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GMC Is Irresponsible In Withholding Report

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on October 30, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

The Greater Milwaukee Commission (GMC) has been busy preparing a report regarding Milwaukee County’s future.  Their outlook  is without a doubt a most negative and pessimistic one:

Milwaukee County government is in such dire financial shape that state lawmakers should push through legislation that would allow it and other local governments to file for bankruptcy.

That’s one of several recommendations included in a super-secret report drafted by the Greater Milwaukee Committee last month. This group of movers and shakers has decided to hold off releasing the details until after next month’s election.

But a copy of the report’s draft executive summary obtained by No Quarter shows the powerful committee is looking to recommend doing away with the elected county executive’s post, slicing county worker benefits and spinning off the zoo, the bus system, the parks and much else under separate commissions.

If these dramatic steps – or something like them – aren’t taken county government will collapse, the draft report suggests. In fact, in just six years, the report estimates, the county’s pension and health care obligations will eat up every dollar raised through the county tax levy.

“The short-term ‘solutions’ and one-time ‘fixes’ have been exhausted,” it says. “Without real reform, the County will be forced to eliminate whole areas of service to our community.”

The report also puts it this way:

“If we don’t make changes today, the future looks grim. Parks will close, bus routes will end and families in distress will not get the help they need. Our Milwaukee will grow smaller and smaller as people and companies leave.”

Their recommendations are indeed extreme.  They are also arguably not designed to actually deal with the issues that Milwaukee County is facing, nor do they address the core problems in many aspects.  But that is for later discussion.

What does need discussion now is their refusal to release the entire report at this time.  The article by Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indicates that they are withholding the report until after the elections to prevent it from becoming a “political football.”

Worth noting is that Michael Grebe, who is an ultraconservative, is the Chairman of the GMC as well as Chair of Scott Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, which makes their decision to delay the release of the report appear to be a conflict of interest at best.

But by releasing the teaser of  the executive summary, but then saying they aren’t going to release the whole report, aren’t they already making it into a political football?

Regardless of the politics, it is irresponsible for the GMC to defer the release of the report until after the November elections.

Scott Walker has presented his disaster of a budget proposal less than two weeks ago.  The County Board’s Finance and Audit Committee are in the process of holding their budgeting sessions to see what parts they can salvage and which parts they have to rewrite.

If Milwaukee County’s fiscal situation is as dire as GMC is saying, it would make immeasurably much more sense, as well as being the only responsible thing to do, for the Board to have their report now, so that they could have a chance to start making any necessary changes or at least to lay the groundwork for the work to come.

By waiting until the elections are over, the Board will not have a chance to digest the report, much less act on it, in time for the 2011 budget.  This would squander another whole year before meaningful action could be taken.

If they feel that the situation can wait that long before action is taken, it gives one reason to wonder if things are as bad as they are indicating, or if there is some other motivation behind the report.


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