Friday, September 27, 2013

Abele: I'm Too Busy To Do My Job

Last spring, a judge ruled that an City of Milwaukee ordinance which regulated taxi cabs was unconstitutional:
At issue is the city's ordinance, which took effect Jan. 1, 1992, that imposed a hard cap on the number of taxicab permits allowed in the city. Under the ordinance, the only way to get a taxi permit was to purchase one from an existing permit holder. There are 321 permits, fewer than the number of permits in 1991. Documents in the case indicated there is just one taxi for every 1,850 residents in the city, fewer than in other large cities.

When the ordinance was enacted, Milwaukee aldermen argued that they did not want to hold annual hearings on taxicab permits. And they reasoned that the system they created would pro vide an incentive among permit holders to improve their business.

In her decision, Carroll said the ordinance violated the state constitution's equal protection and due process clauses. She said the actions of the city's Common Council in 1991, in effect, handed a valuable commodity to taxicab company owners.

A permit is now valued as high as $150,000.

"The city, in essence, gave permit holders a significant asset," Carroll said. "That is where the problems come in with this law."

Sanders said the ordinance, which he called arbitrary, prevented cabdrivers from pursuing their right to a living and "enriches the privileged few."
Shortly after this ruling, there has had been some discussion of the county taking over the regulation of the taxis. This talk reached the level where Supervisors Russell Stamper II and John Weishan introduced a resolution in August to do just that:
Milwaukee County Supervisors John Weishan Jr. and Russell Stamper II today unveiled a draft resolution directing County Executive Chris Abele to negotiate an Intergovernmental agreement between the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County for the operation and regulation of taxicab service.

Weishan, co-chairman of the County Board’s Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee, said the measure was designed to lower costs of taxicab service while increasing service, especially in under-served areas.

“This draft resolution is meant to get a discussion started over taxicab service not only in the City of Milwaukee, but in all of Milwaukee County,” Weishan said. “We believe that through inter-governmental cooperation we can better serve the public, increase the availability of taxicabs and cut costs.”

On April 16, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge ruled that the City of Milwaukee’s taxicab ordinance, which set a cap on taxicab permits, violated the State’s constitution. The Judge Jane Carroll said that limits on the number of taxicabs was arbitrary, anti-competitive and unconstitutional. On April 25, the County Board adopted a resolution supporting a City of Milwaukee’s Common Council measure seeking to repeal the city’s cap on issuing new taxicab permits. Abele signed the County Board resolution on May 2.

Under Weishan and Stamper’s proposal, all operation and regulation of taxicab services would be transferred to the County. A negotiating team from the County would work with the City to develop more innovative regulations governing taxicab operations.

“This is a natural addition to intermodal coordination county-wide,” Stamper said. “It will help to increase competition and lower costs to the consumer. It will enhance the quality of service and help to serve areas where service is unavailable or difficult to obtain.”

Under the resolution, negotiations between the City and County would be completed by Dec. 31, 2013, and would be implemented by June 1, 2014.
This resolution came up before the Milwaukee County Board for a vote on Thursday. On Wednesday, Milwaukee County Emperor had one of his yes people send out an email to each of the supervisors, begging them not to pass the bill. Abele asked them to vote against this resolution because it was a bad bill.

Abele's rationale for opposing the taxi resolutions was because he was too busy to do his job. The following is a copy of the email he sent, which I attained via an Open Records Request:

In advance of the Board's consideration of the taxicab resolution on Thursday, I would like to share with you the County Executive's perspective.

The County Executive appreciates the intent of Supervisors Weishan and Stamper in attempting to improve the policy environment for the provision of taxicab service in Milwaukee County. He is also interested in exploring opportunities to advance shared goals more efficiently and effectively. Because he understands the Supervisors’ concerns, he is committed to engaging in conversations with the City to gauge their interest in transferring this service, as well as further analysis to better to understand the scope of work the County would be responsible for, the cost to operate the service (including startup costs which presumably would be paid for by the County) and any possible revenue. Further, the County Executive commits to giving the Board an update on progress by December 31, 2013.

The resolution, which mandates the County Executive negotiate with the City, is inappropriate and premature given competing priorities and the budget process and timeline. The County currently does not provide licensing services and does not have existing capacity to do so. For example, the City has over 4 departments that play a role in the complex licensing process, including the Licensing Division, Treasurer's Office, Milwaukee Police Department, Department of Public Works and others.

I ask that Supervisors reject this resolution and allow the administration to do the necessary analysis before deciding to move forward.

Please contact me with further questions.

Thank you,


Raisa Koltun
Office of County Executive Chris Abele
Phone: 414.278.4338
Abele had months to prepare for this, but chose not too. Perhaps he was too busy holding fundraisers for Republicans and sending drunken emails to realize he had a job to do.

Despite Abele's mewlings that his job is too hard for him to do, the resolution passed 14-4, which would be enough votes to override a veto if Abele decides to go that route.

I would point out that in the pre-Act 14 days, this issue would have been settled with a staffer of the county board and a staffer from the executive meeting with their counterparts from the city and working something out. One of the many bad decisions involved with Act 14, the Usurpation Law, was that only Abele could negotiate contracts. But because of Abele's ineptitude and incompetence, this could end up being delayed, underfunded and bungled in a thousand different ways.

Then again, Abele might be resisting the resolution in order to protect his BFF Joe Sanfelippo, whose family has profited greatly by getting a monopoly on the taxicab business in Milwaukee.  Sanfelippo was a useful sockpuppet for Abele and his plutocratic pals at the Greater Milwaukee Committee by agreeing to put his name on the bill they wrote in order to get Act 14 passed.

The lesson here is that putting too much power in any one person's hands is bad news - especially if that person doesn't know what the hell he is doing.

To be fair, a competent person would have a lot of difficulty with the responsibilities that come with Act 14, but with Abele that is a series of bad things waiting to happen and are currently happening.

Instead of worrying about legalizing rubber duckies, the state legislature needs to correct this bad decision by repealing Act 14 before the damage Abele does becomes insurmountable.


  1. I wouldn't over think the reasons why. It "could" be ineptitude. but I think you nailed it with the Sanfellipo connection.