No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

Archive for the 'Politics – Milwaukee County' Category

July 17, 2008

Wile Lee Holloway, economic super genius

by @ 21:48. Filed under Business, Politics - Milwaukee County, Taxes.

(H/T – Owen, basically just so I can send the trackback to the discussion there)

Charlie Sykes has the text of a press release from Milwaukee County Board Chair Lee “Thug” Holloway purporting to claim that, even with a 1-percentage-point increase in the sales tax in Milwaukee County, it would still be “cheaper” to shop in Milwaukee County than in surrounding counties:


Adjusted for gas prices, most County residents would still get better deal within Milwaukee County

Milwaukee, WI – Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway issued the following analysis after the County Executive vetoed an advisory referendum on taxes and claimed a small increase in the sales tax (and decrease in the property tax) would create a tax island in Milwaukee County. The County Executive chose a Greenfield camera store to make the announcement.

At today’s gas prices, a 1-cent increase in the sales tax would not create a tax island. For a camera costing $500, the sales tax in Milwaukee County would rise by $5. But, factoring in our current gasoline prices, it would be slightly more costly for many Milwaukee County residents to drive to the nearest camera stores in Waukesha County . Using the County Executive’s example of Art’s Cameras Plus on S. 76th Street in Greenfield, the nearest comparable camera stores outside of Milwaukee County are:

* Art’s Cameras Plus, 2130 W. Silvernail Road, Pewaukee (18 miles)

* Best Buy, 19555 W Bluemound Rd, Brookfield (14 miles)

* Mike Crivello’s Camera & Imaging Center, 18110 W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield (12 miles)

At a minimum, the nearest camera store outside of Milwaukee County is 24 miles roundtrip from Art’s Greenfield location. If an average vehicle gets 20 miles/gallon and fuel is $4.29/gallon, then the $5 in sales tax savings for a $500 camera would be offset by an increase in fuel of $5.14, making the Waukesha County purchase slightly more expensive than purchasing at the Art’s Camera store in Greenfield .

If the customer would choose to drive to the Art’s Camera location in Pewaukee (36 miles roundtrip from the Greenfield location), fuel costs would increase by $7.72, making the Milwaukee County purchase $2.72 cheaper.

Let’s send the train into the explosives shed, shall we? First, what idiot would drive from his or her residence to Art’s Camera in Greenfield, head out of the county, then return to Art’s Camera in Greenfield on his or her way back home? That difference in mileage would properly be the difference of driving from one’s residence to Art’s Camera in Greenfield and back and driving from one’s residence to an out-of-the-county store and back.

Second, Holloway forgot that the sales tax in Milwaukee County is already 0.5 percentage points higher than it is in Waukesha County (or Racine County, for that matter). Thus, if Holloway got his way, it would be an additional $1.50 per $100 spent, not $1 per $100 spent.

Now, let’s take a more-realistic example of somebody living at 35th and North, smack dab in the middle of Holloway’s district. I’ll even make it easier for Holloway by taking the Greenfield Art’s Camera out of the equation and substituting the far-closer Wauwatosa Best Buy. For the hypothetical resident looking for a camera, it’s a 10-mile round-trip to the Wauwatosa Best Buy and a 27-mile round-trip to the Brookfield Best Buy.

Here comes the tricky part; the trip to the Wauwatosa Best Buy is entirely on city streets, while the trip to the Brookfield Best Buy is mostly on the freeway (roughly 20 miles). As most vehicles get better gas mileage on the highway (Toyota and Ford hybrids excepted), it’s not accurate to simply say that the trip to Brookfield is 17 miles longer and use the same gas mileage estimate for both. Therefore, let’s use my car, a 2004 Subaru Outback Sport, as the vehicle of choice for that resident. It is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, using the EPA estimate from that year. My experience has been that, for once, the EPA is pretty close to accurate.

The trip to Wauwatosa (10 city miles divided by 21 city mpg) would take about 0.48 gallons, which, using the Holloway estimate of $4.29/gallon, would cost $2.06. The trip to Brookfield (20 highway miles divided by 28 highway mpg, plus 7 city miles divided by 21 city mpg) would take 1.05 gallons and cost $4.50. Going to Brookfield would cost an additional $2.44. That would make the trip out to Brookfield worth it with a camera pre-tax price of $162.67 or higher.

It gets even better for that resident (and uglier for Holloway) if public transportation is used. The MCTS fare is $2 each way to Wauwatosa, or $4 total. The combined MCTS/Waukesha Metro Transit fares, including a $0.25 zone fee for taking Rt. 10 west of 124th St. and a $0.25 transfer fee between the two bus systems is $2.50 out to Brookfield and $2.25 back, or $4.75 total. If that resident wanted to spend more than $50 and take public transportation, he or she would be better off going out of the county.

It would be a boon to communities surrounding Milwaukee County, especially Waukesha and Racine, which do not impose the 0.5% county sales tax that Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Washington Counties impose.

May 21, 2008

Taxation without representation, MATC edition

(H/T – Owen)

The Milwaukee Area Technical College district wants to jack up budgeted spending by 6.2% over last year’s budget to $333 million, supported by a 4.9% property tax levy increase. Let’s run some numbers:

– Last year, despite budgeting “only” $314 million, they actually spent $331 million because of various unbudgeted construction projects.
– The 4.9% property tax levy increase asked for is, according to the article, mostly for increases in salary and benefits. That would be an additional $1.5 million in wages/salary, $2+ million in health care and $2.5 million in current-year non-health-care fringe benefits (an additional $2 million in increased fringe benefits is related to a new requirement to put future retirement benefits on the books the year they’re accrued instead of the year they’re paid out). Who here outside of government has had a 4.9% increase in wages and benefits?
– Tuition (set by the state) is going up 5.5%.

Jeanette Bell (ex-mayor of West Allis and proven tax-and-spender) had the audacity to claim that MATC cut to the bone. Again, I ask, who outside of government is getting a 4.9% increase in their compensation packages? Say, maybe it’s time to take another look at the $600,000 public safety initiative as well.

April 8, 2008

County P-I-Gs don’t like ethics

by @ 16:48. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County.

