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Sullivan Picks Vital Topic As Campaign Theme

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 6, 2011

Jim Sullivan, candidate for Milwaukee County Executive, has picked a vital theme for one of the main planks of his campaign – the failing transit system:

Today, Jim Sullivan announced a plan to save our transit system and lower Milwaukee County residents property taxes.

Sullivan will enact the referendum passed by Milwaukee County voters in 2008 and create a dedicated funding source for Milwaukee County Transit System. Dedicated transit funding will allow the county to invest in public transportation and will save property taxpayers thousands of dollars by taking transit off the property tax rolls.

“Milwaukee County is in dire need of a renewed, vibrant transit system and property tax relief. This plan will provide both,” candidate for Milwaukee County Executive Jim Sullivan said. “A revitalized transit system is an investment in our community that will attract business and create jobs across our County. I call on all of my opponents to join me in standing up for real solutions to restore our disappearing transit system.”

Sullivan for Milwaukee released a petition today, “Save Our Transit,” calling for the dedicated funding source that Milwaukee County voters supported in the 2008 referendum.

Jim Sullivan is a common sense leader fighting for working Milwaukee County residents to create jobs, revitalize Milwaukee County services and infrastructure and to ease the tax burden on working families.

The online petition takes only seconds to sign.

I had an opportunity to chat with Sullivan a few weeks ago, and he told me that this was one of his top concerns.  He called the transit system the “lifeblood” of Milwaukee County.  He accurately pointed out that without a healthy transit system, any efforts to restore the regional economy would be greatly hampered, if not impossible.  Sullivan further stated that with a healthy transit system, other things, such as economic development and increased revenue for things like the parks and maintenance of county buildings would become available.

Sullivan also said that one of the main reasons that the transit sales tax failed in the state legislature for the past two years is because Milwaukee County officials were presenting mixed messages to the legislators.  While the County Board actively pursued a viable remedy to the ailing transit system in the form of a dedicated sales tax, former County Executive Scott Walker was more concerned with his political image and how such a sales tax might affect his gubernatorial campaign.  Sullivan said he would work with the County Board to present a unified front and a consistent message in an effort to put pressure on state legislators to do the right thing and honor the people’s will.

Sullivan strongly emphasized that his plan would adhere to the original intent of the referendum and not only provide a dedicated funding source for the transit system, but would also give home owners a much needed break by taking the transit system off of the tax levee.

To further exemplify his support for transit, he told me that he had taken the bus to the first debate, which was held downtown.

The only other candidate that has advocated for fixing the transit system is the beleaguered County Board Chairman, Lee Holloway.  However, even Holloway has shown a wavering support for the sales tax.

Ieshuh Griffin has stated opposition to the sales tax, but has not proffered any other solution that I am aware of.

Jeff Stone has also expressed opposition to the sales tax, and like Griffin, doesn’t offer any alternative solutions.  Given that Stone has nothing but praise for the way that Walker mismanaged the county, I would not look to him to have a vision, much less a plan.  He is much more likely to let the transit system, as well as our regional economy, go to hell in a hand basket, just to preserve Walker’s false image of being a leader if nothing else.

Chris Abele has also expressed opposition to the dedicated sales tax.  I had the opportunity to chat with Abele as well, and had asked him the question of how to fix transit.  His simplistic answer was to simply reconfigure the routes and times of service to increase their efficiency by having them “go from where the people are to where the jobs are and have them go when they’re most needed.”  I didn’t even bother to point out that Milwaukee County has transit riders from all over the region, not just inside the county, that utilizes the transit system to get to all different points of the county.  His stated solution would be the equivalent of picking winners and losers as far as workers as well as businesses.  If you happen to live in an unfavored part of town, or have your business in an area that is deemed not to be of sufficient value, under Abele’s plan, you would be out of luck.

