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Issue of the Week: Local Control v. The Inside Job

May. 7, 2013
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On Monday, a 14-4 supermajority of the Milwaukee County board overrode County Executive Chris Abele’s veto of their plan to reform county government at a local level.

Abele offered a number of lame excuses for vetoing the measure.

What he didn’t say was that his veto would greatly increase the power of the county executive by weakening the oversight capacity of the county board. This will result in the county executive having the ability to more easily transfer county assets like land and buildings to private hands in cut-rate sweetheart deals. It is truly opening the door to corruption. Many feel that Abele is simply laying the groundwork to assist some of his conservative business pals to get rich from acquiring Milwaukee County land at the expense of the taxpayers because a part-time, understaffed county board cannot provide proper oversight.

In order to pull this off, Chris Abele and the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s (GMC) president, Julia Taylor, are going around the people elected by the Milwaukee County taxpayers whose resources are at risk and asking the Republicans who control the state Legislature to put these changes into law. So much for local control. Some of these Republican legislators from around the state who will be voting on these changes to Milwaukee County’s local government may never have set foot in Milwaukee County and from some of their past comments, actually have contempt for Milwaukee.

Abele and Julia Taylor are being aided and abetted by conservative lawmakers such as
state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis), state Sen. Alberta Darling
(R-River Hills) and Supervisor Deanna Alexander, the beneficiary of an
Abele-headlined fundraiser on Wednesday.

The right-wing media have been enlisted as well. The Citizens for
Responsible Government (CRG), the tea party group that Scott Walker used to
gin up “grassroots” outrage, held a rally to support the state “reform,” and
members of the right-wing echo chamber—Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling and Aaron
Rodriguez—have fanned the flames. Sykes and his wife, of course, are on the
payroll of the uber-conservative Bradley Foundation, which is headed by the
former chair of the Greater Milwaukee Committee and Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, Michael Grebe. It is a very cozy relationship where a small group of wealthy individuals are calling the plays for the rest of us.

The question, of course, is how much of this inside job has been done on
county time and with county resources.

The emails that the Abele administration has released to bloggers and
reporters via open records requests have shown that he and members of his
administration have been in cahoots with the GMC and the right-wing media.
As far as we can tell, Alexander also routinely copies right-wingers and
members of the Abele administration on emails about county business.

But we don’t know the full story yet. The Abele administration is
stonewalling the Shepherd’s recent open records request to view the
“reform”-related communications between Abele and his circle, even going so
far as to attempt to charge this paper up to $1,000 just to conduct the
search of public records.

The big question is, Mr. Abele, what are you trying to hide?


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