The first item came Wednesday, when the County Board added an amendment to the county budget that would bring the Milwaukee County Transit System in house:
The move on transit would give Milwaukee Transport Services, the management firm that has run the transit system for 38 years, one last year before the county would move the service in-house, under a budget amendment by Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb Sr.The move makes a lot of sense.
"We are able to manage General Mitchell Airport; we can certainly manage a transit system," Lipscomb said. "There should be nothing about it that scares people."
It could help reduce costs to the taxpayers and to the riders by giving the county more leverage on benefits such as health care and pensions. It would also save money by not having as much going toward administrative costs by whatever private entity running it.
Bringing the system in house would also give greater certainty to the drivers, mechanics and other employees of the transit system, which would allow room for even greater efficiency.
Despite all of the potential benefits, expect Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele to veto this amendment if it passes the entire board next week. There are two reasons why Abele would oppose such a move.
One reason is that he has already cut a backroom deal with the for profit company MV Transportation, which is based in Texas. Although because of the sketchy way Abele has handled this, the contract has been suspended indefinitely due to challenges filed by two losing bidders, including the MTS, the company that has been administrating the system for years. In fact, Abele has bungled the deal so badly that MTS was given a one-year extension on their contract so that the legal issues could be resolved.
The other reason Abele would veto this amendment is because it is contrary to his obvious goal of greatly minimizing - if not completely eliminating - county government. The last thing Abele wants to do is add another 1,000 employees, even though it would save money and create greater efficiency, things Abele pretends to believe in.
The other big news for transit in Milwaukee County is that the Board has wisely overridden Abele's veto of a resolution which would require him to negotiate an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the City of Milwaukee for the regulation of taxi cabs:
The County Board Thursday overrode a veto by County Executive Chris Abele, setting in motion an effort to have the county take over taxi regulation for the City of Milwaukee and other municipalities.Abele gave lip service to actually supporting the idea, but came up with a laundry list of excuses why he vetoed it, including his concern that it might violate state law.
The vote to override was 14-4, with Supervisors Deanna Alexander, Michael Mayo Sr., Jim "Luigi" Schmitt and Steve F. Taylor voting against the override.
The board initially backed the move to shift cab regulation in September. The effort was prompted by a court decision earlier in the year saying the city's cab regulation was too restrictive and violated the state constitution. The city's ordinance limits the number of cab permits to 321.
The only time that Abele worries about following the law is if it benefits him somehow.
As with the transit system, there are two reasons why Abele vetoed this resolution. Again like the transit system, one of Abele's reasons is that he is trying to shut down the county government, he doesn't want to add more services, more staff or more responsibility.
The other reason Abele didn't want to do this is because the move would threaten the monopoly on the county's taxi cab service held by the company run by State Representative Joe Sanfelippo. Sanfelippo is the rabid Teapublican that Abele and his fellow plutocrats at the Greater Milwaukee Committee paid off to be the face of Act 14, the law that concentrated an excessive amount of power in Abele's hands.
The greatest concern about this is that when the negotiations are completed, Abele would show his usual level of incompetence and royally screw things up. It would taken a year or two after Abele is gone to clean up that mess.
The third bit of good news is not related to transit, but is aimed making things better. That item is the rejection of a high paying contract for cleaning services:
The board also voted 17-0 to reject a long-languishing $9 million contract to have CleanPower take over all janitorial services for the county. Some supervisors have objected to low pay offered by CleanPower, an issue championed by SEIU, a union attempting to organize janitors.For that kind of money, the county could hire their own housekeeping staff and get better service for a lower cost.
The firm pays janitors $8.75 an hour to start, according to testimony by employees of the firm.
Abele said he'll work with supervisors to try to negotiate an acceptable cleaning contract with CleanPower.
Supervisor David Bowen said he would like to see the cleaning contracts rebid, with specifications revised to give smaller firms a chance to compete. Cleaning firms not big enough to bid on a combined contract covering all county buildings didn't get a fair shot in the last bidding competition, Bowen said.
But I guess we can't ask them to make too much sense now, can we?