Another concern is that Abele has also touted a plan to save tax payers $2 million in taxes in short order, but never goes into specifics on how he would do that.  However, Abele is also on the board for the Greater Milwaukee Committee, which commissioned the Public Policy Forum to conduct a very specific study regarding county finances and the results of various privatization plans.  In this study, one of the possible scenarios outlined (Scenario 3, for those following along at home) would correspond to about $2 million is projected savings.  This option would include spinning off the transit system, as well as the airport, the zoo and the parks, into special districts/ separate taxing authorities with their own.  Given Abele’s first TV commercial, in which he is touting these studies that he and the GMC commissioned, there is no reason to believe that this report won’t be among his plans for Milwaukee County.

I don’t see the need or the appropriateness of having four more unelected taxing authorities to oversee any of these functions.  The problem is not the management of any of the systems, but simply the lack of funding.  By allowing these programs to go under the auspices of independent bodies, it not only takes any say away from the tax payers, but greatly increases the risk of having their taxes skyrocket.

In summary, we have five candidates with different plans when it comes to the Milwaukee County Transit System:

  • Ieshuh Griffin opposes a dedicated funding, but offers no other solutions
  • Jeff Stone not only opposes the sales tax, but is more than willing to help the transit system, and the economy with it, to the breaking point
  • Lee Holloway is taking the spaghetti approach, flinging everything out there in hopes that something will stick
  • Chris Abele would spin off the transit into an unelected taxing authority, with the only option to be to raise property taxes to the detriment of home owners and no guarantee of better service.
  • Jim Sullivan would join with the County Board to put pressure on the state legislature and the governor to finally provide a dedicated sales tax as voters called for more than two years ago, which would not only restore the transit system but give tax payers a much needed break.
Obviously, the best choice would be Sullivan’s, which would provide ample funding to get the transit system, and subsequently the local economy, back to healthier times as well as give a break to home owner’s across Milwaukee County.  And while you’re at it, don’t forget to sign the petition for a better transit system and a better, job creating economy.

 

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Did The State Legislature Violate Open Meeting Laws?

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 5, 2011

Yesterday, I wrote about how the state legislature, hidden behind the mask of the Groundhog Day blizzard, went about carrying on theirextremist, irresponsible and weaselly agenda.  These items included making the exception for one of Scott Walker’s campaign donors to pave over a wetland for a store that won’t build on a wetland and the attempted sabotage of the wind power industry.

My good friend, grumps (proprietor of the Happy Circumstance), posteda most intriguing question:

What’s the Open Records Law say about holding a session in a building that has been declared “Closed To The Public?”

What grumps is referring to is the fact that Scott Walker had declareda State of Emergency across 29 counties, including Dane County. This included the statement that they were closing all state buildings to the public.

My curiosity piqued, I made a number of phone calls to people who might know the answer.  As of the time of this writing, only two had gotten back to me.  One said that since the Capital Building was open, it was technically not a violation of the open meeting law.  The other said that this was a gross violation of the law and expressed surprise that no one had brought this up before.

Unsatisfied with the split decision, I looked further.

I found that the BizTimes.com as well as The Milwaukee Business Journal both reported basically the same thing, that he buildings were closed.  Heck, even one of Walker’s staffers tweeted as much.

It wasn’t until I tracked down the blurb that JSOnline had posted that I found one small but significant difference:

After sending out the order, Walker amended it Tuesday to ensure that the Capitol will still be open to the public Wednesday since lawmakers are scheduled to take up several major bills that Walker says will boost job creation in the state.

In other words, the Capitol was open, closed for the emergency, then re-opened, all less than twenty-four hours before they legislature was to hold session.

According to “Wisconsin Open Meeting Law: A Compliance Guide” written by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen in 2007, there needs to be a minimum of 24 hour advance written notice before a session of a governmental body.

One could nitpick that there was not the required time before the session started, since Walker declared the State of Emergency closing the Capitol, before amending it to leave the Capitol open.  Then again, it could be argued that since this was the originally scheduled session, it would still satisfy the requirements.

