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Lee Holloway: A Genius, Crazy, Or A Crazy Genius?

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on December 14, 2009

Word is starting to filter out that Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, in an apparent act of doing a power play, has done some changes to some of the standing committees. While all the changes haven’t been made known to the public yet, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting about the changes to the Personnel Committee, which appears to have received the most serious shake up:

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway shook up the membership of the board’s Personnel Committee Wednesday, just ahead of crucial contract talks on employee concessions.

In a letter to fellow supervisors, Holloway mentioned a need for a “new direction” on union bargaining. Most of the county’s unions are working under terms of contracts that expired a year ago.

Gone from the committee are its chairman, Supervisor Paul Cesarz, as well as Supervisors John Weishan Jr., Marina Dimitrijevic and Johnny Thomas.

The newly appointed members are Supervisor Joseph Rice, Jim “Luigi” Schmitt and Joe Sanfelippo.

Holloway named Supervisor Patricia Jursik the new committee chairwoman.

The shakeup follows some deep fissures on the board over the committee’s contract negotiation strategy over the past year. A tentative pact was struck calling for a wage freeze coupled with a no-layoff guarantee.

Part of Holloway’s moves were no doubt the result of pressure from Supervisor John Weishan, who had written a letter to him calling for him to call on Supervisors Paul Cesarz and Elizabeth Coggs to resign from their respective chairs. When there was no response from Holloway, Weishan sent a second letter.

I will admit that I was pleased to see the ineffective Cesarz removed from his chair, but then was even more saddened to see Weishan and Dimitrijevic removed from the committee as well. Thomas’ removal is not surprising since he had done bad faith bargaining and is the subject of one of the lawsuits the union as filed regarding the bad faith bargaining.

But when I saw the make up of the new committee, I was rather surprised and dismayed.

Jursik had publicly stated that she wants to retain the right to lay off county employees, even while she does everything in her power to protect the lawyers union. Standing member Mark Borkowski, with the addition of Jursik, Sanfelippo, Rice and Schmitt makes this the most anti-union committee that I have seen. The only way it could be more anti-union is if Holloway had let Cesarz remain and had removed De Bruin.

But what are the ramifications of these moves by Holloway?

As the article points out, the County and the union are in some very contentious contract negotiations. The current contract had expired a year ago, and now the hope of seeing a new contract in 2010 has been reduced to slim and none. The new committee will be expecting the union to accept the contract that they negotiated in the budget, which is extremely unlikely, given all the bad faith bargaining.

If a contract isn’t reached in short order, that will mean that there is a high chance of several hundred workers being laid off. As I have pointed out before, many of the department heads have said that their departments will not be able to function with more reductions in staff. This will severely damage service that the county can provide, endangering our most vulnerable citizens, causing even bigger budgetary problems and opening the door to even more state take overs and the higher costs associated with them.

If Holloway thinks that putting these people on the committee is effective, much less good for the County, he must be crazy.

Then again, it could be a sign of genius. Rice and Sanfelippo are strongly in Scott Walker’s corner, and follow his marching orders. Sanfelippo has even attended the CRG-sponsored campaign events. As mentioned above, this new committee will follow the contract that they tried to illegally negotiate through the budgetary process.

When they fail to reach a contract with the unions, and services are drastically cut, it will only serve to show how incompetent they really are and that Walker is a pretender when it comes to leadership.

This will also hurt Walker in his gubernatorial campaign as not even Journal Communications and the Bradley Foundation will be able to keep the County’s self-destruction a secret from the rest of the state. It will also help to neutralize the criticism that the right wingers could dump on the “union-loving Board,” since the right wingers and CRG puppets will be in charge. (No doubt that they will try to put it as being the unions’ fault, but only the Sykesians will be that gullible.)

Some of the other changes that I’ve learned of, but has not been reported is that Jursik and Supervisor Chris Larson have been removed from the transit committee, apparently because they were too willing to work with the state to get the sales tax passed via a compromise and did not feed into Holloway’s tantrums. This move doesn’t make much sense, especially considering how active Larson what a strong supporter that Larson is for transit and the betterment of the County.

One has to wonder if Holloway’s attempt at showing Walker and his backers as being so wrong-headed as they are and maybe dampering some of his own critics is really worth the harm that will happen to the County and to the most vulnerable citizens, many of whom live in his district?


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