Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Abele Wants To Give Away War Memorial Center, O'Donnell Park

When Scott Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he would willfully fail to maintain county assets, spending the money that was meant for repair and maintenance to cover his budget shortfalls. Sadly, the worst case scenario did happen and a boy lost his life when a facade on O'Donnell Park fell on him.

Another consequence of Walker's willful neglect was that the Milwaukee Art Museum and the War Memorial Center were at odds with each other, fighting over the scraps that they were able to get from Walker and the county.  It was the precursor of "Divide and Conquer."

After years of contention, Milwaukee County, under the direction of then-Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and Supervisors John Weishan and Gerry Broderick, a deal was struck between the county, the art museum and the memorial center.  They brokered an agreement where the county  would give the two entities about $1.5 million per year for ten years so that they could fix up their respective buildings.

Milwaukee County Executive Emperor Chris "Boss" Abele was none too happy and called the deal "bullshit."  Supporting these two entities would slow down his plan of giving away these county assets to his wealthy friends.

Things were going swimmingly for three years until Tuesday, when Boss Abele dropped a bomb on the veterans who make up the executive board of the War Memorial Center.

Abele sent his Director of Administration, Teig Whaley-Smith, to the board meeting and told them outright that Abele was looking to give - not sell, but give - the ownership of the War Memorial Center and O'Donnell Park to the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM).  In exchange, the art museum would pick of the cost of maintenance and repairs for the two buildings as well as their own.

Needless to say, this is not sitting well with the veterans.  They were comfortable with the county - a public entity - being their landlord.  They are not comfortable at all with a private agency assuming that role.

If MAM were to become the owners of the War Memorial Center, they would have the last say on what could and couldn't be done.  If they didn't like a statue on the grounds, they could have it removed.  If they decided to double or triple the rent, they could without needing anyone's permission.

Taxpayers should be equally upset about the proposed deal.  From what Whaley-Smith told the board, the art museum would be able to keep the revenue from the parking structure at O'Donnell Park, which would be enough to pay for its own upkeep and then some.

Not only is Abele willing to again give away county assets, but now is ready to also give away sources of revenue, even as he whines that there isn't enough money to take care of the assets he hasn't given away yet.

It should also be noted that thanks to the power grab by Abele, with the assistance of his Republican friends in the state legislature, he could do this deal without any input from the county board or the public.

Abele, as part of his campaign, likes to claim that he is working for Milwaukee County.  How he claims this while giving away county assets and revenue streams without input from the public - or without even letting the public know - is breathtaking in its egregiousness.   It's almost as outrageous as his claims that he supports the veterans.


  1. Amazing, isnt it? Here in Manitowoc County, Abele clone Bob Ziegelbauer and his chief henchman (big) Jim Brey are trying to sell of 1/3 of our county fair grounds including the grandstands to Meijer Foods. The sale will cripple the fair as it will remove half of the available parking, which because it is boxed in on all sides will kill attendance "forcing" Bob to get rid of the rest of it.
    More looting of the commons...

    1. I should also note another parallel since Bob claims that the "Expo" (fair grounds) are losing money and pledges to use the 4.6 mil in sale money to maintain the facilities. However, the majority of costs in operation at the grounds is his pet project, the County Ice Center, a building used almost exclusively for youth hockey, a sport that involves almost exclusively the well heeled of Manitowoc society. Bob DE-privatized it when the NPO that lobbied the county to build it went broke. When I have requested data on how much the Ice Elephant is losing he simply responds by saying that that information is not available since it is all part of the Expo budget and not itemized.... Needless to say, the Ice Elephant is not part of the sale.