power to control the government. Think back to grade school, when we learned about the three branches of government, each helping check the other’s grasp on power. This would tip the County government way, way, way to the executive’s favor. Your would lose your way to be heard on these matters that directly affect you.

Collective bargaining is another thing that would be granted exclusively to the executive under this bill. While Act 10 has stripped most public employees of the right to collective bargaining, fire dept. and sheriff’s deputies still have bargaining rights. Currently, it’s done through the nine-member Finance Committee. Under this, it would all be at the behest of the county executive. If Act 10 was overturned, this would still be in effect, so all 4,000-some employees would be under his thumb.
You could lose your voice in county government through this bill. There would be no accountability for the executive, save for at election each four years. This is a transfer of power away from a body of 18 supervisors onto one executive. It’s a threat to the democratic principles that made this state great so long ago, but have since been thrown to the wolves.I ran for office to do something for the people who elected me. This bill would take that power away.

Jason Haas

Milwaukee County Supervisor, District 14
(Proudly representing the Airport, Bay View, Copernicus, Holler, Humboldt, KK River Parkway, Morgan, Saveland, Tippecanoe, and Wilson Park neighborhoods.)

Rallying for transit with other Milwaukee County Supervisors at Joint Finance hearing

I will be appearing with three future Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors colleagues at the State Legislatures Joint Finance Committee hearing. Here’s the announcement from Milwaukee County Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic, 4th District, Patricia Jursik, 8th District, and Jim “Luigi” Schmitt, 19th District:

For Immediate Release April 8, 2011
Contact: Harold Mester, Public Information Manager
414/278-4051 or


County residents invited to join Supervisors riding the bus to testify at public hearing

Milwaukee, WI – Milwaukee County Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic, Patricia Jursik and Jim “Luigi” Schmitt, along with Supervisor-Elect Jason Haas, are inviting residents to join a coalition of Supervisors, transit advocates, and members of ATU Local 998 riding the bus to a public hearing of the State Legislature‟s Joint Finance Committee Monday morning. The coalition plans to ask State lawmakers to “Save OUR Ride” and preserve funding for the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS), which continues to face a funding crisis. Despite 52% of Milwaukee County voters approving a referendum taking transit off the property tax, the State has not enacted a dedicated funding source.

“Unfortunately, the State Budget proposal includes a 10% cut to transit, which would lead to route cuts, longer transfer times, higher fares, and make it more difficult to create jobs or foster independence for disabled residents,” Supervisor Dimitrijevic said. “A healthy transit infrastructure is critical to our growth. Arbitrary cuts with no ability to increase local revenues could be a final blow to our transit system. We need to tell the Joint Finance Committee to support transit funding to Milwaukee County.”

“My colleagues and others are riding the bus Monday morning to show how important it is for us to have modern transit connections,” said Supervisor Michael Mayo, Sr., Chairman of the County Board‟s Transportation, Public Works & Transit Committee. “Transit connects workers with jobs, students with education, and retail with customers. We all must ‘Save OUR Ride’ to ensure a bright future.”

“I am particularly concerned about mass transit funding being shifted out of the transportation fund,” said Supervisor Jim “Luigi” Schmitt, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee. “This would force us to compete with all other services in the general fund.”

Transit supporters are invited to join Supervisors as they ride the bus to the public hearing at State Fair Park. The group will board the 8:26 a.m. departure of MCTS Freeway Flyer Route 44U from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee (UWM) at the corner of Hartford/Maryland. They will then ride to the Wisconsin State Fair Park Expo Center, 8200 W. Greenfield Avenue in West Allis. The bus is expected to arrive shortly before 9:00 a.m. Freeway Flyers could be cut unless action is taken to preserve State funding.

“Save OUR Ride” News Conference/Rally for transit funding 9:00 A.M. Monday, April 11, 2011 State Fair Park Expo Center 8200 W. Greenfield Avenue

Supporters riding from UWM:

Park in UWM Pavilion structure, Edgewood Ave. between Oakland and Downer. Walk to Hartford/Maryland.

Route 44U departs promptly at 8:26

Media and all other participants:

Supervisors will arrive on Route 44U near 84th/Greenfield by 9:00 a.m.

