What Happens When The Circus Never Leaves Town
Do you ever wonder what would happen if the circus never left town? Well, be curious no more.
Welcome to the clown car act that is the Milwaukee County Board. The circus that never leaves town.
Keep in mind, this is the Milwaukee County Board whose Chairperson was outraged when the County Executive proposed a budget that included a tax freeze! I mean, heaven forbid that we not raise taxes.
In any event, last week the Milwaukee County Board (cue the music from the "Star Wars Cantina scene") overrode 22 of County Executive Chris Abele's 24 budget vetoes - increasing the County's 2013 tax levy by $4 million. If Abele's vetoes had been sustained, the tax levy would have actually decreased by $2.4 million!
The biggest single tax increase will come from a $3.7 million bonus being paid to county employees to cover increased health care costs. In other words, the County Board has decided to stick the taxpayers of Milwaukee County with the bulk of the increased health care costs for government employees. Thanks guys.
My favorite override was the one where the County Board restored a position in the Risk Management Department that Abele had removed in the budget. Why did Abele remove the position? Well, here's how County Supervisor Joe Sanfilippo explains it in an e-mail to me:
"The County Board did a lot of stupid things when approving the 2013 budget but this is one of the dumbest. the board approved restoring a position in the Risk Management Department despite the fact that the Director of the department asked to have the position abolished because there is too much staff for the workload. I don't even have to comment further on this one!"
In other words, the person that runs the Department says there's not enough work to support the job - but the County Board kept the position anyway. Talk about feather bedding.
Actually, this is pretty much how the County Board works in general. I believe that the majority of the people on the Board are either hoping to use it as a political stepping stone for higher office (think Chris Larson) - or they have no way of coming close to equaling their government pay package in the real world. As a result, we have way too many people making way too much money with way too much time on their hands.
In fairness, not all the veto overrides were misplaced. I personally oppose residency rules but as long as they exist, they should exist for everyone. Abele's attempt to game the system to allow one of his appointees to avoid having to move into Milwaukee County was understandable but wrong.
Similarly, Abele's plan to have city police take over patrolling the parks from the Sheriff's Office was ill-conceived and petty.
Still, on balance, Abele tried to do the right thing with his budget proposals and the County Board gleefully shot him down repeatedly. Even more frustrating is the fact that several of the Supervisors who financially ruined the County via the pension scandal are still in office (and have apparently still learned nothing about fiscal responsibility).
I'm a fan of the circus and am always excited when it comes to town once a year. Unfortunately, the circus that is the Milwaukee County Board never leaves - and it never changes its act.
It sure does get old after awhile..