Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele has started his annual Doom and Gloom Tour in preparation for the 2015 budget. Abele started his campaign by putting up a lot of nifty graphics and infographics on the county's webpage for the ironically named Office of Performance, Strategy and Budget. Abele is also sending out his budgeteers to give presentations at various county sites, such as the one I attended on Monday. If the gentle reader has the 2010 or newer version of Microsoft Office, they can see the power point presentation for themselves.
The objective of these presentations are apparently to try to convince people - especially workers - why austerity is good for us and warn us where he plans to wield his Budgetary Axe of Austerity. From the emphasis that his team was putting on certain areas, the places he is planning on attacking are county assets, public safety, county retirees and county workers.
Josh Fudge, Abele's top budgeteer, explained that the county owns over 1,000 buildings. Because it has so many buildings, the county is not able to keep up with the needed repairs and maintenance. The argument is that the county needs to sell it's old, dilapidated buildings and centralize county services.
However, it turns out that most of the 1,000 buildings are things like park pavilions, park bathrooms, sheds and other similar structures that allow workers to be more efficient.
There are some buildings that the county might be better off getting rid of, such as the City Campus, but any liquidation of these assets should be tempered with prudence. Last year, when Abele's neglect caused a $17 million fire in the courthouse, the importance of having other buildings to utilize was made very clear. If the majority of county services were centralized in the courthouse complex when the fire happened, the entire county would have been shut down for weeks.
This also raises the question on whether Abele wants to do this to save money or to free up county land for his land developer friends can make a fortune off of county assets, like they are doing at the old county grounds or at the lakefront.
Abele and his budgeteers are also putting a lot of emphasis on the cost of public safety. The Sheriff's Office and the House of Correction are two of the biggest drains on the tax levy. Abele has made it no secret that he would love to abdicate the county's responsibility for public safety - especially in the parks - and dump it off on the local municipality police departments.
With crime on the upswing again, it just doesn't make sense to have less law enforcement officers when the current numbers are clearly not able to keep up with the amount of crime that is occurring. It would also shift the tax burden on the municipalities, especially the City of Milwaukee. There is no justification that City of Milwaukee taxpayers should have to shoulder higher costs for the people from the suburbs who come to enjoy places like Bradford Beach and McKinley Marina or the many other parks near the lake.
Is it really worth saving a buck or two on one's property taxes when you're putting a higher burden on them through other taxes, not to mention the risk to public and personal safety?
Abele is so worked up about county retirees getting benefits that they had earned over the course of decades, he even made up his own title for it - "Legacy Fringe." In their power point presentation, they go through great lengths to show that the retirees just cost too much. They even go to point out that the cost of Milwaukee County retirees are much higher than those in Pima, Arizona!
Never mind that the retirees had worked for decades taking salaries lower than they would have made at comparable jobs in the private sector as a trade off for these benefits. Never mind that acolytes of austerity like Scott Walker or Abele have willfully failed to plan ahead for these costs.
It's obvious to Abele that the good faith bargaining done by the retirees means nothing compared to the money that could be diverted to plutocrats like himself or his pals at the Greater Milwaukee Committee.
I would expect Abele to try to ignore the promises that the county had made to the retirees - or the law - and attack the retirees to make the pay for the things that they paid for in their decades of service. And that's on top of the retirees he wants to punish for his own incompetence and failure.
As he has done every year he has been in office, Abele is planning to go after the current county worker already making county workers pay more for their benefits than any other governmental body int he country and more than most private sector companies. Nor do they want to talk about how Abele's cuts to workers' pay contributed $5 million to his $24 million surplus, showing that the cuts weren't even necessary.
again in this budget. Not only is he trying to put in some daft performance based agenda which no one - not even his own people - can make sense of, but he is also complaining that the benefits current workers are receiving cost too much. They didn't want to discuss the fact that Abele is
The gentle reader should keep in mind, that just like we're seeing on a statewide basis with Act 10, cutting money out of circulation helps no one. No one except the already rich plutocrats like Abele and the other members of the millionaire's club known as the Greater Milwaukee Committee.
It should be noted that Abele's projected deficits are much greater than those of the comptroller's or the county board's. It appears that this gloom and doom are some more Fudged numbers and should be treated skeptically.
It is also reminiscent of when Walker was county executive and did his own gloom and doom routine, claiming that there was a $15 million deficit, when in reality, there was either no deficit or one so small as to be negligible.
It's kind of funny how Abele can't find ways to afford to keep public safety intact, hold true to contracts and promises or respect the workers, but he has no problem finding the money to pay his cronies lavish amounts of money, move freeway ramps and help out his rich friends get even richer.
Is it any surprise why so many people refer to Abele as Walker Lite?