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Walker Won’t Commit to Airport, Zoo

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on May 3, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

Today was the first of Scott Walker’s non-listening sessions.  There were about 50-60 people there.  At least a third of them were Walker’s staffers.  The other large majority were senior citizens.  The rest of the crowd consisted of social advocates, union members as well as Supervisors Larson, West and Borkowski.

To my surprise, for the first time in three years that I’ve attended these events, County Executive Walker was actually there.  Kudos to him for finally making it.

Even with Walker there, there wasn’t much new under the sun.  The talking points were pretty much as expected.  He boasted about his debt management skills, which is a rather loose interpretation of reality, since the County is nearly a billion dollars in debt.

He also talked about how much money he has supposedly saved the tax payers by  consolidating the House of Corrections into the Sheriff’s Office and by privatization.  (Too bad for him that privatization doesn’t really save any money, but actually ends up costing more.)

He announced his goals for the 2011 budget were to lower the property tax, continued commitment (continued?  when did he start?) into core services and addressing long term costs.

Then the fun started as he opened up the floor to the constituents that were there.

By far, the largest amount of questions and comments expressed surrounded transit and paratransit services.  There was a lot of concern about the state legislature’s failure to pass the sales tax in support of the transit system and that there would be massive cuts.  Walker never denied that there would be cuts.  He exasperated the situation by minimizing the 20% of the services he already cut.

The next hottest topic was the poorly way that the mental health complex was being run.  There was one commenter that made the good suggestion of increasing money towards out-patient services to minimize the need for the higher priced inpatient services, which there is not enough of anyway.

I was able to ask Walker if he would commit to keeping the Mitchell Field, which broke another one month all-time record in March, in the public sector, since it does not affect the tax levy whatsoever and is very well run as it is.

I also asked him to make the same commitment for the Milwaukee County Zoo, based on the fact that privatizing that would actually be harmful to the tax payers of Milwaukee County.

Walker never did comment on the zoo.  Regarding the airport, he cited the example of Illinois privatizing Midway Airport.  I rebutted that statement by pointing out that the Midway Airport deal (as well as every other airport privatization scheme) fell apart and showed that it was not a good idea.

Walker dismissed this fact as being part of the economic collapse and moved on to other constituents.

You can imagine my reaction to the bit of irony when Walker, who had refused to commit to keeping the airport under County control, issued his own press release touting the airport’s numbers, and noticed this at the bottom of the release:

General Mitchell International Airport is owned by Milwaukee County and operated by the Department of Transportation & Public Works, Airport Division, under the policy direction of the Milwaukee County Executive and the County Board of Supervisors. The airport is entirely funded by user fees; no property tax dollars are used for the airport’s capital improvements or for its day-to-day operation. For more information on Mitchell International, visit

He admits to the very reasons why the airport should stay public, but then won’t commit to that publicly!

This only re-emphasizes are position that Walker is more concerned about what he thinks will help forward his political aspirations than what is in the best interest of Milwaukee County and its citizens.

I have a feeling this upcoming budget battle will be a long and hard fought one.


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