The Fighting 14th!

The official blog of Milwaukee County Supervisor Jason Haas

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Proposed merging of Finance & Audit, Personnel committees

The first legislative proposal from Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic has been to merge two of our standing committees, the Finance and Audit committee, and the Personnel committee. In a conversation that I had with the chairwoman yesterday, she reports having a total of 13 co-sponsors for the resolution, which includes me. Let’s take a moment to look at the described duties of the committees.

Personnel: Employee relations, including collective bargaining, reclassification, compensation and conditions of employment of County personnel and officers are handled by this Committee. Members set policy for the Civil Service Commission and administer the county Employee Merit Award program.

In short, the committee sets employee and employment policies, including employee contracts and collective bargaining. If you ever want to see how a government really works from the inside, sit in on a personnel committee meeting. Once your head stops spinning at the facts and details being debated, you’ll have a much better understanding of how it works.

Finance and Audit: County budget matters, taxation and insurance are all reviewed by this Committee. Reports of the Department of Audit are discussed on a regular basis. Audit reports ensure other county departments implement program improvements and cost-saving recommendations of the County Board. This process provides the best service at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. In short, Finance Committee is in charge of crafting the budget after it comes down from the County Executive’s office. That’s pretty important, as Milwaukee County is a $1.2 billion entity. (Would you want a few part-time people to set the budget for the $1.2 billion corporation of which you are a direct owner?)

Now, here’s a link to the proposed legislation: Link (PDF). If you want to see the fiscal note for the resolution: Link (PDF). (There’s no fiscal impact as a result of this bill.)

On it, I noticed that Supervisors Cullen, Johnson, Borkowski, Broderick, Jursik, Dimitrijevic, Romo West, Haas, Lipscomb, Schmitt, Taylor, Sanfelippo, Harris and Alexander are all listed as co-sponsors. Supervisors David Cullen and Willie Johnson have been named as chairs of the Personnel Committee and Finance Committee, which are currently separate committees. They would be co-chairs of the, larger joint committee.

Given that it has 13 co-sponsors, and we now have just 18 supervisors, the resolution’s passage is all but assured.

What would be the effects of this resolution?

It is argued that the combining of the two committees would streamline the county legislative process. What happened very frequently was that resolutions that came to the personnel committee would also have to go to the finance committee, as their effects and purpose were intertwined. In the last (2008-2012) county board cycle, the Finance Committee met prior to Personnel Committee, meaning that even if Personnel rejected a resolution, if it had passed Finance, its passage by a majority of the whole board was virtually assured. This was in spite of the fact that Lee Holloway had stacked Personnel with hard-line conservatives, which had the effect of hurting labor contracts.

Now, we will have both committees in one group.  The meetings are likely to run much longer than before, as we will have to deal with arguably the most important elements of a government: its money and its staff. Hopefully, the gain in “efficiency” will not prevent good work from being done.

Also, let’s look at the current memberships of the two committees. I have italicized the duplicates:

Finance & Audit: Willie Johnson, Jr., Chair; David Cullen, Vice-Chair; Jim “Luigi” Schmitt; Peggy Romo West; Patricia Jursik; Jason Haas; Deanna Alexander

Personnel: David Cullen, Chair; Willie Johnson, Jr., Vice-Chair; Jim “Luigi” SchmittPatricia Jursik; Theodore Lipscomb, Sr.; Jason Haas; Russell Stamper II

The final, combined committee would have nine members:

Johnson, Cullen (co-chairs); Schmitt; Romo West; Jursik; Lipscomb; Haas; Alexander; Stamper

In thinking about the resolution, I can’t see many arguments against its passage. Having long meetings is not something a person in government legislation should be afraid of. Given the importance of these matters, it would be unadvisable for a person who is interested in getting out of there in a hurry to participate in the first place, or to try and stall it. Given the makeup of the proposed committee, I don’t see that happening.

What are your thoughts?

Ideas for The Pass coming to fruition

A few things have happened on The Pass, which my avid readers have witnessed being previously documented. A few more points on this topic:

1. It’s all about the revenues.

The institutions that I’m talking to about adopting The Pass have one overriding concern: making sure they don’t lose revenue. Be it ticket sales or membership revenue, quite naturally, they don’t want The Pass to impact their bottom line. God knows we’ve had enough of a challenge with that. But of course The Pass is intended to help their bottom line.

What, then, can simultaneously enhance their bottom line while making The Pass an attractive purchase for consumers?

2. Tie it in.

What would make The Pass an attractive purchase for consumers? Having the ability to do get you in the door. When I say that, most people think of going to a museum, or something like that. What about the Milwaukee County Transit System: what if The Pass could get you on the bus and in the door at a museum?

