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Issue of the Week: Abele’s Penchant for Picking Fights

Plus: Hero of the Week

Nov. 7, 2012
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Many in our country, and especially in Wisconsin, are trying to figure out ways to lower the level of anger and conflict between those who disagree on political issues and public policy. Unfortunately, Milwaukee County government is moving in the opposite direction with our increasingly divisive county executive, Chris Abele, who unnecessarily creates conflicts with everyone around him. He has fought with county board members and the sheriff, and summarily fired without any explanation some of his top hires, including ones that he had either begged to stay on in their positions, like former Parks Director Sue Black, or had convinced to sell a home in Madison and return to Milwaukee, like former Transportation Director Frank Busalacchi. But this county is our county, not a play toy for a rich kid trying to prove himself.

Abele’s current tantrum is over the county budget. When you talk to those who have worked in political arenas for years, they are actually embarrassed for the county executive and his “hissy fits,” his amateur behavior and his lack of real understanding of the process of government. For example, Abele prepared the county’s 2013 budget and sent it to the county board for their careful analysis and modification. The board and individual supervisors solicited input in a variety of ways, including public hearings and town hall meetings. Then the board, as required, made whatever changes to the budget that a majority of supervisors believe is best not only for their constituents, but for the whole of the county. Elected board members are close to their constituents and have town hall meetings and go door-to-door to foster that contact. The board members have their fingers on the pulse of the average voter in their particular area, whether it is city or suburb, and that is what representative democracy is all about. This is one of the major reasons why the board’s careful scrutiny of the budget is so important—because the county supervisors understand what is truly important to their constituents, as well as what is of lesser importance and can be cut or modified.

The board made some changes to the budget while keeping the increase under the rate of inflation. These changes had the support of the vast majority of the county supervisors. At this stage of the process, it is helpful to have good communication between the county executive and the board. Give-and-take between the executive branch and the county board usually produces a much better result for constituents. The new county board chair, Marina Dimitrijevic, understands this need for communication and has set up a regular schedule to meet with the county executive to discuss a variety of issues.

Despite Dimitrijevic’s efforts to provide a channel to discuss and try to resolve whatever differences exist in policies and programs between the county board and the county executive, Abele instead opted to send out nasty press releases personally attacking Dimitrijevic for simply doing her job and attacking some of the county board’s other members. Abele seems to expect everyone to simply fall in line and accept whatever he proposes, even if some of it comes out of secret, closed-door meetings with the mayor. There are a number of problems with this, with the leading problem being that the American system of government at the federal, state, county and city levels is based on checks and balances. The three co-equal branches of government provide a check on each other so no one branch or no one person can assume absolute powers. Abele either doesn’t understand this or just chooses to ignore it.

So why is Abele fighting with everyone, trying to assume some kind of absolute authority and attacking anyone who might disagree with him or question his decisions? Does Abele just know more than everyone else? The main criticism of Abele is that he is one of the most insecure major elected officials in our state. When one is that insecure, there are going to be serious problems. Instead of listening to his critics and hearing what they are saying, and then trying to figure out some form of compromise that might very well improve his policies, he unfortunately goes into one of his “hissy fits” when he doesn’t get his way.

It seems to come down to his tremendous insecurity and lack of real-life experience or accomplishments. When things get tough, most people learn to work harder and gain confidence from the struggle. Abele has always had his father’s money to bail him out. In his heart of hearts, he likely knows that he has not done anything on his own that didn’t directly or indirectly rely on his father’s money. You don’t develop self-confidence that way and you don’t learn the necessary skills to effectively work with other people. Wealthy people like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have used their money to help their careers and accomplishments, but it was money they had earned in their careers, so they gained self-confidence, skills and knowledge while earning their great wealth.

So while many people are trying to figure out how to take the rancor out of politics, Milwaukee county residents are unfortunately stuck with someone who is trying to fight with everyone to prove that he is somehow worthy.



Heroes of the Week: St. Benedict’s Scholarship Fund Volunteers

St. Benedict the Moor Community Alumni Association Inc. was founded in the early 1990s and is made up of St. Benedict the Moor High School alumni and teachers. The high school, founded by the Capuchin brothers to serve inner-city children in 1913, was staffed by the Racine Dominican sisters. The sisters kindly donated a seed fund of $2,000 to help St. Ben’s Alumni Association establish the first national school scholarship known as St. Ben’s Scholarship Fund. This fund helps students attending historically black colleges pay for a part of their college education.

St. Ben’s Alumni Association volunteers hold a few dinners, raffles and reunions to raise money for the scholarship, but due to the expenses of simply running these events, the nonprofit has little cash to expand their fundraising endeavors. Monetary donations are greatly needed to help support their efforts in building the scholarship fund each year and can be mailed to P.O. Box 16624, Milwaukee, WI 53216. For more information about the St. Ben’s Scholarship Fund, St. Ben’s Alumni Association or donating, please contact Arbedella Browning, president of St. Ben’s Milwaukee chapter, at 262-385-3996.

The Shepherd Express will be donating proceeds from the Best of Milwaukee Awards Party ticket sales to St. Ben’s Scholarship Fund. The party is to be held Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. at the InterContinental Hotel. Tickets cost $5 in advance and $7 at the door. Please visit TheShepStore.com to purchase your tickets in advance.


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