But further perusal of Van Hollen’s guide indicates that the open meeting session also be reasonably accessible to the public:

An “open session” is defined in Wis. Stat. § 19.82(3) as “a meeting which is held in a place reasonably accessible to members of the public and open to all citizens at all times.”

Given that Walker had originally declared the building closed due to blizzard conditions.  The State’s and Dane County’s Emergency Management as well as the Dane County Sheriff’s Department were all stating that people should stay off the roads and that travel was not advised.

One could easily deem that the public was denied reasonable access to the session since the State’s own Emergency Management was telling people not to travel and to stay off the roads and that Walker had declared the State of Emergency due to the fact that things were going to quickly become exceedingly unsafe.  The situation was further needlessly complicated by Walker’s continuously changing the status of the Capitol.

Whether the state legislature violated the open meeting record would be a very fine line, in my lay opinion, and would require someone with more expertise in the open meeting law to offer a strong opinion either way.  Even if the session held by the legislature on February 2, 2011 wasn’t technically illegal, one could surely be able to convincingly argue it was unethical given the weather conditions at the time.

This whole incident raises another point, besides the question of the legality and ethics of the state legislature holding session that day.

It also highlights another broken promise, as well as a huge dose of hypocrisy, from Scott Walker.  Last spring, when he was still merely a gubernatorial hopeful, he criticized the state legislature for holding votes on bills in the wee hours of the morning.  He stated that this was a violation of the public trust, since it was unlikely that most people would still be awake, much less paying attention to what the legislation was doing, and that he would never allow this to happen as governor. He made these criticisms in spite of the fact that he had participated in the same sessions as a state legislator himself, and even had voted against limiting how late sessions could go.

So how does not only allowing, but actively abetting, the state legislature to work on the bills in the heart of a blizzard come out any better than the wee hours of the night?  It is unlikely that anyone would be foolhardy enough to try to make the trip to Madison, much less the Capitol Building.

And while I’m on the subject: Where are all the people who were caterwauling when Congress was looking at health care reform? Even though that bill was on the table for more than a year, people were complaining that the public had no time to look at it, much less offer any input or feedback.  But when you listen for their complaints about Walker and his crony capitalists in the legislature passing these fly by night bills, which are often incomplete and will create no jobs, but will make an unholy mess of this state, all you hear is the wind blowing the snow around.

Scott Walker…or is it one of the Fitzgerald boys?

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The Reason Behind The GOP Hypocrisy On Health Care

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 4, 2011

The Democrats have been having a field day blasting their Republican counterparts for their hatred, absolute hatred, of the Health Care Reform Act, which allows even poor people to have access to medical care.

The Democrats keep pointing out that the Republicans are hypocrites for trying to deny government subsidized health care for the poor, but won’t give up their own.

But is it really hypocrisy?

Republican Representative Ann Buerkle of New York would make one believe it’s not hypocrisy, but sheer and utter ignorance.

How anyone could vote for someone that dumb is beyond me…oh, wait….crap….never mind, Wisconsin also sent their own candidates to the health care hypocrisy caucus.

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State Republicans Act Carelessly With State’s Resources

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 4, 2011

As everyone knows, Tuesday night, the southern half of Wisconsin got caught up in the Groundhog Day’s Blizzard.  Due to the blizzard, most people were solely concerned with just making it home or somewhere where they could safely ride the storm out.  Things were so bad, thatthe groundhogs couldn’t make it out of their holes on their big day.