3. Visit once, visit twice.

Ensuring repeat business is vital to upholding our cultural institutions. Getting people in the door, giving them reason to come back.

Also, working with the group VISIT Milwaukee is looking like a better and better idea. While I’m not in tourism, they specialize in it. We need to talk. Hopefully today’s phone tag will result in a tomorrow’s productive conversation.

4. If we build it, we have many and much better ways to ensure that they’ll come.

This isn’t bathed in the summer-night glow of Field of Dreams. The fact that you make something doesn’t mean people will use it unless you let them know it’s there. Or practically give it to them. We do have tools like social media that didn’t really exist just ten years ago. That gives us very low-cost ways to get the word out fast and wide.

Say, remember what I said about how people may not use it unless you practically give it to them? I remember hearing from people during my 2011 campaign: “Put it in the property tax bill. It’ll make me feel like I’m getting something good when it’s time to pay my taxes.”

We just might do that, pending legislative approval.

5. Sounds great, sounds easy, but it’s not.

Ever looked at the admissions prices for some of our County Attractions? Options for admissions and membership and many. And they are different for each institution. And for good reason: MPM has different needs than MAM, which in turn are different from those of Boerner Botanical Gardens or the Mitchell Park Domes. Just like my job: it’s not easy. But it’s worth it.

What would you like to see The Pass be? Your comments are welcome.

County gets four new hybrid utility trucks

I had a conversation earlier this week with Milwaukee County Department of Transportation Director Frank Busalacchi on the subject of grants and grant-writing. The County has not had anyone on staff for the purpose of writing grant applications to the federal government.

Lo and behold, shortly after my conversation with Director Busalacchi, a press release from the County Executive Abele’s office came out, announcing that the County had received a $400,000 grant for the purchase of four new hybrid utility trucks. The new trucks will  replace five trucks, including one that is 25 years old. The trucks are used throughout the county to maintain traffic signals and street lighting. And the trucks will use a lot less fuel, which will save us all money.

The money came from the Wisconsin Clean Transportation Program (WCTP).

Journal Sentinel has covered the announcement.

Thursday April 19: Six meetings, all in a row

Yup! Six meetings. It was supposed to be eight meetings, but two were cancelled. Some days are like that, but, this time the meetings were all voluntary. I’m trying to create a unified admissions pass for our Milwaukee County attractions—institutions such as the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Mitchell Park Domes, and the Milwaukee County Zoo. There are many other, less well-known attractions, such as the Charles Allis Art Museum and the Boerner Botanical Gardens, all publicly owned and operated institutions, part of our quality of life here in Milwaukee County.

The idea of this pass is to bring people back to these instituions, and keep them coming back after (re)discovering what a great value they are. My hope is to get the “big three”—the Public Museum, the Art Museum, and the Zoo—as the main attractions, and to bring people in to our other great attractions. For instance, the Charles Allis Art Museum is planning a new “Museum Mile” push with the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, North Point Light House, Jewish Museum of Milwaukee, and the Museum of Wisconsin Art at St. John’s. Not all of those are County-owned—but that’s the just sort of cross-organizational promotion that I am encouraging.

The Pass is still in development right now, but avid readers may recall my campaign discussion of this in 2011. People loved the idea. Given the popularity of “stay-cations,” the Pass could really help make a great local experience. And given that many of our attractions have regional appeal, it’s got the possibility to have a broad reach and a boost to revenues.

It might be good for more than a discount at the door. What if it got a discount at a restaurant? Or on a night’s stay at an area hotel? How about making it easier to travel?

We’ll see! Today I met with people from all of the above institutions, and then some. I told them that we will not be handing down some decree for them to deal with. Rather, I made it clear that they will be included in the discussion and planning on this, and that their interests and concerns will be heard and included in the process. I want to have their input on making a product that will work, and will improve their bottom lines while getting more people in the door. Reconnecting people and their county is what I’m all about.

More as it comes!

A new day for the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors

After twenty-four rounds of voting, we set the course for the new County Board. My good friend and excellent colleague Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic was elected Chairwoman on a 12-6 vote. I voted for her in each round, proving to my colleagues that I will stick to my word, which had long been to support Supervisor Dimitrijevic for chair.

Former Chairman Lee Holloway is a piece of legend in Milwaukee County. The Journal Sentinel made him out as a monster. My experience with him was tempered by the fact that he was planning on retiring at the end of the last term, which happened. And he’s gone. The future is much more ours to determine now than ever before.

I’m pleased to say that we have a good crop of new supervisors joining us. I think that everyone that was elected on April 3 has committed to being a full-time supervisor, capable of responding to their constituents and working to improve the quality of life in Milwaukee County.

