Monday, February 11, 2013

Abele To Tout Plan He Rejected Twice

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is scheduled to give his State of the County Address on Monday morning.

As is the norm for these sorts of things, Abele has been leaking parts of his speech ahead of time. One of the main things he plans on touting is a plan to sell off unused (and maybe some used) county properties:
Consolidating Milwaukee County operations and disposing of surplus property could save taxpayers as much as $140 million over the next two decades, according to County Executive Chris Abele.

He's calling for action on selling unneeded buildings or other property, based on results of a $450,000 study done for the county by CBRE, a local commercial real estate firm.

"In the coming years, we will look to consolidate county buildings and facilities and improve the way we utilize the space we do need," Abele states in remarks prepared for his annual "state of the county" speech Monday. He's delivering the talk in the Oak Creek Municipal Court Room.

"Doing this will save us millions of dollars in maintenance, allow us to sell off unused and underused facilities, and increase our sustainability," Abele said.

Taking those steps would help the county dig out from its long-term budget gap, he said.

"Get to a point as fast as possible where we can start the year not having to talk about what we're going to cut, but start the year talking about where we're going to invest," Abele said in an interview.
This is something the Board has been trying to do for years, but has been running into interference from the county executive du jour.

But Abele's touting of this plan is the height of hypocrisy.

When crafting his first budget, the County Board asked Abele to include the funding for the study in his budget. Abele refused to add it. So when the budget got to the Board, they added the $450,000 for the study. Abele vetoed it. The Board then overrode his veto.
Then, per the article, Abele dragged his feet in doing his job:
Money for the buildings study was included in the county's 2012 budget, but the County Board called for a building study in 2011. Supervisor Patricia Jursik criticized Abele in June, saying he dawdled on the budget directive to do the study. Abele said it took time to work out details of the study.

Jursik last year expressed disappointment that the results of the study weren't available for 2013 county budget deliberations in October. She served as chair of a special panel examining county facilities.
I must point out that this study would not only be public knowledge, but any sales would be well under way if it weren't for Abele's resistance and obstructionism.  And he has the nerve to say that the Board is the problem? Really?

The question is this: Why, after resisting even doing the study for such a long time, he's suddenly so gung ho for it?

I don't know, but this might have something to do with it:
A well-known banking consultant has taken a dispute with CBRE Group Inc. to court, saying the Los Angeles real estate giant and Florida's Stonegate Bank defrauded him by rigging the bidding for a bank branch in an upscale Miami suburb.

The case is a potential embarrassment for CBRE, the world's largest commercial real estate firm, and for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which hired the company to sell off property it inherits from failed banks.

CBRE violated FDIC rules by letting Stonegate pay less for the branch than consultant Kenneth H. Thomas bid for it, according to Thomas' lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.

CBRE had a "very close and special relationship" with Stonegate because one of the bank's founders and directors, Jeff Holding, is a senior CBRE vice president who had Stonegate as a client and was "intimately involved" in the purchase, according to the suit. Two other CBRE senior vice presidents, Jeffrey M. Kelly and Harry G. Tangalakis, were members of an advisory board at Stonegate, the suit said.

"The outcome of the sale in this case was predetermined before the first bid was cast," the suit said.
I'm sure it's purely coincidental that Abele just hired his former economic development director, Brian Traffora, to be the vice-president of his personal commercial real estate business.

It will be interesting to see which county buildings Abele tries to sell of and to whom.

I tell you this much, Abele is sure getting to be so much like Walker every day, I'm thinking that there just might be a secret router in there someplace.


  1. Great reporting and thanks to the County Supervisors for looking out for the taxpayers.

  2. I don't live in Milwaukee County, but does anyone else think that $450,000 for a consultant is a little steep? The whole consulting business has always seemed to me to be a scam, a way for politicians to arrange the results they want while hiding behind the allegedly objective opinions of professionals. WTF happened to austerity?