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.)

From Tahrir to Wisconsin

While the whole of the ongoing protest in Madison has been often astounding, one of the most striking things I’ve seen through all of it was seeing a photo of a man holding this sign:

From Tahrir to Wisconsin protest sign

It says, “Egypt supports Wisconsin Workers.”

My jaw dropped when I saw this. A guy in Egypt. Egypt, where they’ve just thrown out a strongman after thirty years of police-state rule. And at least one man there is with us.

That is truly remarkable. Thank you, Muhammad Nusair, for standing with us from half way around the world.

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!

Candidate’s slogan barred from ballot; Kolosso and Rep. Baldwin in; 3 or 4 candidates off the ballot

Some things have changed since I wrote my who’s who for the Wisconsin 2010 ballot. Four candidates have been bumped from the ballot. Two challenges that sought to bump Democratic candidates Toss Kolosso and Rep. Tammy Baldwin form the ballot have been dismissed. And one candidate who’s running as an independent has been made to run as… an independent.

• What’s in a candidate’s name? As reported here, Ieshuh Griffin is seeking to win the open seat left by the retirement of Rep. Polly Williams (D-Milwaukee). The Journal Sentinel in turn has reported that Ms. Griffin will not be able have the slogan “NOT the ‘whiteman’s bitch’ ” under her name on the ballot as she wished to. Instead, she will simply be listed as an independent. Griffin in turn declared that she plans to sue the state Government Accountability Board for infringing on her freedom of speech.

While I’m not a constitutional scholar, I believe that the government does have some right or ability to determine just how much freedom of speech people have. There’s the classic case of yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater: just because you can do it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. As a UCC minister wrote, “the law is about precedent, jurisprudence and community standards.  It reflects morality and is governed by it to a certain extent, but it isn’t the same thing.”

While I doubt Ms. Griffin’s desired ballot slogan would cause a panic or incite violence, the GAB does have the ability to decide what goes on the ballot. If she wants to, she’s free to print whatever she wants on her literature or web site. No one will stop her from doing that. I think that’s a testimony to where the very fine line of free speech falls. It’s one thing to do it in your private life or privately-funded printed material, but a whole ‘nother matter when you try to do it through the government. Curiously, that is where the government is most likely to have something to say about it.

• Four candidates are off the 2010 ballot. In the 13th Assembly district, which covers parts of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, is represented by Democratic Rep. David Cullen. Republican and Constitution party challengers were planning to run for his seat, until the aforementioned GAB ruled that the Republican candidate Procopis had not gathered enough signatures. You need a minimum of two hundred signatures by district residents for such state and local races, but Procopis turned in only 192. This means Procopis is off the ballot.

Frankly, this is a an embarrassment for the party and the candidate. I wonder what stopped Procopis from doing this. For my county board bid in 2008, my wife and I gathered over 300 signatures in the dead of winter. Procopis had the change to do it in warm weather, but somehow couldn’t. As a democracy geek, I feel a touch disappointed by this. This was supposed to be the year of the great Republican comeback, but in this race, they’re not even in the race. Procopis’s failure to gather the minimum signatures leaves Constitution Party candidate Lisa Decker as Rep. Cullen’s sole challenger on the ticket. This could be the big year for the Constitution Party in Wisconsin. Stay tuned!

In the 1st Congressional District, independent candidate William Tucker needed at least 1,000 valid signatures, but turned in only 977. Still on the ballot are incumbent GOP golden boy Rep. Paul Ryan, Democrat John Heckenlively and Libertarian Joseph Kexel.

Next, Andrew Wisniewski, a Republican candidate for the 25th Assembly District, was first rejected but then accepted for the ballot. A story in The Capital Times says he’s off, but then a more recent story says he’s back on. He’d turned in just 196 signatures, but then 11 more were discovered and turned in. (Zach, any relation?) Democrat Kerry Trask and Republican Tyler Martell are still running, so apparently there will be a Republican primary after all.

The fourth one off the ballot is Matt Bitz, a Democrat running for northern Wisconsin’s 75th Assembly District. The state board voted to remove him after determining that he had not lived in Wisconsin for at least a year before when he would take office in January. Bitz back moved to Rice Lake from New York City in back May, though I’ve heard he’s challenging this with the GAB.

• Finally, two ballot challenges executed with the intend of dumping Democratic candidates from the ballot have failed. First was Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who had an arrangement with the state to list the address of her office rather than her home address. This arrangement had been made to reduce the number of threats and fake bombs that Baldwin received at her home address. The Young Republicans of Dane County attempted to have Baldwin removed from the ballot because of this, but the state kept Baldwin on the ballot.