JSOnline’s DayWatch is reporting the county board supervisors are balking at an ethics package that would bring the county ethics enforcement more in line with enforcement elsewhere in the state. The excuses are pretty woeful, even for the Board, so let’s start fisking:

Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs-Jones said the plan fostered a presumption of guilt any time someone filed an ethics complaint against county officials.

Could it be that most times, county officials are guilty of ethics violations? Say, is it just me, or does anybody else note the irony of who is bitching here?

She and others questioned the idea of having the district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit conduct the first reviews of complaints, something that District Attorney John Chisholm suggested as a way to avoid having two simultaneous probes – one by the Ethics Board and another by the DA.

After all, there’s more taxpayer money to be spent in a 2-step investigation.

Under the proposed revisions, all complaints would be kept confidential, with nothing made public unless there was a finding of wrongdoing. That follows the state ethics system and many other municipal ethics codes, supervisors were told. But it changes current county practice in which ethics complaints are immediately made public.

If the secrecy provision were enacted, ethics complaints would likely be publicized by the complainants or otherwise leaked, supervisors said.

Supervisor Lynne De Bruin said political opponents could use the code as a weapon against supervisors, disclosing the existence of an ethics complaint they or a supporter had filed.

Again, hiding something? Worried about not being able to immediately retaliate against those that note the odor?

They also objected to a new standard that would forbid county officials from accepting “anything of value” that could be construed to compromise their ability to act fairly on county business.

Hell, they can’t possibly survive on a generous full-time salary plus Rolls Royce benefits for part-time work </sarcasm>.

April 2, 2008

Spring election instant react

I know a few of you were keeping an eye on the live thread, and I have to thank Pete, Coop and Dad29 for helping me out with the results. I really should be sleeping, but there’s a couple of random thoughts I still need to do:

– Be afraid, Doyle. Be very afraid. An 18-point win for Scott Walker does not bode well for your chances in 2010, stacked Government Accountability Board or not.
– That having been said, other than Walker, Paul Cesarz, Mark Borowski, and Joe Rice (who did not have an opponent), the tax revolt is dead in Milwaukee, Waukesha and Racine Counties. $400,000 for a shed? Why not? $9 million in borrowing for maintenance? Go right ahead. $12 million for a Taj Mahal fire station? You betcha. $66 million for a makeover? Hey, at least it’s not $110 million. You wasted the breathing room we gave you last time? Go ahead, here’s some more.
– Fortunately, it spread further out. Attempts to jack taxes in Germantown, Hartford and Jefferson got shot down.
– Sanity will soon return to the state Supreme Court. Dickie Scruggs’ friends had best find a new state to try to pillage. The bad news; Doyle gets to choose the next judge of Burnett County.
– On the other hand, the same voters who delivered the margin of victory for Justice-elect Gableman decided that in the battle of stinky and extra-smelly, they would take extra-smelly.
– Bold prediction of 2008: there will be a lot of 3-3 ties broken by Hizzoner here in Oak Creek.
– Finally, a blogger makes good on an election. Congratulations, Kathy.
– I hope the guards at the jail Michael McGee-Jackson Jr is at took away his shoelaces; his world is crashing in on him.

April 1, 2008

Wisconsin spring general election live thread

Welcome to the NRE Wisconsin spring general election live thread, covering the non-partisan portion of the 2008 elections. The elections I’m keeping an eye on:

– Wisconsin State Supreme Court – Louis Butler (inc.) vs Michael Gableman
– State constitutional amendment limiting the governor’s use of the line-item veto
– Milwaukee County Executive – Scott Walker (inc.) vs Lena Taylor
– Milwaukee County Board – various races including the 9th
– Jailbird Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee’s re-election bid
– Kenosha’s 5th Aldermanic race with Kathy Carpenter
– Racine County’s 3rd Supervisory race with Lou D’Abbraccio

March 23, 2008

And she wants to be your next Milwaukee County Executive?

by @ 12:46. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County.

(H/Ts – Owen and Patrick)

Our friends in the Scott Walker campaign remembered to bring their cameras to one of the debates, where they caught this gem from his challenger, state Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee)…


Mouth, meet foot. Foot, meet larynx.

February 28, 2008


I love it when a plan comes together. The gang at Gop3 whack the Journtinel’s attempt to do some fishing for a hit piece on Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. First, the initial cast by the Journtinel:

Have county transit changes affected you?
How have you been affected by Milwaukee County Transit System fare increases and service cuts? Please contact Journal Sentinel reporter Larry Sandler at to let him know, and please include your name and a telephone number where you can be reached.

Next, the definitive answer that won’t be published from Brian Collar:


As a student of Marquette I’ve been affected by the bus transit situation. It costs more and more to go to Marquette because the property taxes that landowners have to pay to work and live in Milwaukee that finance an ineffective and costly bus transit situation mean that I can’t have a car without hefty parking fees, whether for Marquette sponsored parking or for landlord sponsored parking. The fact that city and state leaders, with the notable exception of County Executive Scott Walker, keep relying on out-dated systems of transportation means that more money drive (sorry, bad pun intended) less efficient modes of transportation as politicians try to decide for us how to run our lives. Fewer taxes in Milwaukee (and Wisconsin, for that matter) means more opportunity for business and landowners to invest and compete in the near-Marquette community which could provide the very opportunities for less costly parking options that employment-opportunities seeking students like myself need.

I’m sure this won’t make the story your editors were asking for but I thought you might appreciate some input.


Brian Collar

It’s a good thing Scott Walker doesn’t have a birthday tomorrow; next thing you know, the local sorry excuse for a paintcatcher would take a cue from the Gray Lady and say Walker’s too young to be county exec.

Oh, and what’s affecting me is having to pay an outrageous gas tax so that those too lazy to own a car don’t have to feel the full effects of a 50% increase in the cost of fuel (closer to 100% if one uses diesel, like MCTS).

December 17, 2007

The ghost of E. Michael McCan’t lives

Kevin Fischer has the details of how the Milwaukee County DA’s office declined to pursue any case against the Franklin School District for holding a mandatory indoctrination session for high school students of voting age the Friday before they attempted the 3rd-largest referendum increase in state history. I could’ve swore Paul Bucher filed charges against a Waukesha County school district for similar actions (again, if memory serves, that was settled without a trial).

