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Issue of the Week: Chris Abele’s power play with his Republican pals

Plus: Hero of the Week

Jan. 10, 2013
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Milwaukee County is a Democratic county. It’s rare for a Republican running statewide to win Milwaukee County and even rarer for a Republican to win a countywide race running as a Republican. To seem more palatable to Milwaukee County voters, a Republican candidate will claim to be a Democrat. Scott Walker was obviously an exception in that he ran and won a couple of times as an unapologetic Republican. Sheriff David Clarke, who is a Republican in every way except that he hasn’t paid his party’s membership dues, continues to run as a Democrat. Now Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is playing that same disingenuous game. Like Clarke, Abele is a Republican in every way except for paying Republican Party dues. 

Now if there are still a few people in our county who do not know where Abele stands politically, they can sit back and watch what is going to happen over the next month as Abele uses his Republican pals from outside of Milwaukee County to thwart the desires of the majority of Milwaukee County voters. Abele is getting his playbook from his octogenarian Republican advisor, Sheldon Lubar, a veteran of the Reagan administration and more recently the chair of a committee for the Greater Milwaukee Committee on the future of Milwaukee County. Lubar came up with the conclusion that Milwaukee County should be “blown up.” He then worked to get his boy, Abele, elected county executive to carry out his agenda. 

The residents of Milwaukee County understand the need for a properly functioning and honest county government, and Abele’s efforts over the last two years to start the process of “blowing up county government” have been easily thwarted by the voters through their elected county supervisors. 

Abele and his Republican advisors want to take the power away from the average person, since democracy often gets in the way of their plans to control the county’s resources and use them for their benefit. The way that is done is by weakening and shrinking the county board so the county executive can run right over them. Abele will say it is to save taxpayers money, but at the same time he is willing to squander our tax dollars to pay very high salaries to his cronies in the county executive’s office. Taxpayers understand that honest and efficient government, with a professional county board that provides checks and balances to the county executive’s office, actually costs some money up front and prevents our government resources from getting stolen on the back end with “sweetheart contracts” and other acts of cronyism.

The first step toward cronyism and corrupt government is limiting the number of people who are looking out for the public good. So you force the county board of supervisors to get other jobs by making their positions one-quarter time and paying them a very low wage. The part-time supervisors do not have the time or energy to complete the careful study of the issues necessary after working a separate full-time job, whereas the county executive office is staffed with full-time employees. This clearly shifts the power away from the local representative of the people to the county executive. Furthermore, the part-time county supervisors wouldn’t have the time to meet with their constituents to hear what they have to say.

The average working person gets her or his voice heard not through the county executive or the governor, but rather through their local elected representative. In the county’s case, it is the local county supervisor who actually knocks on constituents’ doors and talks to them face to face to get their votes. Residents know their county supervisor and have access to county government through them.

Abele and his advisors know that Abele could not get elected in Milwaukee County if he had to go door to door because he cannot connect with the average person and his message is not in sync with them. But Abele can get elected in a countywide race where he doesn’t have to go door to door and actually speak with any voters. Instead, all Abele has to do is to buy massive amounts of television time and run negative and dishonest ads to destroy his opponent. Out-of-county and out-of-state money can buy an election if it is fought over the television airwaves.  

So when these elected county supervisors, who actually talk to their constituents, refused to go along with Abele’s ideas to slowly “blow up the county,” Abele said, to hell with the desires of the voters and taxpayers of Milwaukee County. He decided instead to go to the right-wing Republican leadership of the state Legislature and have them do to the county what a majority of the taxpayers and voters of Milwaukee County do not want done. In Abele’s self-centered understanding of democracy, he believes that if the voters don’t have the good sense to go along with his plans, then he will take away their right to make certain decisions. He will simply ignore the voters of Milwaukee County and go to the elected state representatives from Waukesha, Racine and Jefferson counties and have them do his bidding.  

So over the next month Abele will have his Republican pals who control the state Legislature pass a bill that will “restructure Milwaukee County” even if the vast majority of Milwaukee County residents do not want it “restructured.” We saw this early in Abele’s administration when he and his advisors from the Greater Milwaukee Committee decided that Milwaukee County needed an elected county comptroller. He had Republican state legislators impose this on Milwaukee County and now we, the Milwaukee County taxpayers, have to use our scarce property tax dollars to pay for an elected county comptroller. So much for all the lip service about local control.

Heroes of the Week
: TRUE Skool Volunteers and Staff


Founded in 2004, TRUE Skool provides free hip-hop culture-inspired arts education and community service programs to youth ages 14 to 19 years old. This grassroots nonprofit is located in the Youth Empowerment Center (4850 W. Fond du Lac Ave.) and has two major programs, the Urban Arts Program for visual art, music and dance instruction, and the Adopt a Community Program, which provides community service and volunteer opportunities and includes helping with clean-ups, graffiti removal and creating public art and community murals when permitted. Each session is eight weeks long and every youth member must participate in at least 10 hours of community service. In addition to the main programs, workshops and special events are offered regularly.

TRUE Skool’s board of directors is entirely volunteer-based and welcomes more members to help with special event and fundraising committees. The organization accepts donated art and office supplies, used or old music equipment and office furniture. In addition, those with unique music, art or dance talents (including DJs, MCs, dancers and artists) are encouraged to teach workshops and classes. TRUE Skool is also seeking a larger space to relocate to near the South or East Side of Milwaukee. For more information, call 414-445-9079 or email info@trueskool.org.

On March 27 from 12-9:30 p.m. at the UW-Milwaukee Union Ballroom, TRUE Skool will hold the “You Be Boy and I’ll Be Girl” event to help launch its 2013 Be Girl & Be Boy Projects. For more information, contact Sarah Dollhausen at sarah@trueskool.org or call the number listed above.


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