Sadly, for too many politicians, MLK Day is just a series of photo ops, where they attend some breakfast or other event where they say a few words or make some token gesture. When they go back to doing what they've been doing, you can tell it was nothing more than lip service for them.
An excellent example of this is Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele.
Abele made sure everyone knew that he was going to five whole events over two days in honor of King.
The hypocrisy is enough to make one physically ill.
When one reflects on the too short life of Dr, King, one usually thinks of his efforts to promote racial equality. Without doubt, this is one of his greatest contributions to the world, making every effort to bring up the awareness of the bigotry that is still too prevalent in this country.
As great as his work for racial equality was, Dr. King was about so much more as well. He also believed in workers rights and that people, regardless of race or gender or any other attribute, should be paid a living wage.
King also taught us that one of the greatest things a person could do was to be in the service of others.
And these are the areas where Abele falls pitifully short of King's legacy.
Abele has been systematically trying to dismantle Milwaukee County government and abdicating his responsibilities. Most notably of his many failures to serve people is the way he is maltreating the patients at the mental health complex and pushing them out of the hospital even though there is a severe shortage of safe places for these vulnerable citizens to go.
While King would often walk with workers - and get arrested with them - in support of their efforts to be treated with respect and get paid a sustainable wage, Abele has shown himself to be quite the opposite.
Abele has sided against the workers at Palermo's, even though the company has been shown to be guilty of unfair labor practices and extremely unsafe conditions. Abele has actively fought against the notion that the employees of companies contracting with the county be paid a living wage or be allowed to unionize.
He has shown his disdain towards his own workers by forcing them to pay more for their benefits than any other government in the state and possibly in the nation. Abele's pay cuts to workers is more than twice than those imposed by Scott Walker. Many county workers, including members of Abele's own staff, have had to take on second jobs just to pay the bills.
Instead of praising the unions as King had done, Abele has also taken it upon himself to try to bust the unions in order to ease his exploitation of the workers.
On Tuesday, the day after the official celebration of Dr. King's life and teachings, Abele shows just how out of touch he is with the meaning of the day.
Even as vulnerable citizens are put in harm's way and workers are struggling to stay out of bankruptcy, Abele has decided that he will not cut the extravagant salaries of his top political appointees. Not only that, but he also has told his HR director to allow them to make even more money:
Now Abele has directed his personnel director not to implement the cuts. The board action capped many managers' pay at $120,000, which would amount to a $22,100 a year reduction for Administrative Services Director Don Tyler; a $12,000 cut for Human Resources Director Kerry Mitchell; a $6,875 cut for Transportation Director Brian Dranzik; and a $5,000 cut for Health and Human Services Director Hector Colón.I won't pretend to know if Abele's failure to internalize Dr. King's teachings are intentional or if he is truly unable to understand what it means to stand up for the people, but either way, Abele's hypocrisy makes his "participation in events honoring King an embarrassment.
Mitchell, Abele's personnel chief, notified supervisors in a memo that she assigned new and higher pay ranges for 11 top county managers as part of a wider county salary study.
That would raise the top possible pay to $170,450 for Bargren, Tyler, Colón, Dranzik, Parks Director John Dargle Jr. and Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser. That would be about a $28,000 increase.
But it does serve as a reminder why people keep referring to Abele as "Little Walker."