November 13, 2007

It’s a veto party

by @ 17:54. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County, Taxes.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s veto message is below the fold. Among the 22 are the County Board pay increase, continued funding the infamous House of Corrections Farm and Fish Hatchery, and the separate $9,127,378 tax levy increase.

Since the County Board will be voting on overriding these vetoes tomorrow, hammer them first thing tomorrow to get them to uphold all 22.


November 1, 2007

Back-door raise attempt by the Milwaukee County Board

by @ 9:32. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County.

After Brian Fraley raised the red flag on Lee Holloway’s latest attempt to milk more money out of the system, I decided to ask my Supervisor, Paul Cesarz, what he plans to do. There should be no surprise as to the response:


Thank you for both catching this item and writing to me about it.

I expected this type of maneuver either here in the budget process
at this eleventh hour or sometime between now and March 2008.

Since the raise amendment is before us on Monday, I expect the
following to occur. First, I will vote no. Second, they will have enough
votes to approve it. Finally, The County Executive will have to veto
the item, and importantly, since this is an election issue, the public
will have to call to persuade and encourage their supervisor to vote
to sustain the Veto.

With the publics’ help, there should be enough votes to accomplish this.

Thanks again for contacting me.

Best regards,


I knew there was a reason why I voted for him in 2004. That is it.

October 16, 2007

Crying River Flood Warning keeps on getting expanded

Today, it’s the Wisconsin Center District, which (mis)manages the Midwest Airlines Center, making with the waterworks. Head flack Franklyn Gimbel is blaming the lack of a new state budget tax increases at the state level for his inability to beg for increased taxes at the local level to pay for a second expansion of the MAC. The MAC is currently subsidized by a 3% tax on car rentals in Milwaukee County, a 0.25% tax on “restaurant” food and beverage sales (actually applied to all taxable food and beverage sales) in Milwaukee County, a 2% tax on hotel rooms in Milwaukee County and another 7% tax on hotel rooms in the city of Milwaukee.

I have two things to say to Gimbel and company, beyond “No more taxes!”, that is:
– You idiots knew in 1999, before the first expansion was complete, the MAC was undersized and would be undersized after that first expansion.
– Instead of wasting something north of $45 million on turning the old Auditorium into an underutilized “theatre”, you morons could have used that money to complete that planned-for second expansion.

September 18, 2007

Walker spares those who use transit much of the increase of the costs of transit

by @ 10:46. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County.

After weeks of speculation that there would be massive bus route and paratransit cuts along with substantial, yet modest, increases in fares, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker announced 4 broad points in the transit portion of his yet-to-be-finalized 2008 county budget proposal:

  • The base fare will increase $0.25, from $1.75 to $2.00 (14.3%), and there will likely be some shortening of bus routes.
  • In exchange, there will be no route eliminations, and the weekly bus pass and 10-ride ticket pack will not be increased from $16.
  • The Transit Plus vans for disabled riders will increase in cost from $3.25 to $4.00 (23.1%).
  • In exchange, countywide door-to-door service will continue, rather than the federally-mandated service within 3/4 mile of a regular bus route.

Predictably, the professional tantrum-throwers who purport to represent those who use public transit are throwing hissy fits:

“I’m glad he’s not making cuts, but I think it’s still an awfully big raise for a lot of people who can’t afford it,” said Arlene Conley, chairman of the county’s Transit Plus Advisory Council, which advocates for paratransit users. “That’s $1.50 round-trip.”

Matt Nelson, one of the organizers of the fledgling Milwaukee Transit Riders Union, was more outspoken.

“Any fare increases or cuts in service are unacceptable and will be fought by our membership,” now more than 400 strong, Nelson said. “A fare increase is a regressive tax and another example of Walker’s disregard for Milwaukee County residents.”

Hey Arlene and Matt. Try dealing with an over-50% increase in the cost of transportation, which is precisely what I am dealing with. I don’t get a subsidy on that, and I also don’t have a driver whose wages have a cost-of-living adjustment built in. May I offer you a tall, frosty glass of Quit Your Whining?

September 13, 2007

Stupid idea of the day

by @ 19:30. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County.

Because there’s federal money to be spent, and because everybody else has jumped off the cliff, the lemmings on the Milwaukee County transportation board want to spend $124,000 of local cash plus $230,000 yearly in maintenance costs to put bicycle racks on county buses. This comes at a time when cash is so “tight”, fares are going up and service is going down.

Beyond that, why should gubmint subisidize those that overestimate their bicycling abilities at the expense of not only the taxpayers, but the time of the 13 people that ride the bus? Even according to the rose-colored glasses of the transit folks, they’ll only take in $22,000 per year by hauling around 11,000 bikes per year. That leaves $208,000 in maintenance costs paid for by the taxpayers. Who here thinks that they’ll get roughly 11,000 trips that they otherwise wouldn’t get to even collect $22,000, especially since the bicycling season is at best 7 months?

August 8, 2007

8th Supervisory District to the rest of Milwaukee County – we want your taxes raised

by @ 0:22. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County, Taxes.

(H/T – a pissed-off Croc)

Unofficial vote totals:

Patricia Jursik: 3,104 votes (54.1%)
Christopher Kujawa: 2,622 votes (45.7%)
Write-in: 14 votes (0.3%)

And yes, this is a bad omen, not only for Scott Walker, not only for Milwaukee County, and not only for Pubbies, but for the entirety of Wisconsin. Cudahy was the flashpoint of the never-quite-realized 2002 Clean Up County Government movement, and South Milwaukee was (a bit less than) half the nascient tax-freeze movement. This 9+-point failure, especially with another pension grab in the news, has the distinct feel of the final shovel of dirt being dumped on the graves of those movements. I might just have to keep packing.

Now, I REALLY need a vacation. Patrick, Fred and Aaron, take it away.