But it has become apparent that not everyone was that concerned about the weather.  And instead of groundhogs popping up on Groundhog Day, Madison was overtaken by weasels.
The state legislature decided that while the state’s buildings were closed to the public, they would still hold session in their special (not creating any) jobs session.  So much for openness and transparency in government or listening to the people.
In their session, they passed the anti-wetlands bill that will make an exception for a land developer who wants to pave over paradise in order to put up a glorified strip mall.  The state legislature did this despite being aware of the fact that instead of a Bass Pro Shop, this wetland is being sacrificed for an empty box store.  To add insult to injury, they not only did this skulduggery under the cover of a blizzard, they did so on World Wetlands Day.
In related news, the only gleam of hope that has come out of Madison recently was the fact that Walker’s proposed bill to push the wind power industries out of the state fell flat on its face.  Apparently the Republicans are feeling some heat from their jobs-destroying agenda and didn’t have the stomach to push this entire industry out of the state like Walker did with the high speed rail and related businesses.
Unfortunately, that gleam of hope quickly faded as Walker promised to instead go through the back window by changing the rules of the Public Service Commission (which explains why he made the power grab on of his top priorities).  To add to the bad news, some Republican legislators are threatening to again raise this damaging bill for no reason other than they can and to appease their wealth campaign donors.
To top off the day’s affronts, Scott Walker disregarded the fact that Emergency Management personnel issued a rarely used Civil Danger Warning, and told workers that they were still supposed to report to work, unless they were able to use some of their personal time to make up for the day.  If Walker shows that much disregard for the very lives of the people that work for him, why does anyone think he gives a damn about anyone else in this state?  The only thing Walker cares about is to conciliate his owners like the road builders, the land developers, the big banks and the Bradley Foundation.
While the rest of us are gearing up for Superbowl Sunday and everything is coming up green and gold, Scott Walker and his fellow weasels are squandering our green to get their hands on some of the gold.

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Legislative Update – February 2, 2011

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 3, 2011

Walker:  Wisconsin’s Budget Shortfall Situation is “An Opportunity” to Transform Government; Reduce “Entitlement Programs” and “Legacy Costs”

 

On Feb. 1, Governor Scott Walker gave his first “State of the State” speech in which he laid out two key policy goals:  to improve the state’s business environment and to use Wisconsin’s budget situation as an “opportunity to reduce government” and “transform the way government works in Wisconsin”.

He said lawmakers need to take “swift, corrective action” to stop Medicaid (entitlement programs) and state employee benefits (legacy programs) from “eating up more and more of the operating budget.”

Gov. Walker said that Wisconsin, like other states, has major fiscal challenges due to the decline in the global economy.  He also said states across the nation are facing a $1 trillion shortfall due to public sector retirement benefits, and noted that state and local governments are saddled with heavy debt.  This is true, but not for most of Wisconsin. Gov. Walker did not mention that the Wisconsin Retirement System, which covers some 550,000 state residents (active and retired), is fully funded and is not at risk.

It is misleading and reckless for the state’s highest executive to present facts that are not true or relevant in Wisconsin to make a case for asking/forcing state employees to begin paying pension payments.  He said state workers would be asked to pay “just over 5%” of their pensions, as well as 12% (up from an average of 6%) of the cost of healthcare premiums.

He also said that “the difficult reality is that healthcare costs and pension costs have risen dramatically and that has created a benefit system that is simply unsustainable.  Government benefits have grown while so many others in the private sector have seen their benefits adjusted in order to protect jobs.”

It is unclear when the Governor intends to act on cutting Medicaid costs and state worker benefits, but it could be sooner rather than later. He intends to introduce a budget repair bill to fix what he says is a $200 million shortfall for the rest of the current fiscal year (which ends June 30). The budget repair bill will focus on “..the most immediate fiscal challenges our state must address to avoid massive layoffs or reductions in critical services.”   He did not provide specifics.

A budget repair bill can be introduced and acted on quickly, with limited opportunity for public input, if past practice is any indication.  In contrast, the regular 2011-2013 state budget bill is expected to be introduced on February 22, and there is a lengthy process involving budget briefings, public hearings that usually take place in 5 or 6 communities across the state, and then the agency-by-agency painstaking voting process, all of which allow for ample input by the public (and lobbyists).

The governor made several references to the concessions that workers in private corporations have made to keep their jobs.  He added that “While state government can’t pick up and move, I hope that our state employees feel as if they’ve been treated fairly over the years, but- like all of us- they should recognize that we are in difficult economic and fiscal times.”

