August 2006 Bay View Compass Editorial
Dear Bay View Compass Readers,
In June, County Executive Scott Walker unveiled his proposal to create an independent County Parks District. This plan was strategically unveiled just after the announcement from Walker's appointed Parks Director, Sue Black, that her 2007 budget request included the closing of all but four County Pools, in addition to deeper cuts to parks maintenance.
The County Executive wants us to believe that this proposal is a solution to the years of deferred maintenance and reduced operating funds in our County Parks. But a closer look at the details of this plan show that there is little reason to believe that the decline of the County Parks System will stop unless it is adequately funded. Milwaukee County is at a crossroads and the public debate should focus on the real issue of finding a dedicated funding source to maintain and improve our treasured Milwaukee County Parks System. Our priority should be how to preserve this gem for future generations, not how we should pass it off so that it is someone else's problem.
At a press conference with Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Jeff Stone last month County Executive Walker discussed his plans to push for a binding referendum on the creation of a County parks district. This position is in stark contrast to the County Executive's opposition via his veto on holding an advisory referendum to gauge public support for a dedicated, non-property tax funding source to save our Parks from further cuts.
The County Executive's proposal would create a separately elected park district board, which would have the authority to raise taxes up to the current 2% state-imposed tax levy limits. Walker recommends that this board raise property taxes equal to the 2006 County Parks Department levy. Simply stated, if this idea were implemented, the Parks System would remain status quo and would not receive one dime of additional funding, truly making this someone else's problem. Walker will most likely sing the usual refrain about fringe benefit costs that, in most cases, are legal obligations that cannot be ditched by simply swapping County park workers with district ones. Privatization of our skilled, public workforce could lead to a serious decline in the quality of services we currently receive and a loss of accountability.
In conclusion, County Executive Walker and his friends in the State Legislature have apparently forgotten the primary motivation behind numerous local government task forces and commissions created over the past few years – how to reduce the number of layers of government in Wisconsin. The creation of another layer of government, with taxing authority and more elected politicians, is not the path my constituents wish me to follow. Instead, County Executive Scott Walker should find a way to manage, fund the County Parks System, and provide the vision and leadership to do the right thing to preserve this treasure for us and future generations.
Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic
MILWAUKEE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Courthouse Room 201, 901 North 9th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233
PHONE: 414-278-4232 FAX: 414-223-1380