Joint Finance Committee Public Hearing is 10am – 6pm


Let me be clear that I stand with my colleagues. The new state budget spells dire trouble for transit. Without a dedicated source of funding, it has been ever-more difficult to find the funding to continue this vital service. If you want to fight unemployment, fund transit. If you want to fuel the economy, fund transit. To me, that is the only way to go.

A brief summary of the free rides Ron Johnson has gotten from government

For a guy who claims to loath everything that Gubmint is and stands for, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson has gotten more than his share of very substantial government assistance—some of it running to this very day.

I will use the text of a poll over on DailyKos to summarize it for you:

  • His wife’s family’s plastic plant (that Johnson now owns) was built on TIF land
  • Wife’s family’s plant (that Johnson now owns) used gov jobs grant to hire Johnson
  • Wife’s family used gov-subsidized loans to build plastic plant that Johnson now owns
  • Johnson served on the board of, and got help from, Chamco– the industrial development arm of the City of Oshkosh that specializes in handing out gov grants/loans
  • Johnson is a part-owner in the show “Hometime,” which airs on a gov-subsizized network
  • Johnson uses gov-subsidized prison labor at his plastic plant
  • Some of Johnson’s employees are on gov-subsidized BadgerCare
  • Johnson fought for, and got, $500,000 in state funding for renovations to the Oshkosh Opera House

(Thanks, Kos.)

Of course today Lisa Kaiser broke the story that five of Ron Johnson’s employees and their ten children are on BadgerCare. Which, if you listen to Johnson, is some kind of evil “socialist” parasitic drain of all individual freedom. Or something like that.

Just unbelievable. So it’s okay if he gets it, but not the rest of us? Or government assistance is bad now, but wasn’t for the past thirty years? Obviously it’s not if he’s been using prisoners and state-provided health insurance. Great way to save on your bottom line!

At least he paid his income taxes… which we can’t say about his company.

Feingold, Johnson in dead heat in last 2 weeks

Isn’t this always how it goes for Feingold? At least what we are told is that the good Senator somehow pulls ahead at the end of the race, squeaking by his latest millionaire opponent.

That is how it looks to be once again. Despite spending millions of his wealthy family’s money, and having millions more come in from out of state, Ron Johnson appears to be in a statistical tie with Senator Feingold. That trend has been emerging in recent days, with a new poll from the St. Norbert College Survey Center has Johnson barely ahead, 49 percent to 47 percent. The margin of error is 5 percentage points.

It’s coming apparent that Feingold may once again be saved by a superior ground game. But we are also seeing (or not seeing) Johnson as an invisible candidate who won’t reveal himself or his true feelings and opinions until after he wins election. That is a dangerous quality for someone who wants to be a representative of the people in one of our nation’s most respected chambers.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate at next MKE Drinking Liberally!

Straight from the Milwaukee Drinking Liberally blog:

Hello! We are excited to report that Mike Tate, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, will be our guest host at next Wednesday’s Drinking Liberally! That’s on October 20, just under two weeks before the general election. I know we’re anxious about that, so come find out what Mike has to say about getting us through to the other side with victory by our candidates!

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, “Tate served as the Deputy State Director of America Coming Together in 2004. He was hired as the State Director of Dean for America. He served as the Regional Political Director for AFSCME Council 40, and was the State Field Director for Falk for Governor. He was a Statewide Student Organizer for the 2000 Democratic Coordinated Campaign. Directly prior to assuming the role of chair of the state party, he served as the Executive Director of Fair Wisconsin and then the Executive Director of Advancing Wisconsin.”

Come with your questions for Mike, and find out how help win the November elections for us — lest Drinking Liberally become a sort of support group as it was during the dark days of the Bush II administration.


*** South-side Milwaukee needs a School Board Director! ***

Terry Falk, Milwaukee Public Schools Board Director for Bay View and surrounding area, is vacating his seat in order to run for the city-wide seat. (Curiously, he’s running for the seat so that he can eliminate it!) As a result, we need someone a progressive-minded individual to run for the Board of Directors. Can it be you?

This is a paid position, has fantastic health insurance, and has all its meetings at night, meaning you can still work your day job. Talk to me (Jason) if you’re interested. I will hook you up with the right people to talk to next.

Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you next Wednesday. As usual, we meet at:

Sugar Maple
441 E. Lincoln Ave.
Milwaukee (Bay View)
7 PM to 9 PM

We’ll be just inside the door to the, er, right.

Till then!

Jason & the Milwaukee DL Crew

Notes from the Sept. 2 Larson-Plale debate

Tonight was the third and probably final debate between state senate candidates Supervisor Chris Larson and incumbent state Senator Jeff Plale. It was held at the Humboldt Park Pavilion. The audience made up for its small size with its apparent devotion to the two candidates.

A brief rundown of the questions that were asked; bear in mind that I have paraphrased the questions and most of the answers.

1. BadgerCare. The question was related to the Republican gubernatorial candidates’ statement that BadgerCare was somehow a form of entitlement. Plale was given the first answer, and stated that BadgerCare was not an entitlement, but had helped “poor people in Milwaukee County.”  While he claimed that he did not know if he voted for it, he did say that it was fully funded, and not a tax burden. Despite this, Plale said it had been called “socialism” or a “Wisconsin version of BadgerCare.” (I think he meant to say Medicare or Medicaid.) Larson answered that Walker and Neumann were “out of touch,” and that BadgerCare was a part of the Wisconsin legacy that we need to continue.

2. The rights of single fathers. First answer by Larson: As county supervisor, Larson said he made sure county support programs stayed available and funded until they were turned over to the state. Larson stated that he will look out for families, not corporate interests. He then remarked about how a bill Plale got passed made it possible for telecommunication companies to raise their rates by 20%, hurting families. Plale responded that a colleague of his did something on this matter. He remarked about “taking the emotion out of family courts,” and remarked a second time that his friend in the state leg. has worked on this, but took no credit for doing anything.

3. Parks in Bay View; what would you do? This time Plale got the first answer, and said he cared about the parks. His answer included references to people’s memories of county parks. He claimed that the state legislature was not able to a resolution on parks funding. (Need to fact-check this answer.) Plale claimed to have supported the parks and transit referendum (that Larson initiated and got passed). More references to Milwaukee history, the “sewer socialists” who created the park system. Cited other elected officials. Plale then claimed “we will find a stable funding source for the parks” in the next legislative session. Larson noted that the parks was a very important issue for him. He led the movement to “educate the voters” and pass the funding referendum, “but the state balked at it. I will finish the job.” Larson emphasized that rather than being a “man in a suit” who shows up at events, he would be “there helping make this happen. Larson said that he has organized coalitions to help improve the parks, including the Humboldt Park Pavilion, and cleaning the lagoon at Humboldt Park. He mentioned leading the effort to turn county land that been empty for 30 years into a community garden.

4. Alterra’s possible new location in Bay view: The question pertained to Alterra’s apparent hesitation to create a new cafe/bakery at the corner or Lincoln and KK due to the fact that there are two major bus stops at the intersection. (The company’s efforts to have the stops moved to different sites have been rebuffed.) Larson answered that Ald. Zielinski and Sup. Dimitrijevic would work on this, as the site in question was in their respective districts. Larson emphasized that the availability of transit affects you even if you do not use it, as thousands of people do use it every day to get to work. He said that access to thousands of jobs would be lost if further cuts in the bus system occur, but that will happen because the state legislature did not take action when it was presented to them. Plale began his answer with another reference to Milwaukee history. He said Alterra was a great company, and said “I don’t understand why there’s an issue with the county putting bus stop there.”

5. Give an example of when you have turned down a campaign contribution because you didn’t agree with the contributor. This question went to Plale, who struggled to remember having refused or returned a donation. After a very long, awkward pause, he changed the subject to campaign finance in general, claiming that “donations don’t have an impact on me; people do.” (Fsct check that!) He mentioned the special interest groups who’ve been “flooding” our mailboxes with anti-Larson and anti-Plale pieces. He claimed that “five dollar and ten dollar donations from people who I know can’t afford it have a big impact on me.” (I strongly disagree with that assertion.) Larson stated that in contrast to his opponent, he takes no corporate or lobbyist contributions. He cited the prospect of huge corporate contributions that the recent Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision has made possible. Larson was able to specify a contribution that he returned: a person he (and I) went to school with at UWM who had worked to remove funding for the UWM Women’s Resource Center and LGBT Center sent him a check, and he (Larson) returned the check. The would-be contributor was quite offended at this, but Larson stood by his principles and refused the donation.