August 3, 2007

MJS 5th Column to residents of the 8th Supervisor District – raise taxes

Charlie beat me to this by bringing up the special election of the 21st Assembly District back in 2003, but since he’s stuck in the technological hell that’s the State Fair Fish Bowl, I’ve got the ability to fisk the idiotorial of the day endorsing free-spending and tax-hiking advocate Patricia Jursik in the special election on Tuesday, August 7 to fill the County Board seat vacated by Ryan McCue –

Holding an election in the dog days of summer is not the best way to choose elected representatives for reasons so obvious we don’t need to list them here.

I’m sure they would rather have Lee “Thug” Holloway appoint free-spenders to fill vacancies created by those leaving office, or alternatively, have some schmoe like McCue double-dip into the trough. Unfortunately for them, Lee and Ryan, that’s not how things work.

But voters in Milwaukee County’s 8th Supervisory District don’t have a choice. The special election is Tuesday to fill the County Board vacancy prompted by the spring election of Ryan McCue as Cudahy mayor. The district includes Cudahy, South Milwaukee, St. Francis and part of Oak Creek.

ATTENTION! YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE! This includes those of you in Oak Creek east of Quincy Avenue between Rawson and Drexel, or north of Carrolton/Maderia between 15th Ave and Chicago. The election is on Tuesday, August 7, 2007 between 7 am and 8 pm.

Patricia Jursik, an attorney in Cudahy in private practice, gets our strong recommendation.

And hopefully the Journtinel idiotorial board kiss of death.

Her opponent, Chris Kujawa of South Milwaukee, clearly has business skills and experience to offer; he is vice president of his family’s landscape business, Kujawa Enterprises Inc. But Jursik is the better bet for a variety of reasons, including her past experience on numerous public boards and commissions, her sense of independence and her deeply felt belief that the county cannot continue to cut spending and stubbornly hold the line on taxes without sacrificing such things as parks, transit and services to the elderly that people in her district care so much about.

The irony here is that the elderly in the district won’t be able to afford the higher taxes that the Journtinel wants so desperately, so they won’t be around to use said services.

She is much more open than Kujawa to new sources of county revenue, including tapping into existing sales taxes, to relieve the burden on the property tax.

Charlie said it best in this week’s CNI column – “We’ve been here before. In 1991, the last time we had a big county tax increase, county pols promised that the windfall would go for property tax relief, parks and transit. In the next decade property taxes went up, support for the parks dropped, and transit is still a mess.

“Instead, the pols spent the money and stole the rest.”

Say, wasn’t 1991 the year that the floodgates really opened up on the pension grab that just came to light this week?

Jursik says Kujawa is County Executive Scott Walker’s hand-picked candidate. That’s overstating it. But we know what she’s getting at. Walker endorsed Kujawa even before the six-person primary, and, in turn, Kujawa says he philosophically agrees with Walker most of the time.

Here we go again. Can we question the 5th Column’s claims to fairness now? For the record, Kujawa was the only candidate that recognizes that taxes are too damn high.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but as Jursik points out, electing a supervisor with a more independent voice is the best way to assure checks and balances.

Allow me to ReWrite™ that to reflect the actual thinking (such as it is) – “There’s nothing everything wrong with that per se, but as Jursik points out, electing a supervisor with a more independent liberal, free-spending, tax-hiking voice is the best way to assure checks and balances a 2/3rds majority ready, willing and able to jack up taxes and spending to levels not seen outside of the Soviet Union in its prime.”

Kujawa says supervisors are overpaid and promises to give back $20,000 of his salary. And he does offer some good ideas, including putting the House of Correction under the sheriff’s authority. But Kujawa seems too willing to embrace privatization to help solve the county’s fiscal problems, including having the county turning over mental health services to private providers.

Hell, the private sector cannot possibly do a worse job of that than the county, which did such a poor job that the Journtinel ran a series on just how poor a job the county did.

We’re also troubled by his opposition to the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail proposal, which even Walker supports.

That’s not the kind of “independence” the Journtinel wants. Of course, I’m heartened by Kujawa’s opposition to that boondoggle.

Jursik finished first in the primary, and 8th District voters would be wise to put her in the winner’s column on Tuesday.

No, they would be monumentally-stupid.

Vote Chris Kujawa on Tuesday, August 7, 2007.

July 30, 2007

Pension Grab II redux/reax/questions for all

by @ 15:36. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County.

First things first; though the Journal Sentinel was late to the reporting party, they’ve done a bang-up job in outlining just how egregious the scam was. From news that some, like former supervisor Tom Bailey, received multiple invites into the “buy back” scheme (in Bailey’s case, he knew he could buy back when he got elected; he chose to blow the 2-year window and later got in under the scam by lying about his prior knowledge and refusal to buy back in), to more-than-incidential knowledge among seasonal employees that they could have entered the county pension system as seasonal employees (that same story notes that; the change to allow those that had never been in the pension system to buy in as though they had was one of the key killers in this scam), to a listing of some teat-suckers who were to a person unrepentant for participating in the scam, Dave Umhoefer has done yeoman’s work.

I see that I got picked up by WisOpinion. Thanks, guys. Beyond those I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I noticed that Capper (filling in at Jay Bullock’s place), James Rowen, and Dan Cody have noticed. I have to thank Capper for linking to me (and Technorati for finding the link), and WisOpinion for finding James’ and Dan’s words.

Speaking of reactions, this morning’s paper has a few from various county pols. Supervisor Mark Borowski asked, “What bothers me is how does the county in essence shaft the IRS? Doesn’t somebody, somewhere say something?” He ought to know the answer to the second, especially since he voted for the Big Grab of 2000; hell no. As for the first, I’m not a lawyer, but based on what the paper reported, the county enabled its employees to shaft the IRS. If there’s more than that, I’m presuming that Umhoefer’s holding that to prevent any tainting of the potential jury pool. Paging the shark. Paging Mr. Rick Esenberg. What beyond enabling employees to bust the 25%-of-salary limit on “buy backs” is a violation of federal law?

County Executive Scott Walker asked (once again) for an independent review of the pension situation. I could’ve swore we had one after the Scam of 2000; how did that miss this? As for the pension board’s suggestion that most of the grabbers be “grandfathered” by the Board and Walker, he said, “There’s no way we’re doing down that path. That certainly won’t be our approach,….” Even money says that it will be county board chair Lee Holloway’s.