 

Perhaps that comment would be easier to accept and understand if there had been some recognition of the $100+ in concessions state workers had agreed to give up in the bargaining sessions which produced the contracts that were rejected by the Legislature in December.  It also might be easier to accept if the Governor had made any attempt to reach out to employees.  Since taking office, his administration has talked about concessions it plans to extract, but has not made any attempt to contact AFSCME, which represents more than 23,000 state employees.

That comment also would have been more acceptable to state workers had the Governor made a strong, public commitment to spread the cuts across the board to state services and programs, in as fairly as possible, as Governor Doyle proposed in his last budget.

It is worth mentioning that in previous speeches, Gov. Walker has specifically mentioned the benefits of both state and local government employees, although in Tuesday’s speech, that message was not as evident.  Nevertheless, the Governor also stated that “…we must provide flexibility to our leaders at all levels.”  In a recent previous speech, when he referred to giving local elected officials “flexibility” he meant pension payments, healthcare payments and changes to tilt the local collective bargaining law in favor of the employer.

The full speech is available on-line at http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/ or on WisPolitics.com or The Wheeler Report (www.thewheelerreport.com).

AFSCME members can learn more about the Wisconsin Retirement System can read the AFSCME “Green Sheet” on the WRS and public employee pensions.  That four-page document is available on the AFSCME Council 11 website: http://www.wiafscme.org.  AFSCME in Wisconsin and AFSCME International have a ton of information on pension systems.  Much of it is easy to read and understand and will help prepare members for the discussions and challenges that face us.

For more information, contact your AFSCME lobbyists at 608-836-6666 or go to http://www.wiafscme.org.

 

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Preview Of The State Of The State Address

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 3, 2011

On Tuesday, Scott Walker is scheduled to give his first State of the State address.  Please do not confuse the snow job that Walker will be trying to pull on us with the real snow job that Mother Nature is dumping on us.

But so that you may enjoy your peppermint schnapps-laced hot cocoa after a grueling day fighting the elements, I will provide you with a preview of Walker’s speech.

He will start out by telling us what a mess Governor Doyle left him to clean up.  He will use artificially inflated numbers, or even numbers pulled from a hat to make his point.  In other words, just look at his first State of the County speech, but substitute Doyle’s name for Tom Ament’s.

He will quickly follow this up by telling us how lucky we are for electing him, since he is the Chosen One, and that he will be able to single-handedly save us all from ruin.  He will tout the bills that he managed to ramrod through without sufficient public hearings or public input.  Things like paving over wetlands for an empty stores, giving tax breaks to all of his campaign contributors from WMC, and making sure that gaysminorities and poor people are kept under his boot heel where they belong.  Never mind that not one of his bills will create even one job nor save most Wisconsinites even one dime.

He will start out with the phony numbers for a couple of reasons.  One is to give him plausible doubt when his bills go haywire and we end up much worse than anyone could have imagined.  He is building the case to blame others for his own failure, a trait he is well-known for.

The other reason will be giving rise to his real agenda.

One of his goals is to bust up the unions.  He will present a plan to make the unions pay up to 20% of their salaries for health care and pension costs.  Walker will present it as “evening the playing field” with private sector workers, which is, of course, utter rubbish.  Walker won’t ever dare offer any of his proposals at the negotiating table.  That way, he has cause, in his mind anyway, to lay off thousands of state workers and privatize the services.  In said privatizations, he will givehandsome contracts to his campaign contributors which will end up costing more than if the services has remained in the public sector.

Another one of Walker’s agenda items is to start dismantling public health care.  He will cite some unverifiable numbers indicating that Badger Care is under water and decided to through off hundreds of thousands of people from the system.  His dwindling faithful will be rejoicing thinking that this will save them some money on taxes.  The joke is on them though.  Their taxes will not go down, but their health care premiums will continue to climb at double digit rates.  The increase in premiums will be directly due to the higher number of people unable to afford basic medical care and will be waiting until they are so sick that they need emergency and costlier care than before.  The hospitals and insurance companies will pass these costs onto the rest of us through the premiums and charging $10 for an aspirin.