6. Should Wisconsin have an open primary? The current state law has primary voting by party only. Larson said the system “works as it is,”  as it prevents one side from  weakening the other. It also prevents people from voting for both Chris Larson and Scott Walker, which he said some voters have told him that they wished to do. (Boggle over that!) Plale said that the South Milwaukee Women’s Club lobbies to open primaries, and that he would co-sponsor a bill for that.

7. Wisconsin has a reputation for excessive drinking. How has the Tavern League effected legislation intended to fight drunk driving? The first answer came from Plale who said that “we’ve made strides.” (What would Jeff Wood say?) Plale gave the legislature a big back-slap, saying “we did a lot… we took a broad (sic.) leap” in the face of pressure from the Tavern League. He talked about a need to treatment, not just punishment of drunk driving. Larson said that he had restored AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) funding to the county budget when it had been slashed by the county executive. He said the drinking culture needs to change, and shared a story about losing a high school friend and classmate to a drunk driver two days before Christmas.

8. MPS: I don’t have the exact question, but Larson got the first response. He said means a change to how $50 million is taken away from it every year. H esaid the legislature needs to “lock arms” and bring all the stakeholders together. He argued for moving the school board elections to the fall as a way to fight the miserably low voter turnout in those elections. Plale, who has received steady funds from voucher school interests, said that the legislature had “screwed up” in crafting the school funding system, but absolved himself of responsibility for that. He focused on the cost of running the Bradley Tech school, yet failed to mention the startlingly high number of developmentally disabled children who attend that school. He made reference to a lack of accountability in the leadership of MPS, yet offered no solutions. His answers seemed to stir up the audience.

9. Expand or maintain the parental “choice” program? First answer by Plale. Keep it. Need to “get over this battle, our kids versus their kids.” He said he found “the politics of this extremely distasteful.” Culture in Madison (at the state capitol) is bad. “Senator Lena Taylor [who came to the debate] and I have locked arms on this.” Kids are hurt by this. He spoke of the importance of making the current systems more accountable. Larson said that he doe not support pulling money out of the system, nor pulling the best and the brightest out of the system, which also pulls parental involvement out. (Interruption from audience.) We need to put emphasis back on MPS. Larson mentioned the misleading push polls and mailings.

10. If you got $5 million to improve a single area of Bay View, what would it be? First answer by Larson. The Humboldt Park bandshell bathrooms would be a great project to use this on, as anyone who’s attended Chill on the Hill will testify to. [Yes, we will—they’re hideous! Thanks, Scotty!] The money could go to a BID on KK. [Such a BID exists, but could use more funding.] Plale answered that “we have people who care in Bay View,” and that it would be nice to get the high school “up to speed.” He added that money doesn’t drop out of the sky, so it’s useless to speculate on it happening.

At this point, questions from the audience were read.

11. Unemployment is up. What actions can you take now? First answer by Plale. People need jobs. Trepidation about jobs. “Don’t do any harm [to the business environment].” Wisconsin is a manufacturing state. Need to foster manufacturing climate. [Dog whistle alert.] Promise in ‘green’ energy. We will get a bill passed. Need to train workers. Lots of folks at technical schools. Do no harm. Larson answered that the clean energy jobs bill that Plale killed would have created 15,000 jobs. He talked about the airport, and how the many municipalities in the area near the airport were not at all cooperating to bring businesses to use the Milwaukee airport. Larson said he has been active in “courting businesses” to come to the area.

12. Very concerned about the Hoan Bridge. First answer by Larson. He was co-founder of Coaltion to Save the Hoan. Bridge is vital link to Milwaukee, state. Removing the bridge puts area at risk. I pushed to get funds. I wasn’t playing political games with it. This incensed Plale, who shot back, “You’re playing political games if you think they’re fixing the bridge.” I expressed loud opposition to the D.O.T. over their plans to remove or build anew. I am committed to re-decking. “This is about possibilities.” Put money into existing assets. Federal money comes and goes. People are now talking about the bridge. [Plale went over his time, thus giving Larson extra time.] Larson: We agree. The big difference is that I’ve not been sitting in the state legislature while nothing happened on this, and then trying to invoke an act of Congress and disobeying the President.