The second challenged ballot was that of Todd Kolosso, Democratic candidate for 5th CD. According to the Kolosso campaign, operatives from the Sensenbrenner campaign were trying to invalidate enough nomination signatures to make it impossible for Kolosso to be on the ballot, ensuring F-Jim an easy ride. But word came that the GAB dismissed the challenge as i started writing this post.

Feingold, Wall have new ads

Let’s accentuate the positive first with Senator Russ Feingold’s new ad, “Forward.” The ad focuses on the meaning of our state’s slogan, which is that very word, and urges continued movement in that direction. While many would like to see the state’s politics slide backwards, Feingold is pushing for movement in the proper direction. Feingold makes no attempt to place himself among the forward-thinking individuals that are shown in the ad, such as former Gov. Gaylord Nelson or the world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, both Wisconsin natives. Rather, it appeals to the desire to improve and elevate the whole of society. It’s a thoughtful ad, and doesn’t specifically mention any issues, nor people. It doesn’t need to, as it represents some of the best thinking and values to come from Wisconsin in the past hundred years.

Terrence “Terry” Wall, the multi-millionaire who for over a decade hasn’t found it necessary to personally pay a dime to support the state, has some ads too. The ad “Liberal Leinie” was posted two weeks ago, and predictably bashes Wall’s probable Republican opponent Dick Leinenkugel for being part of the Doyle administration and helping write the state budget, and for Wisconsin losing jobs. While the Cheddarsphere had already questioned Leinenkugel running as a Republican immediately after serving in the Democratic administration, Wall’s ad paints him as a dreaded tax-raising liberal. The economy going out of control was hardly Leinenkugel’s fault, but the people in charge always take heat when things go poorly. Leinenkugel set himself up for taking those hits, light as they may be.

This video says much more about Wall than his nasal pronouncements about jobs in his introductory video. Compare the tone of the Feingold and Wall ads. Feingold refers to our state’s legacy of producing great thinkers and creators. It emphasizes the importance of keeping up our great intellectual and creative traditions. Voting to return our scholarly senator to the Senate would do that.

Wall’s ad is smug, dismissive, and insulting. The tone of the woman’s voice is designed to raise the hairs on the neck of people who have been trained by talk radio and Fox News to automatically hate anyone and everyone who is associated with the Democratic Party. It doesn’t employ dog whistles so much as bullhorns to shout the words “HIGHER TAXES” and “LIBERAL” — a gaudy attempt to embroil the conservative audience. If the ad is successful in raising the blood pressure of the viewer, they probably will give the throwaway line at the end of the ad a gut laugh. Which is more than it deserves.

Thoughtful, effective. Feingold.

Snobby, pandering. Wall.

Choose wisely.

Leinenkugel to announce next week in Feingold’s home town of Janesville?

My man Zach Dubya cites Tony Galli of WKOW27 in Madison as reporting “a source close to former state commerce secretary Dick Leinenkugel has indicated Leinenkugel plans to announce his run for the U.S. Senate next week. According to the report, the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told WKOW27 News Leinenkugel’s campaign kick off will feature stops in several Wisconsin cities, including Janesville, Feingold’s home town.”

Leinenkugel would be the third official Republican candidate to enter the primary in hopes of challenging U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.

If this does happen, we’ll have  to see how the former Doyle commerce secretary’s announcement goes over in Janesville. That southern Wisconsin city was, until recently, home to a large GM factory, but now has an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent. According to an AP story in the Janesville Gazette, that rate is “down from a year ago when it was 13.7 percent.” The article goes on to report that “Beloit had the highest unemployment of any city at 18.2 percent.” (!) That’s almost a full 10 percent above the state rate — and they didn’t lose a huge factory.

I don’t know what role the state Secretary of Commerce had in addressing unemployment. Some, you’d think, right? It’ll be interesting to see how Leinenkugel plays there with all the unemployment in the region.

Z. Dubya also wonders if he’ll “close his events to the public, as fellow Republican candidate Terrence Wall did.”

Wisconsin RTA bill passes committee, moves to Assembly

I would like to take a moment to thank Wisconsin Assembly Rep. Alvin Ott, for doing something I did not expect. Rep. Ott is a Republican who hails from the Fox Valley, and he voted in favor of Assembly Bill 282, which would enable most municipalities to create regional transit authorities (RTAs). Those are vital for maintaining effective modern mass transit systems.

Thank you, Rep. Ott, for your vote.

His vote for this bill from committee says that he wants what’s best for Wisconsin’s economic future. Many companies, including Roundy’s, Northwestern Mutual, and Bucyrus International have all spoken in favor of a strong RTA.

Now, Wisconsin State Senate, it’s on you. Let’s get this done!

Update: The State Senate has adjourned without taking up the RTA bill. Thanks for nothing, guys!