Abele's Dirty Little War Against the Honest Elected Officials
In a democracy, candidates and elected officials build their support by meeting and listening to the voters. County Executive Chris Abele made it clear in his campaigns that he does not want to spend his time meeting with average voters. Instead, Abele used his family money to win three elections and is now using family money to launch a war against some of Milwaukee’s most respected elected officials. His line of fake news consists of half-truths and some outright lies.
With the assistance of his faithful minion, attorney Dan Adams, Abele established and primarily financed a website and various glossy mailers, launching a war against Mayor Tom Barrett, Sen. Chris Larson and Milwaukee County Board President Theo Lipscomb. Abele is also praising some of our more questionable elected officials.
A Brief History of the Last Six Years
Abele came into office attacking the county board and county government. He was going to be the great disrupter, similar to the way Donald Trump came to Washington. Actually, there were quite a few similarities. Like Trump, Abele knew little of policy, how government works or how to manage a large public institution. He has been a slow learner at the expense of the voters. Like Trump, his top appointments were not the best or the brightest. Also like Trump, he attacked the legislative body he is obliged to work with, and its members, mostly because he didn’t understand how democratic institutions work and what checks and balances actually means. They both had wealthy fathers who opened all the doors for them and learned early in life that because they had money and you didn’t, they could play by different rules or simply ignore the rules.
During his first campaign, Abele’s attacks were primarily directed against the Milwaukee County Board and its then chair, Marina Dimitrijevic. The daily newspaper and most of the local news programs—with encouragement from the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC)—naively bought his narrative. Then, Abele, aided by legislation passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, crippled the important concept of checks and balances for Milwaukee County and consolidated power in the hands of the county executive.
Legislators from upstate, many of whom actually dislike Milwaukee, restructured Milwaukee County government contrary to the wishes of the voters in the county. Today, the Milwaukee County Executive has more unchecked power than virtually any other county executive in the country. That lends itself to incompetence and corruption.
The Current State of Affairs
The state of affairs in Milwaukee County government has deteriorated over the past six years under Abele’s mismanagement. He has hired people for top-level positions who are not effective managers. He gave them massive raises while he fought to cut the real income of the average county employees, the secretaries and manual laborers, leaving much of the county workforce demoralized. After six years, he has been unable to get the county pension system right; we have seen literally hundreds of errors in the administration of the pension system under his watch. That alone is totally unacceptable.
We have seen blatant cronyism including “sole source” contracts to benefit his pals at the expense of Milwaukee County taxpayers. Finally, he tries to do everything possible in secret. Ironically, he talks transparency and does the exact opposite. As a result, his aggressive and incompetent approach toward the county and his numerous failures have resulted in his having only one solid ally on the county board.
You have to ask yourself: When only one county board member consistently supports him, perhaps there are some serious problems with his policies and practices. Those board members were elected by going door-to-door and listening to their constituents. They know what their voters want and try to create policies that represent their wishes. Abele, on the other hand, is always at odds with them. That is just one problem when someone buys an election rather than earning the support of voters.
Abele’s Response to His Problems
So, how does Abele respond to his failures? Well, when in doubt, go back to Daddy’s money for help. After coming in second in the primary for his re-election (behind State Sen. Chris Larson), he then spent more than $5 million directly and indirectly to win his re-election. Senator Larson spent about $250,000—a 20-to-one advantage for Abele. This is a re-election, not a first election, for Abele.
In an election when the public knows you and doesn’t particularly like or respect you, getting re-elected requires running a nasty, negative campaign to demonize your opponent. If you can’t get people to like you, you might be able to get them to vote against your opponent. So, essentially, it was Boston family money again that paid for Abele’s re-election.
Now, Abele has taken things to a new level. Since the latest election, he not only attacks the county board chair with half-truths and distortions, he is also going after the mayor and various Democratic state legislators either directly or by bolstering their opponents. He also seems to be attacking or undermining many of the honest and well-regarded local elected officials and providing support for some of the more dubious elected officials.
So, if you receive a jumbo-size glossy postcard attacking an elected official paid for by Milwaukee Works, Inc., you can safely assume that it is connected to Abele, and it is full of misinformation. Instead of attacking honest elected officials, it might be better for Abele to own up to his mismanagement, cronyism and many policy failures, and to take some responsibility rather than strike out at the successful public servants.
Unfortunately, Chris Abele’s ongoing temper tantrums do not move Milwaukee County forward.