The Fighting 14th!

The official blog of Milwaukee County Supervisor Jason Haas

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.

Today’s theme is Transportation

9:00: Airport Noise Advisory Committee meeting

11:30: meeting w/CEX, Sup. Jursik re: MCTS route changes

2:00 meeting in Cudahy w/Sup. Jursik re: MCTS route changes

What follows, we’ll see.

A look at Humboldt Park, and a successful start for Friends of Saveland Park

This afternoon, I took some time to walk around Humboldt Park and see how the maintenance work has been coming along, and get some neighbors’ perspectives as well.

Walkways have been one of the concerns within Humboldt Park.  While not in the worst shape of all the walkways in the Milwaukee County Parks system, there were a few spots that had very large cracks and potholes.  It was my understanding that some of these had been worked on in recent weeks thanks to some money that was leftover in the Parks Department budget.

One of the biggest pathways that I found had been worked on was this north-south path that runs parallel to Logan Avenue, approaching Idaho Street:

Photo by Jason Haas

As you can see, there’s a tongue of new asphalt that arcs toward the very long stretch in the middle of the photo.  I do recall that area as being very chewed up prior to the pouring done here.  Most of the gnarly areas have been covered, as had this one, but others still remain in relatively poor condition—though still much better compared to how the above picture had been prior to work.  The photo below is to the south, moving toward Oklahoma Avenue between Pine and Logan.

Photo by Jason Haas

It’s a sad day when we have to accept this as “not as bad as what else we’ve seen.”

A neighbor pointed out that when a dead tree is removed, the remaining hole is filled with mulch.  Perhaps this one should be refilled?

Photo by Jason Haas

This looks like something that could be a perfect project for Humboldt Park Watch, or similar Friends of the Park group, for each of the nine County Parks in my district. (They are, in order: Bay View, Copernicus, Holler, Humboldt, Morgan, Mitchell Airport, Saveland, Tippecanoe, and Wilson Parks.)

I got started forming these groups with Saveland Park, located at S. 1st Street and W. Wilbur Avenue.  The park’s small size is disproportional to its importance to the surrounding neighborhood, as it sports a lagoon, a wading pool, a children’s play area, and a pavilion.  This importance is reflected in the fact that more than twenty people have attended each of the two meetings thus far.

We already have one improvement in community safety to report from the group. Deputy Juan Avila at the second meeting, and provided us with the phone number to call if we see something is afoot in the park that law enforcement should to know about. (Obviously, in an emergency, call 911.)  A week later, with this number in hand, a neighbor called Deputy Avila after they noticed a broken window at the park pavilion—the target of a well-aimed rock. Deputy Avila in turn notified  the park manager, who immediately placed a work-order for a new window right away.  According to some other parks workers that I spoke with, if this hadn’t happened so fast, the result may have been that a plywood panel would be put up over the window, reducing the park’s safety and appeal. Instead, the park stays an appealing, safe place.

Friends of Saveland Park meets again in January. If you’re interested in attending, leave a comment.

Shakespeare in the Courts: My speech to the County Board

At the December 15, 2011 meeting of the Milwaukee County Board, arguably the most controversial item on our agenda was about the Shakespeare in the Courts (SITC) resolution from Supervisor Gerry Broderick. This caught the ear of many people, who wondered why the County, with all its difficulties, would want to spend money trying to make jail inmates learn and perform Shakespeare.

Why, of all things, Shakespeare?  Why not spend the money just keeping them locked up and off the streets?

The very thought of teaching prison inmates Shakespeare made this resolution an easy subject of ridicule by those who don’t know what the program actually entails. Or, for that matter, what it costs to keep a person in jail.

As the Wall Street Journal discussed in its April 25, 2006 article on Shakespeare in the Courts,

“Shakespeare in the Courts is meant to boost the kids’ self-esteem, to improve their communications skills, to develop a spirit of community and cooperation: ‘components for future success’ that also help them with anger management. The participants’ rap sheets vary; the judge mentions false bomb threats, shoplifting, moving violations, assault and battery.”

No guns or drugs. Nor, for that matter, do daggers appear directly in the program.

Shakespeare in the Courts is an alternative to incarceration for juvenile offenders. For just $65,000, as we voted on, the County can give a few kids a chance to learn how to do something different. Rather than being thrown in to the jail system, they can learn how to cooperate and collaborate with the members of the cast, and more importantly, think differently than they may have ever done or been taught before.

And let me emphasize that this is aimed squarely at juvenile offenders, aged 12 to 17. These kids, without an alternative to being thrown in jail, suddenly face the brutal incarcerated life. There, they are not reformed. If anything, they are traumatized, violated, and forever warped away from being a healthy member of society.