Supervisor Jim “Luigi” Schmitt gasped out, “How do two wrongs make a right? I’m not going to be party to that.” Oh, really? You were a party to one hell of a wrong with your vote for the Big Grab of 2000.

Guess I’ve already started with the questions, so let them roll:

– How did this miss EVERYBODY’S attention, especially in the wake of the Big Grab of 2000? That particular grab came to light in January, 2002. The pension board quietly put in a sunset provision for this grab in question in 2005, and it finally sunsetted in January 2007.

– How did the Journtinel twig onto this? If one winds the calendar back the 6 months they’ve been digging into this, that would be the month that this abomination was shut down. I rather suspect that it was a teat-sucker who was a bit late to the grab party and was hoping that the paper would be sympathetic to him/her.

– Prior to yesterday, where was the paper’s reporting? The pension board may have been spurred to self-report to the IRS by questioning by a reporter, but unless I missed the story, they sure weren’t spurred to do so by anything that actually appeared in the paper.

– This one’s a special to the lefties (though righties are welcome to chime in as well); just how are we going to pull this back for those that already “bought back”, especially considering that your kind of politicians made it all-but-impossible to pull back anything related to pensions, even those that were improperly and/or illegally granted?

– Related to that, other than a risky pull-back attempt and the end of the program by the pension board once the teat-suckers were booted (which already happened), what more can be done? Other than Michael Mayo, there is nobody in an elected office that had a hand in implementing this.

– For those that would say criminal charges, what’s the statute of limitations on that? It’s been 9 years since federal laws were likely violated.

– Is there an exemption to the end of the “buy back” scheme for existing unionized employees, like there is for the end of the pension “enhancements” that was the Big Grab of 2000?

Revisions/extensions (6:47 pm 7/30/2007) – Add Mike Nichols to the list of reax, and he points out that Sue Baldwin resumed her suit to get even more money than she and her husband, former sheriff Lev, ran out the door with.

Revisions/extensions part 2 (7:44 pm 7/30/2007) – Cleaned up who appeared to know what when a bit. After a re-reading and a comment from “Concerned reader”, the original made it appear that this might have came to light outside the pension board before it did.

July 29, 2007

Once again, MJS says “cooperation” really means “suburbs feed Milwaukee’s bottomless pits”

Revisions/extensions (6:16 pm 7/30/2007) – I was a bit harsh on Jason Fields. The editorial didn’t have the extended quote from Fields, which provides a reason for his lack of ideas, and I failed to pick it up in the extended excerpt linked to below. Here it is:

Here’s what bothers me whenever we talk about these issues, because I respect and admire everyone in this room. We all agree that it should be about valuing kids, it should be about the child’s education. But once we leave here, we get into these political battles between opponents, but everybody’s saying it’s about the kids, it’s about the kids.

But if I go back and say, “Listen, we need to break up MPS; we need to make it smaller,” I’ll get raked over the coals for saying something like that, even though we all know at this table that’s probably the best idea. . . .

Of course, that brings up a couple of other issues, namely the stranglehold the teachers’ unions have on the ‘Rats, and the lack of courage on the part of Fields to buck that stranglehold.

(H/T – Reaganite)

While everybody’s favorite croc merely focuses on the “metropolitan fiscal control board” portion of this morning’s editorial on the latest round table of community leaders. Let’s expand the focus some and do some fisking (since it’s been, what, 2 weeks since I took a machete to one of their editorials):

The amazing thing was how fast the conversation turned to education. In a discussion last week among key area leaders on regional cooperation, education quickly became the topic of discussion.

The importance of an educated work force, of good schools and of a regional community that places a high value on education was stressed again and again by the nine speakers in a round-table discussion hosted by the Editorial Board. What became immediately clear is that education is not just an issue faced by one school district – Milwaukee Public Schools – or one community.

So why the focus on MPS?

Failure at MPS or any other district affects communities and businesses throughout the region. Everyone in southeastern Wisconsin has a stake in what happens in MPS, in Racine Unified, in the Waukesha School District and in all of the other school districts in the area.

AHHROOOOOGAH! AHHROOOOOOGAH! The BOHICA siren is going off; I hope you’re listening out in Brookfield, Mequon, Germantown, and other assorted out-of-Milwaukee-County locations.

What’s needed is a regional response, which should include more involvement of businesses outside Milwaukee County in MPS and other school districts’ programs, more collaborative efforts such as the Kern Family Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Lead the Way program and a debate on what fundamental changes need to be made at MPS and other troubled districts, including whether to change their governing structure. Such a debate should be considered for other local governments, the idea being to make them more manageable, more accountable and more in control of their own affairs and budgets.

After all, it is all the gubmint’s money, and there’s no bigger gubmint outside of Madistan than in Milwaukee, so they need EVERYBODY’S cash.

Businessman Sheldon Lubar of the Greater Milwaukee Committee put his finger on the problem early in the discussion: “You cannot reach the levels that I think all of you want to see us reach if you have a dropout rate of 50% of your high school students.”

I’ll point out that the problem isn’t the lack of money. If money is what solves education problems, MPS, RUSD, and the like would be the best districts in the state.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said one of his biggest surprises after taking office was the need to improve work force development. “If there’s one issue where I would love to take this community and shake it by the shoulders, it is how important education is in this world economy now,” he said.

How could he be surprised? Before taking the job of milk-carton photographee, he had spent a bunch of years in perhaps the only city with worse schools than Milwaukee.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker talked about breaking up MPS into several districts; Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas argued for the need to reduce health care costs, the single biggest driver of government and school district costs; state Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) talked about the politics of changing the educational system.

“This issue has been occurring for the last 20 years, but nothing’s been done about it,” Fields said. “If I sit at this table and we all agree that we need to do something, when we leave this room not a damn thing will change, and those black kids, kids in my neighborhood and my community, will still be in the same position.”

Irony, thy name is Jason Fields. Walker suggested something potentially constructive. Vrakas, who doesn’t really have a dog in the MPS fight, suggested something that would free up money. Fields blathered on without any suggestions. Guess who got the extended quote?

