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Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013

Issue of the Week: Abele’s Hypocrisy on Taxes

Plus: Hero of the Week

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Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, conservative Republican Scott Walker, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, listening to his Republican advisors, has taken a hard line on taxes in his budgets.

Yet Abele has expressed support for a proposal to raise taxes for a new and improved Bradley Center, home of the Milwaukee Bucks. Why? Well, Abele is a Bucks season ticket-holder, for one thing. The other is that the plan, still in its infancy, is supported by Abele’s Republican advisors and the conservative business group Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), which is forming a task force to look into ways to finance the upgraded stadium. (MMAC is also a major backer of Abele’s predecessor, Walker.)

Abele, speaking on WTMJ-AM in early December, said he “applauded” the business community for testing out new ideas like a sales tax to fund a new Bradley Center and assured listeners that these private corporations would be careful with our tax dollars.

Now, this tax plan, according to MMAC’s Tim Sheehy, would only be imposed on the city of Milwaukee and perhaps all of Milwaukee County. So unlike the Miller Park tax, which has been imposed on five counties, Milwaukee residents would have to foot the bill for a stadium that hosts multimillionaire athletes—and the multimillionaire county executive.

The more serious problem is that Abele is being less than consistent or honest on taxes. On the same day he told conservative WTMJ listeners that he was in favor of a Bradley Center tax, he also told moderate WUWM listeners that he opposed a voter-approved sales-tax increase to support the long-struggling Milwaukee County Transit System, which is an economic lifeline for county workers, especially those in the central city. Abele used the usual argument that the transit tax is “regressive.” In most states that would be true. But if Abele looked into the issue he would find that Wisconsin has a fairly “progressive” sales tax because it exempts many necessities, such as food purchased at a grocery store, so that lower-income residents wouldn’t be harmed by it.

Perhaps if more multimillionaires rode the bus, then Abele would be in support of a sales tax for transit. Instead, he’s starving the county’s transit system at the same time he’s offering up new perks for the business community at the expense of the average working person.

Heroes of the Week:
Troop Café at Veterans Manor

Troop Café (3430 W. Wisconsin Ave.) is a nonprofit social enterprise of the Center for Veterans Issues Ltd. (CVI) scheduled to open on the first floor of Veterans Manor within the next month. The café will be staffed by those who have served or are serving in the military, offering them a paid six- to nine-month on-the-job food service and hospitality-industry training program. Troop Café’s mission is to offer affordable, high-quality meals to the public while providing job skills to military veterans and those currently serving who are dealing with barriers to employment. Soups, sandwiches, salads, milkshakes, coffee and more will be available for purchase, with all proceeds going back into the training program. Community members have already stepped forward to help, including artist Colleen Drew, who donated a mural to the café, and David Knepper, who will be the café’s chef and instructor.

“The program is meant to be a stepping stone to help get these men and women back into the workforce or into the food service field,” says Chris Kadrich, general manager of Troop Café. “It can be used as a resume builder and gives these individuals a strong job reference.”

Dawn Nuoffer, executive vice president of CVI, says, “The atmosphere will be one of tolerance and understanding,” welcoming to both veterans and the community.

Currently, Troop Café is hiring individuals who have served or are serving in the military (including those still attending school). In addition, the café is accepting donations of any kind. For more information about the program, application process or donating, email Kadrich at chris@troopcafemke.com or visit facebook.com/TroopCafeMKE. For more information about CVI or Veterans Manor, please visit cvivet.org or veteransmanor.com.