Rather than talk about  how different we’re going to be, let us show you. We will show you through improved accountability, through improved inter-government cooperation and smart government practices.

I will also use this blog to keep you posted on what I’m up to, personally, and continue to tweet from our meetings as best I’m able. (It just occurred to me that it may become difficult for me to perform live tweets from a committee meeting if I am named chairman of any committees. We will see if that happens.)

Tweets from the April 16 County Board Meeting

[We will soon be able to post tweets with timestamps.]

*Hello! The new Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors has been sworn in and is now in session.

*Nominations for county board chair are in: Dimitrijevic, Lipscomb, Johnson, Weishan, and Jursik.

*Sup. Dimitrijevic is now addressing the board.

*Sup. Willie Johnson is now addressing the board on his bid for chairperson.

*@Matthew53214 eeee!

*Sup. Jursik is now addressing the board.

*Sup. Lipscomb is now addressing the board.

*Sup. Weishan is now addressing the board.
*Packed house in here; dozens of ppl have come to watch the election of the new board chair.
*and to watch their relative’s first day on the board.
*voting on chair begins now!
*Now onto round 2 of votes; Sup Weishan has moved for 10 min. recess.

*The motion fails 8-10. Onto ballot 3.

*Sup. Lipscomb moves to recess for 5 minutes. Objection, so it goes to a vote.

*Motion fails 9-9.

*Welcome to your smaller representative government!

*Round 4, same as the rest. 5-5-3-2-1.

*Sup. Mayo has moved for 10m recess; it passed without objection.

 *And we’re back.

*Still on election of county chair. It’s stuck in a 5-5 tie, Dimitrijevic/Lipscomb

*Sup. Romo West moves suspension of rules for removal of candidates with lowest votes

*this is a temporary move.

*requiring 2/3 vote, but getting 10 of 18, the motion fails.

*rounds 6-8: 5-5-5 Dimitrijevic-Jursik-Lipscomb, 2 Johnson, 1 Weishan

*@JasonRRae outlined below… it’s repeating that way. stuck in a holding pattern.

*round (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11) all the same. #thisiswhatdemocracylookslike?

*Sup. Lipscomb asks for 10m recess. We’re off.

*we’re back… round 12.
*actually that was round 15. still stuck. Romo West asks for suspension of rules to eliminate lowest vote-getter.

*Sup Johnson objects, so Sup Romo West moves for suspension of rules. Roll call…

*7 noes. motion fails. onto round 16.

*still stalled after #16. 5-2-5-5-1… the game rolls on.

*6 Dimitrijevic, 1 Johnson, 5 Jursik, 5 Lipscomb, 1 Weishan. Sup. Mayo has moved for 20min. recess.
 *We’re back.

*Johnson has withdrawn his candidacy for chairman.

*7 for Dimitrijevic, 5 for Jursik, 5 for Lipscomb, 1 for Weishan.

*Round 20: 7-5-5-1, same as before. On to round 22.

*round 22 was the same. Lipscomb moves for 5 min recess. Dimitrijevic objects. Roll call. Motion passes.

*Not all sups have the microphones on, making it hard for listeners to hear. I will ask the county clerk about this.

*back again.

*Marina is up to 8, 4 for Jursik, 5 for Lipscomb, 1 for Weishan.

*Marina won!

*11 Dimitrijevic, 1 Weishan, 6 Lipscomb,; Sup. Dimitrijevic has been elected Milwaukee County Chairperson!

*Now electing first vice chair; Sup. Romo West is the only candidate. Congratulations on your unanimous election!

*I was nominated for second vice chair, but I declined.

*Sup. Steve Taylor is the sole nominee for this position. I have a feeling this will go well for him.

*Now onto unfinished business. Parks infrastructure audit, and a labor item.

*Sup. Schmitt has moved for referral of the parks audit back to Parks Cmte.

*Referral is sailing through. The first vote of the new board appears to be unanimous.

*Next unfinished item: filing appeal on labor relations ruling.

*Sup. Broderick recommends referral back to Judiciary Cmte.

*Now on veto override, on HUD grant spending… Sup. Romo West is asking if the vote needs to be taken today.

*Sup. Romo West has moved for layover. Sup. Lipscomb is speaking in favor of the layover.

*Sup. RW now moves to refer to Economic Dev. Cmte. Chairwoman reminds us that this is a time-sensitive item.

*Roll call: referral passes unanimously.

*Last item passed unanimously. Moving on to adjournment, with a 2012-2016 photo being taken first.

*Chairwoman Dimitrijevic thanks fmr. chair candidates for running

*Meeting adjourned.

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