That needs to change for the sake of giving those kids a reasonable chance at a better life but also for the sake of southeastern Wisconsin’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.

Again, mo’ money is not the solution.

Other things need to change, too, as the discussion made clear:

Transportation: Barrett and Walker need to come to terms on transportation issues and how to spend $91.5 million in federal funds that has been sitting unused for 16 years. Bringing in a mediator or transportation experts to resolve the dispute, as suggested by Lubar, makes sense. The onus for compromise lies more on Walker, who supports some rail components such as KRM and a regional approach but who needs to push harder for his ideas and who still remains stubbornly opposed to other rail components. Rosemary Potter of Transit NOW was right when she argued that the area needs a truly regional transit system governed by a regional authority and funded in a way that takes the burden off property taxpayers. But judging by the discussion, compromise on transportation issues is a ways off.

No, the onus is on the free-spending choo-choo fans because rail, whether it’s the Milk Carton’s light-rail-lite or the KRM, is not an answer. I’ve previously gone on the record as saying that $91.5 million would be better spent retiring some of the bonds held by Red China, and I’m sticking with it.

Did I not sound the BOHICA alarm? That “truly regional transit system” governed by a “regional authority” is code for Milwaukee dominating everything while the burbs feed the bottomless pit. Morever, we do not need a RTA, especially one which spent all of its money trying to get more.

Water: Compromise needs to be reached on water quality and supply issues; the region can start with the request of New Berlin to obtain Lake Michigan water. Water, as state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) pointed out, is “our oil” and critical for economic health. There is a good model for agreement – worked out by William Mielke of the Waukesha engineering firm Ruekert & Mielke Inc. – in Racine County for supplying services and sharing the benefits of growth. To his credit, Barrett said such an agreement was possible involving Milwaukee and New Berlin.

Before I comment, I need to find out more about that. Considering the Journtinel supports it, it sounds like BOHICA. Fred? Unreal? Peter? Another of the Racine readers? Could you provide some missing info on this?

Governance: Lubar’s insistence on the need to change the state’s governance structure brought to light a critical issue. Wisconsin’s system of governance is out of date and out of touch. Too many decisions that affect taxes are made by bodies with little or no accountability to the public. Elected officials often have too little say over their costs and revenue. He suggested creating a metropolitan fiscal control board that would have budgetary control over certain entities, such as Milwaukee Public Schools, Miller Park, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Margaret Farrow, former lieutenant governor and president of the Waukesha County Action Network, pointed out that a review of the state constitution and of how government works and is paid for in Wisconsin is long overdue.

STOP THE TAPE! There’s so much to hammer here, and Reaganite only hammered one small part. I don’t have time to deliver a lengthy beatdown, so I’ll be brief. The problem is shared revenue, and a metropolitan fiscal control board, dominated by the city of Milwaukee, doling out the cash to “everybody” (I note that only Milwaukee-specific entities are listed) would only make it worse.

Specifically with regard to MPS, I refer you to the title of this piece. All that state aid those of you in Glendale, River Hills, Oak Creek, Brookfield, Thiensville, New Berlin, Union Grove, West Bend, and Oconomowoc (among others) send to MPS isn’t enough for the monster.

Oh, and those of you in Mequon and Germantown can forget about getting out of MATC. Not only aren’t you getting out, everybody else is getting sucked in.

Maybe if we stick Racine, western Waukesha, and northern Ozaukee and Washington Counties in MMSD’s taxing reach, they’ll finally build a deep-enough tunnel. NAH!

Economic development and basic cooperation: Asked what he’d like to point to as an achievement a year from now, attorney and former state Commerce Secretary Cory Nettles suggested creating a “regional top 10 collaborative list, and to make the list, you would have to very clearly demonstrate your impact in creating jobs within the region and reducing the cost of government.”

Allow me to start – lower spending. Oh, that’s right; we’re talking about PIGs in gubmint.

A good idea. What’s needed, as several speakers pointed out, are fewer words and more action. Certainly, the work of the Milwaukee 7 on regional economic development has been groundbreaking, but regional leaders have to build on those efforts to keep that momentum going.

Oh, it’s been groundbreaking all right. Everybody out of state is breaking ground…

Bickering among ourselves in southeastern Wisconsin does nothing to help us compete against Southeast Asia or the rest of the world. We must get our act together.

…especially in Southeast Asia. Part of that’s federal because they’ve listened to the likes of the Journtinel idiotorial board for many moons. Do we want to listen to that kind of advice and turn southeast WisTAXsin into so much a tax hell, the rest of the state looks attractive by comparison?

Here we go again – Yet another illegal Milwaukee County pension grab

by @ 9:30. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County.

Revisions/extensions part 4 (3:40 pm 7/30/2007) – I usually don’t put these on top, but I do have to thank WisOpinion for including this missive in their editorial links of today. Since some of you just pop into this post without checking out the main page, I do want to point you to today’s missive, where I have a few questions.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does us all a major service by exposing on the top of the front page of the most-circulated paper of the week yet another pension grab by a certain class of seasonal county employees, including the now-retired retirement system director Jac Amerell, who orchestrated the biggest part of the grab, former county executive Dave Schultz, who used the grab to become pension-eligible, former parks director Susan Baldwin, who was granted a grab despite no record of prior seasonal county employment that would have made her eligible, and current county board member and former county pension board member Michael Mayo, who used this grab to help him make the Big Grab of 2001 (which if I remember, he also voted for). The opening slug on the $50+ million grab starts it off right –

Ignoring county law and federal tax rules, Milwaukee County let employees change history by ‘buying back’ pension time from summer jobs in their youth.

The scam came in multiple parts:

– Prior to 1990, those that had a previous stint both on the county payroll and in the county pension system, and pulled their money out of the pension system when they left the first time had 2 years upon returning to the county payroll to “buy back” into the pension with the amount they pulled out plus 5% annual interest. The kicker of the “buy back” program is that it allows employees to claim the date they first worked for the county as their start date in the pension fund (I’ll get back to this in a bit).