13. What factors go into your consideration of an energy or jobs bill? First answer by Plale. Claimed that he made the first renewable energy bill, cited a number of ‘green’ energy facilities. [Fact check! What about the Oak Creek coal-fired plant?] Clean energy jobs act was shellacked together, would have killed jobs. Would have raised energy bills. Price tag [to industry] killed the bill, not me. Absolved self, passed blame on to Assembly Speaker Sheridan, who “told me” that he didn’t have enough votes to pass the bill. Larson retorted that the Clean energy jobs bill was not a “shoot-from-the-hip” bill, took two years to build by governor’s committee. WMC dog whistle. Renewable energy would have kept billions of dollars in the state, rather than exported to coal and petroleum producers. Would have substantially lowered energy bills in long run. Need to build consensus, need to lead. [Larson went over his time, thus giving Plale extra time.] Plale: I was on that committee, spent two years of my life working on the bill. Deferred to manufacturers yet again.

14. Independent expenditures, PACs, outside forces. Will you work to stop this? First answer by Larson. This issue is key to me. Called for publicly funded elections, having $ tried to talking to voters, not dialing for dollars. “I wince every time” a new independent expenditure mailer comes out. They take attention away from issues that matter the most. Plale replied that “Unfortunately, Chris and I have become bit players in this race.” It would be great if this changed. Suggested that Larson did not wince when a mailer attacking Plale appeared, but Plale expressed no regret about anti-Larson mailers. Said he’s worked on campaign finance. Need to work on this.

Closing remarks:

Plale: I ran [for the Assembly] in 1996 because of a “reverse Robin Hood” that was hitting the schools in South Milwaukee. Jobs. Build middle class. Don’t hurt manufacturing. Jobs.

Larson: Clear difference: leadership. Will be active, involved with communities, building coalitions, “not whatever talk radio is screaming about.” Coalitions, leadership. Statement about a PAC mailing.

My take: While I doubt anyone’s mind was made or positions altered as a result of the event, it showed where the two candidates were coming from and how they differed in their approach to being in office. While Plale can talk a lot about happy-feely history, and claimed small donations influenced him the most, he made it clear that he operates in the interest of big business and manufacturers. Larson emphasized coalition building and his lengthy record of community involvement. He suggested that he would be able to extend this into the state legislature to build coalitions to effect positive change.

That’s my take on the debate, and I stand by it.

Also: Zach at Blogging Blue has a recap of the August 11 Plale/Larson debate.

Green Champions for Chris Larson fundraiser tonight @ Sweet Water Organics

Green Champions

for Chris Larson

to support Supervisor Chris Larson for State Senate


Sweet Water Organics

2153 S. Robinson Ave., Milwaukee, WI

Thursday, August 26th
6:30-8:30pm$50 suggested contribution
all contributions gratefully accepted

Please join fellow progressives and pro-choice advocates in supporting the next state leader from Milwaukee, Chris Larson, in his run for State Senate against Jeff Plale.  Chris, currently a County Supervisor, has provided great progressive leadership in the fight for quality jobs, public transit, parks and environmental stewardship.

Chris Larson will champion protecting our natural resources, and won’t give up until our lake, our waters and wildlife have the protections denied them by short-sighted policy.  Please pass this invite on to any friends you wish to.

Join celebrated activists Tom Brandstetter, Leonard Sobczak, Tia Nelson, Representative Spencer Black, and many others at Sweet Water Organics, a cutting-edge urban farm in the heart of Milwaukee.  Chris Larson has been endorsed by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters and the Clean Wisconsin Action Fund.  Join our coalition of eco-activists and organize your neighborhood to fight for a Chris Larson victory on September 14th!

Please RSVP with Megan Schmidt at or donate directly at

If you cannot attend, please consider contributing to Chris’ crucial campaign at or sending a check directly to Friends of Chris Larson, 3261 S. Herman St., Milwaukee, WI  53207. Thank you!

Hope to see you there!