Just think, like his buddy Governor Jan Brewer, Walker can have his own death panels!

The remainder of the speech will consist of doublespeak for trying to convince us why we need to pay even more so that his rich business owners can have cuts to their already low taxes.  He’ll drag out the same old tired dog and pony act claiming that it will create jobs, even though the same tax cuts on a national level only produced the Great Recession with higher unemployment.

Now that I’ve saved you the grief of having to listen to Walker’s lies and false promises, go and enjoy the evening.  Maybe join your kids in monitoring the closing announcements to see if Wednesday is a snow day.  And don’t forget the hot cocoa, liberally laced with schnapps.  We’ll be needing a lot of that to get us through the next four years.

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“People Create Jobs, Not The Government”

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 3, 2011

“People create jobs, not the government.”

Scott Walker

Funny how things change:

A Milwaukee social service agency says it wants to hire 100 people as it seeks to expand.

The Human Development Center, 4222 W. Capitol Drive, is seeking applicants with a background in sociology, psychology, social work or related fields.

The organization serves at-risk youth and also provides prenatal counseling.

The Human Development Center takes referrals from the State of Wisconsin when people call state crisis hotlines.The Human Development Center is holding a job fair from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Hampton Inn & Suites downtown, 176 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Need I mention that the State is now headed by Walker? Yes, the hundred extra jobs are nice, but odds are that the contract was something that was established by Governor Doyle long before Walker won the election.  Now if we could only get Walker to admit to the truth….

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For The Sake Of Clarity

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 3, 2011

When referring to the big snow this week, please make sure you are clear whether you are talking about the blizzard-scale snow storm that could be dumping as much as two feet of snow in Southeastern Wisconsin or whether you are talking about Scott Walker’s State of the State address in which he exaggerates the fiscal crisis so that he can lay off state workers and cut tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of women and children from Badger Care.

But in all seriousness, if you have a fire hydrant in front of your house, or in front of a neighbor’s house, please help by keeping it clear of the snow.  You never know if it is your house you will be saving

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Walker Gets One Job Market To Grow Epically

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 3, 2011

We all scoffed when Scott Walker promised he would create 250,000 jobs within four years.  We guffawed when his jobs plan seemed to be nothing more than hokey signs or having his incompetent Lieutenant Governor do some telemarketing.  We clamored as our worst fears were being proven true, and he drove the high speed rail and the wind power related businesses out of Wisconsin and on to friendlier business climes.

And the news keeps getting worse.

Much to the dismay of environmentalists, conservationists and sportsmen alike, Scott Walker decided to give special dispensation to a campaign donor so that said donor could pave over some wetlands to put up a shopping strip mall.

One of the big name stores that they were courting to come to this paved-over paradise was Bass Pro Shop.  However, it’s apparent that Walker and company didn’t bother to do even the most rudimentary of good public relations and find out what Bass Pro Shop was all about.  If they had, they might have noted that the company had a strong environmentalist record.  Without that basic step, it came as a huge and embarrassing mistake for the Walker administration when Bass Pro Shop decided to stop considering that site as a potential site for a new store.

Instead of taking corrective actions, such as offering an alternative site (may I suggest one of the multitude of empty Walmart or other big box stores) or actually listening to the people of Wisconsin and preserving the wetland, Walker decides to stay the course (doesn’t that phrase remind you of another failed Republican leader?) and pave over the wetland.  His hope is to still lure Bass Pro Shop to the site, even though they very specifically stated that they do not build on wetlands.

Walker, while focused on trying to reward his campaign donors instead of, you know, actually creating jobs, has also seen jobs leaving our state.  This includes Aerial Co. Inc. in Marinette, which is cutting some 75 jobs, including those that they are sending to Texas.