Such treatment comes with two high price tags. First it the cost of incarceration. To keep one child, just one, in any of our three secure detention facilities, costs Milwaukee County a total of $275 a day.

To keep the child in jail for a week costs $1,925.

To keep the child in jail for a month costs $8,250.

To keep the child in jail for a year  almost $100,000.

This is not to examine the long-term costs to the individual, who will be unable to participate in society, unlikely to graduate from high school, unlikely to be able to get a job.

Nor does this examine the cost to society of doing this.

But I do have the cost of keeping all 153 child-inmates, both girls and boys, in the County’s secure “correctional” facilities.  According to the figures provided by our Chief Intake and Probation Officer, in 2010, to keep all 153 child-inmates in jail, it cost the Milwaukee County taxpayer $16,849,605.

That is 16 MILLION,  eight-hundred and forty-nine thousand,  six-hundred and five dollars.  

And this is a system that we want to preserve?

Or should we spend just sixty-five thousand dollars to keep a few out, for much larger savings down the road?

Results from today’s Milwaukee County Board meeting

Courtesy of Harold Mester, the Board’s Public Information Manager:

For Immediate Release December 15, 2011
Contact:  Harold Mester, Public Information Manager, 414/278-4051
harold.mester@milwcnty.com

RESULTS FROM TODAY’S MILWAUKEE COUNTY BOARD MEETING 

• 7-12 (Yes: Biddle, Broderick, Lipscomb, Mayo, Thomas, Weishan, Holloway) to override (veto sustained) the County Executive’s veto of a resolution providing for an advisory referendum on the plan by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to pay approximately $41.1 million to the City of Franklin for the costs related to building the Ryan Creek Interceptor project.

• 14-5 (No: Borkowski, Cesarz, Rice, Sanfelippo, Schmitt) to place on file an advisory referendum on the April 3, 2012, election ballot on the questions of reform of County government through a reduction in the size and compensation of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

• Referred back to Committee with no objection – to amend County Ordinances as it pertains to sick leave policies regarding sick allowance accrual and payout or credit at retirement.

• 16-3 (No: Harris, Mayo, Holloway) to confirm the County Executive’s appointment of Hector Colon to the position of Director of the Department of Health and Human Services for Milwaukee County.

• 18-1 (No: Harris) to confirm the County Executive’s appointment of James Duff to the position of Director of the Department of Veteran Services for Milwaukee County.

• 18-1 (No: Harris) to confirm the County Executive’s appointment of Mary McClintock to serve on the Care Management Organization (CMO) Governing Board for a term expiring November 3, 2013.

• 18-1 (No: Harris) to confirm the County Executive’s appointment of Paula K. Lorant to serve on the Care Management Organization (CMO) Governing Board for a term expiring November 3, 2013.

• 18-1 (No: Harris) to confirm the County Executive’s appointment of Macey Chovaz to serve on the Commission for Persons with Disabilities for a term expiring December 15, 2013.

• 18-1 (No: Harris) to confirm the County Executive’s appointment of John Haupt to serve on the Commission for Persons with Disabilities for a term expiring December 15, 2013.

• 18-1 (No: Harris) to confirm the County Executive’s appointment of Kathryn Zalewski to serve on the Commission for Persons with Disabilities for a term expiring December 15, 2013.

• 17-1-1 (No: Mayo; Abstain: Harris) to enter into 2012 Purchase of Service Contracts for the Behavioral Health Division for the provision of Adult and Children Mental Health Services and Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse 
(AODA) Services.

• 18-1 (No: Lipscomb) to increase, for 2012, the Professional Services Contract with Andrea & Orendorff, LLC, with vendor fees not to exceed $950,000 to provide additional personnel in support of the provision of Family Care Senior Management Services in Racine and Kenosha Counties.

• 11-8 (No: Borkowski, Cesarz, De Bruin, Lipscomb, Mayo, Rice, Sanfelippo, Schmitt) to approve a resolution authorizing the Chief Judge of Milwaukee County to collaborate with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to develop Shakespeare in the Courts as a pilot alternative to incarceration option for sentencing of juvenile offenders. 

• 17-1-1 (No: Sanfelippo, Excused: Romo West) to execute a $7 million State of Good Repair contract with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to support a bus replacement program in 2013.

All other items on today’s agenda were approved with no objection.  The complete digest agenda from today’s meeting can be found on the County Legislative Information Center:

http://milwaukeecounty.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx

The next meeting of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisor is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday, February 2, 2012, in Room 200 of the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

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