– In 1990, the pension board, under pressure from a “small group” of ineligible teat-suckers who missed the 2-year cut-off and without authorization from the county board, eliminated the 2-year rule. This change was not codified by the pension board. The pension board attempted to change the interest to the amount that the pension fund had earned, but the teat-suckers got a judge to block it for them. Also in 1990, Robert Nehls, the city of Milwaukee’s pension chief, applied for and got a “buy back” despite not even being on the county payroll at the time or participating in the pension fund when he was with the county.

– In 1991, Amerell, who had just become the county’s retirement chief, decided to get in on the act by making this grab despite the fact that he did not participate in the pension fund his first time around. He then proceeded to “legitimize” it by using a pension board directive to notify eligible employees of a pending interest rate increase at the end of 1991 to extend the “buy back” offer to virtually everybody who ever worked for the county, whether or not they participated in the pension fund or were currently working for the county. Again, this change was not codified by the pension board. The pending rate increase, combined with the opening of the flood-gates, helped lead over 100 county “workers” to violate the federal tax code, which states that no more than 25% of one’s salary can be used in this “buy back” scheme in any one year.

– Remember what I said about the start date in the pension fund? Those that had not participated in the fund their first go-around with the county also got their start date reset to the date of their first go-around with the county. Those who have “start dates” with the county pension system prior to 1982 get more money, partly thanks to the Big Grab of 2001. Also, those who have “start dates” with the county pension system prior to 1994 get lifetime free health insurance.

– In 1996, the pension board finally put the new policies in writing after an outside legal adviser raised concerns. They had put in a 5-year sunset provision.

– In 1998, the county board finally realized that those not currently working for the county could get in on the “buy back” program and shut them out.

– Possibly in response to that (I do not know whether this happened prior to or after the county board action), the pension board took out the sunset provision, and in a move designed to help out folks like Michael Mayo, who was a member of the pension board at that time and who had a “buy back” request pending, allowed a 4-year payment plan instead of a 1-year lump-sum. Mayo voted for this.

– In 2005, after control of the pension board was wrested away from county employees, the board voted to sunset this abomination, and that finally took effect at the beginning of this year.

– Former pension board lawyer Robert G. Ott, who was ousted for his role in the Big Grab of 2001, had several conflicts of interest, including cementing the backdating of the “start date” the day after he started making payments for his son and allowing Susan Baldwin, a family friend, to get in despite no records of her claims of previous seasonal employment and eventual records of employment that made her inelgible for even the enhanced grabs.

The pension board has proposed taking away the grabs of 10 people, including Baldwin (though apparently, not Mayo’s grab). They claim that without retroactive changes authorized by the county board (who is busy killing taxpayers with raises and tax-hike bills), they’ll have to take away another 160 grabs. That still leaves something north of 340 grabs untouched.

I say, take away all the grabs, then toss Mayo out on his ass.

Revisions/extensions (12:47 pm 7/29/2007) – Bruce, who has a blogging “guest house” at Badger Blogger, proves my memory is not yet shot on Mayo, as he dug up The Journal Sentinel endorsement of his opponent in 2004.

Also weighing in (so far) – Peter, Reaganite, Patrick and Dad29. The rest of youse mugs must be out enjoying the Sunday weather after church services.

Revisions/extensions part 2 (3:35 pm 7/29/2007) – Brian at GOP3 weighs in with a focus on the squealers.

Revisions/extensions part 3 (7:39 am 7/30/2007) – Owen came back from enjoying the weekend to this. Also, Jay Weber wondered why it took so long to catch THIS one. Damn good question

April 7, 2006

Thug Holloway wins and wins and wins again; and how you can help stop the win streak

by @ 17:57. Filed under Law and order, Thug Holloway.

A day after No-Ethics Milwaukee County Board Chair Lee “Thug” Holloway got 4 of his cronies to starve the County Ethics Board of funding into the continuing prosecution of a 90-count indictment against him in the Finance Committee on an allegiance-line vote, the chair and vice-chair of the Ethics Board, John C. Carter and Maria Monreal Cameron, resigned in protest. Charlie has a mid-morning interview with Carter, a mid-morning interview with supervisor Roger Quindel (whose violent replacement on the Finance Committee allowed Thug Holloway to get away with this), and the text of the resignation letters over at Sykes Writes. Also, Brian Fraley has the best collection of Thug Holloway news and commentary around.

However, there is one more shot to keep this investigation alive. Our friends at Citizens for Responsible Government have announced a rally and fundraiser to continue the investigation into Holloway to happen at 6 pm Wednesday, April 12, at Serb Hall (S. 51st St. and W. Oklahoma Ave. in Milwaukee). They will have additional details at a press conference on Sunday, April 9, outside the County Courthouse. I’ll keep you posted.

February 21, 2006

Thug Holloway trying to eliminate the chance for a “for-cause” removal as well

by @ 6:03. Filed under Law and order, Politics, Thug Holloway.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that ethically-challenged Milwaukee County Board chair Lee “Thug” Holloway is going to try to cajole 6 fellow supervisors into voting to deny additional funding to the Milwaukee County Ethics Board for the prosecution of a 90-count civil ethics violations complaint against him (to allow the Ethics Board to spend additional money from the county contingency fund, the County Board must approve the request by a 2/3rds vote). The gist of the complaint is that Holloway used his position as a supervisor to vote to approve contracts with the defunct Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater Milwaukee (OIC) while receiving $165,000 from OIC for a property he owned that never changed hands, with many counts alleging that Holloway failed to disclose ownership of that and other properties. If convicted, Holloway can be removed from not only his chair position, but from office entirely.

I don’t often praise John Weishan, best known before this year as being ousted County Board chair Karen Ordinans little brother, but he has the money quote – “Trying to starve them for dollars so he personally can get a better settlement is another example of him misusing his office.”

February 20, 2006

Thug Holloway wins and wins again

by @ 12:37. Filed under Law and order, Politics, Thug Holloway.