Even more cutting is American Aluminum Extrusion of Beloit.  They are sending 130 Wisconsin jobs packing to Roscoe, Illinois.  So much for Illinois’ recent tax hike as being a business detriment.

Perhaps instead of waving his old “Escape To Wisconsin” bumper sticker around, he should start acting like a responsible leader and give people a reason to want to come here instead of a plethora of reasons why they should leave.

But at least on area of the job market is probably showing a huge boom.  They’re going to need a lot of people to move those companies, and the workers following those jobs, out of the state.

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A Tale Of Two Snow Storms

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 3, 2011

From Milwaukee County First:

On Christmas, the East Coast got nailed with a blizzard that dumped nearly two feet of snow.  New York City was paralyzed for days.  Mayor Bloomberg, trying to save his political career, came out days after the storm to boast that every street in the city had been plowed and that things were returning to normal.  Many other elected officials saw it differently and pointed their fingers right at Bloomberg.

Bloomberg then took the common defense of blaming the public sector plow drivers for the failure to recover from this storm.  The problem for Bloomberg was that this attempt at shifting the blamedidn’t work out.  It turned out that the Mayor had first scaled back spending, cutting the number of employees in their Public Works Department.  In addition, in the name of “saving money,” Bloomberg had privatized a majority of the plowing services.   When Bloomberg failed to call a snow emergency, meaning the private sector workers never had to come in until the next day, leaving a relatively dew public sector workers to tackle the Herculean task alone.

Now fast forward to Monday, January 31, 2011.

Milwaukee and the rest of Southeastern Wisconsin got hit with a snow event with dropped some six or seven inches of snow.  Public sector public works people from Milwaukee County and every municipality therein went to work and cleared the streets nicely.

However, that was just the warm up.  The next very next night, Tuesday, the real storm hit.  The entire southern part of Wisconsin was clobbered, with the worst of it centered on Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee Counties.  The stormed dumped at least fifteen inches, and up to two feet, of snow overnight in white out conditions with wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour.

The entire region was paralyzed.  All the schools were closed as were most businesses.  Even the local governments told their non-emergency employees to stay home.

Yet the public works people bundled up, buckled up and went right back to work.  They did this despite having already pulled long shifts.  They did this despite being given excessive furlough days by politicians that were using them (and the tax payers) to further their political aspirations. They did this despite being vilified by local talk radio hosts and right wing bloggers alike as well as the local paper.  They went right back to work despite all of these people, including the tea partiers, telling them that they aren’t worth the money they get paid.

They went back to work because they are professionals and this was their job.

They went back and continued to put in the long hours.  They put their all into it, dealing with the same miserable and dangerous weather that kept the rest of us snug in our homes.  They dealt with the weather as well as the idiots that, despite snow emergencies being called, went ahead and left their cars parked on both sides of the street.

And if I may say it, they did one hell of a job. This is not surprising, however, since we already knew that they were among the best of the best in the state.

The main roads were plowed at least to be passable by morning.  The city started showing signs of life before noon on Wednesday, just scant hours after the storm had ended, as opposed to the days it took New York City to bounce back.

They did so well, and the storm was so immense, that even those that like to scapegoat public sector workers every chance they get, were forced to say their thanks and respect.

This would be a good chance for our elected leaders, and those who are currently running to be elected leaders, both on a local and the state level, to reflect on their positions when they go on and on about their willingness to privatize public services.  The decision should never, ever be based solely on the bottom line.  Rather, it should be based getting the best value for that dollar spent.  What good does it do the tax payers, or for public safety, to say you saved a few thousand dollars by privatizing a service if they can’t or won’t do the job as well as the public sector workers?

Furthermore, our elected leaders, on all levels of government, need toremember the truism that was mentioned in the article regarding New York City’s debacle:

This is why it’s such a bad idea to run government like a business. This isn’t a business, it’s agovernment. It has to provide basic services, no matter what.

 

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