(H/Ts – Brian and JSOnline’s DayWatch)

Milwaukee County board chair Lee “Thug” Holloway, Milwaukee County corporation counsel William Domina, and the local chapter of the NAA(L)CP managed to intimidate 2 of the 10 supervisors seeking to replace Holloway as county board chair, Ryan McCue and Roger Quindel, into joining the Thug Nine to vote to “lay over” an attempted vote to elect a county board chair. Supposedly, the Board will take this up again if Peg Lautenschlager’s formal opinion on the matter matches her informal opinion that the board could proceed with the vote and potentially replace Holloway with a simple majority vote.

A message to those 2 cowards, as well as Richard Nykelwicz Jr, who once supported the idea of Thug Holloway stepping aside until the idea became serious: if Holloway is removed from his chairmanship, he will sue no matter how it is done. It won’t matter if the vote is 10-9, or 18-1 after a finding of cause. If you have learned nothing about Holloway, he will do anything and everything necessary to hang onto his power and unilaterally punish anyone who gets in his way. Just ask Orville Seymer and John Weishan.

In a blow against a strong Ethics Board, which has an open 90-item investigation against Thug Holloway, and against citizen involvement in watching government, Holloway cajoled 12 of his fellow board members into rejecting Don Uebelacker’s appointment to the Ethics Board. Uebelacker co-founded Citizens for Responsible Government, and had participated in a recall effort against Holloway (which likely would have forced his recusal in any vote on Holloway).

February 17, 2006

Like sands through the hourglass, so go the days at the Courthouse

by @ 19:19. Filed under Politics, Thug Holloway.

(H/Ts – Brian Fraley and JSOnline’s Daywatch)

Peg Lautenschlager issued today a preliminary, informal opinion  that, despite Milwaukee County corporation counsel William Domina’s  informal opinion to the contrary,  the Milwaukee County board could proceed with a special session to elect a replacement for county board chair Lee “Thug” Holloway (side note;  he decided that discretion was the better part of valor and didn’t remove the 6 members of the Group of 10 that still had committee chairmanships/vice-chairmanships).   The full opinion from WisPolitics is here.   A  few notes:

  • She bases her opinion on the facts that because the vote would be to remove Holloway from his board  chairmanship rather than from the board itself and that the chair is elected by the board rather than appointed by anyone  or elected by the voters, neither statute that says that a “for cause” 2/3rds vote is required to remove certain officials applies.   Rather, she states that the statute that says that the board chair serves until the board elects a successor applies.
  • Her opinion is counter to a 1923 formal  Attorney General’s office opinion on this subject, but that 1923 opinion “…inexplicably ignored the plain language of the statue providing for the election of the chairperson as well as its own recognition that the chairperson is elected.”
  • Due to the conflict in opinions, she will undertake a formal review to either clarify or reverse the 1923 AG’s opinion.

I thought I would never say this, but Peg is right.

February 12, 2006

Six Milwaukee County board supervisors won’t resign over vote

by @ 7:54. Filed under Law and order, Politics, Thug Holloway.

(H/T – Brian Fraley, who’s been keeping up the skeer on Lee “Thug” Holloway)

The Journal Sentinel reported in yesterday’s editions that 6 Milwaukee County board supervisors,  Paul Cesarz, Dan Devine, Lynne De Bruin, James Schmitt, Joseph Rice and Ryan McCue, who were among 10 supervisors that asked for a special board session on Monday, February 20  to elect a new county board chair and were subsequently asked to resign by Monday, February 13  from various chair/vice chair positions by county board chair Lee Holloway, will not resign.   In their letter to Holloway, they restated their position that Holloway step down as chair until his ethics case is settled, stated that they will continue to serve in their committee roles “faithfully and  in the best interests of the citizens of Milwaukee County,… to whom we owe our allegiance,” and challenged Holloway to remove them if he disagreed with that statement.

The second part of the story deals with the legality of that election.   After issuing a non-binding  opinion that while the supervisors can hold the meeting, Holloway will continue to serve as chair unless 2/3rds of the supervisors vote to remove him for cause, Milwaukee County Corporation Counsel William Domina asked Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager for a second non-binding  opinion.   The group of 10 are contending that state statutes do not preclude removing a county board chair outside of the normal 4-year cycle with a simple majority.

This is going to get VERY ugly, and the ugliness will start tomorrow.   I expect Holloway to remove all 10 supervisors from every committee they serve on, chosing to run county goverment with himself and the 8 supervisors that still support him.

February 9, 2006

Lee Holloway to Milwaukee County Board – “You f* with me, I f* you up.”

by @ 12:15. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Thug Holloway.

(H/T – Brian Fraley)

Embattled, ethically-“challenged” (more like “lacking”)  Milwaukee County Board Chair Lee Holloway isn’t taking the request of a new vote for county board chair lying down.   He’s demanding that those of the 10-member “putsch” that filed paperwork to re-elect a board chair on Monday, February 20,  that he hasn’t already removed from power to take a blood oath supporting him, resign any chairmanship/vice chairmanship on any committee they may be on, or face firing on Monday, February 13.   The text of the form letter sent to Supervisors Cesarz (Personnel vice-chair), DeBruin (Parks, Energy, and Environment chair), Devine (Parks, Energy, and Environment vice-chair), McCue (Finance and Audit vice-chair), Rice (Judiciary, Safety and General Services vice-chair), and Schmitt (Personnel chair):

You recently signed a petition to the County Clerk to hold a special meeting of the County Board to elect a Chairman. In addition, I appointed you to serve as (insert position: e.g. Chairman of Parks)

Because of this situation, as well as the need for continued cooperation and communication between the County Board Chairman and the Chairs and Vice Chairs of standing committees, I am requesting that you inform me as to whether you can continue to work with me in your leadership capacity under the current circumstances at the County Board.

As you know, I believe I am exercising my constitutional rights of due process in defending myself against what I believe to be unfounded and unfair ethics charge.

You have even expressed your opinion that I have the right to do this.

I am now asking you to inform me whether you feel you can continue to work with me given this situation.

If you believe you cannot continue to work with me, I would request that you resign from your current position as (insert position) until due process has been completed.

I would like you to give this your careful thought and give me an answer by Monday, February 13.

Thank you for your response.

This thug cannot be removed from office fast enough.

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