Constituents Weigh in on County Government
I thank constituents for their input about legislation calling for the restructuring of County government at a public meeting on April 4 in South Milwaukee. At the meeting, my office provided an objective view of County governance and presented the key aspects of Wisconsin Assembly Bill 85/Senate Bill 95. State Representative Joseph Sanfelippo provided the rationale for his legislation. County Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb, Sr., chair of the County Board’s Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, responded with a counterpoint argument from the local Board perspective. I invite my constituents to view the slides online here.
About 200 residents joined me to learn, to ask questions and to comment on this proposal. We enjoyed a thoughtful, respectful discussion about this legislation. Constituents have also emailed and called me to weigh in on this matter. Written comments may be viewed here. Most who registered comments opposed the legislation.
Did the County Negotiate with a Non-Certified Union (AFSCME) in Violation of Act 10?
A number of District 8 constituents have asked me to join five other supervisors in seeking removal of the County Board Chairwoman. I have also received a number of questions regarding the issue of negotiating with a non-certified union, which is not permitted under Act 10, the legislation that removed significant provisions of municipal employee bargaining rights. To respond, I have consistently stated and reiterate in this Open Letter to all of my constituents:
I believe that communications, conversations, discussions, interactions or, if you like, “negotiations” did take place between the County’s labor negotiator Fred Bau and AFSCME’s Rich Abelson. I believe these two gentlemen have both stated as much. I do not know who directed Mr. Bau to act as he did. The Finance Committee, the Board Chairwoman and County Executive each have the ability to direct Mr. Bau. I know the following are the facts:
Fact: The Finance Committee, of which I am a member, has taken no formal vote to direct negotiations or to enter into a contract with AFSCME (Discussions with legal counsel took place in closed session. Our legal counsel has always provided legal advice consistent with the directives of Act 10. Closed session discussions are confidential).
Fact: The Chairwoman never placed a negotiated contract with AFSCME on any committee agenda for a formal vote.
Fact: I have never had an opportunity as your representative on the Board to vote against such negotiations. My position has always been that AFSCME is not a certified union and therefore cannot act to represent employees of the County under Act 10.
Fact: There is no contract with a decertified union in violation of Act 10.
I will continue to work within the realm of facts. I do not intend to react to political requests that are not factually based. For this reason, I will not join any group seeking to remove the Chairwoman based on hearsay or “he said, she said” conjectures or any other politically charged statement surrounding this issue. Please call or e-mail my office if you wish to discuss this further.
County Board Action for Reform
On April 25, the County Board approved a resolution to reform itself. I supported this effort and voted in the affirmative. This plan is a compromise and a cooperative effort to reduce the County Board’s costs and to clarify roles of elected officials while preserving a voice for residents and a balance of powers. The entire proposal can be viewed through this link. Here are some highlights:
Salaries of supervisors would be reduced by 20%. Supervisors would no longer receive a pension for future service beginning with the 2016 term unless they pay the full cost.
The term of supervisors would be reduced from four years to two years.
County Board staff would be reduced by 50%. Chairwoman Dimitrijevic and I are already implementing this step by agreeing to share an aide. While I will not be able to respond to constituent service requests as quickly, we will make this sacrifice. Please understand that I have been able to be active and responsive to my district in part due to the support of my aide.
This resolution clarifies that the County Executive manages and supervises the heads of each department and is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations. The Board is the policy making branch and should provide oversight.
The County Executive and County Board shall each appoint a staff person to carry out intergovernmental relations. The Community Business Development Partners staff shall be transferred to the control of the independent Comptroller’s office. Committee clerks shall be managed by the County Clerk.
This resolution calls for an ordinance change. This would transfer to the County Executive the charge of negotiating employment matters currently vested with the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee would approve agreements, provide policy oversight and determine the parameters for the County’s labor negotiator.
Governance, Operations and Efficiency Audit
An independent audit would identify appropriate staffing levels, appropriate roles and responsibilities, organizational best practices and additional efficiency measures and recommendations.
The County Executive is now considering this resolution which the County Board passed on a vote of 15-3. The next step will be for the County Board to create ordinances to implement the reform package.
Assembly Bill 85 / Senate Bill 95
Because I supported the compromise of the Board, which I believe much better preserves your voice in governance and is a better balance of power between executive and legislative branches, I voted against supporting AB85/SB95 at the state level. I also object to the interference in home rule and to the disparate treatment of Milwaukee County compared to all other counties. This is also consistent with the majority of voices that I heard from my District although I am aware there is significant support for AB85 among some members of our District. I did my homework on this vote and made great effort to hear from you before acting as your representative on this issue.
Air Traffic Control at Mitchell Airport
My office complained loudly about the effects of Sequestration on our air traffic controllers. I received letters from Rep. Paul Ryan and Rep. James Sensenbrenner in response to these complaints. FAA has now delayed any cuts through October 1, 2013. While this is temporary good news, I will continue to follow this issue until our County gets full satisfaction that there will be no cuts for air traffic controllers in the tower.
Earth Day Cleanup
Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped clean our parks during Earth Day and throughout the week. I know South Milwaukee had a great turn out and the Friends of Grant Park and Mill Pond groups always do fantastic work. This year aldermen and their families also helped. In Cudahy, students from Cudahy High School’s science classes, the Sheridan Park Friends and other dedicated volunteers collected trash in Sheridan Park. Your efforts are greatly appreciated and the parks are mostly litter free. Let’s all work to maintain this effort.
East Layton Avenue Traffic Flow
My office received reports of poor traffic signal timing along East Layton Avenue. A high percentage of automobiles in this corridor encountered many red lights.
Our traffic engineer investigated. In mid-April, we found that a power outage had occurred in March at the location that runs the master time clock. A battery is supposed to function as a backup in case of such an outage. However, the battery was not holding a charge. That battery is being replaced in case of another power outage. I hope that my constituents have noticed an improvement in signal operation from Whitnall Avenue east to the Lake Parkway ramps.
A study is ongoing to determine better timing for the entire corridor. Later this year, our staff anticipates a fund transfer to upgrade equipment and communications along this corridor. I will continue to watch this item.
Please report if you observe improper signal functioning along any County highways (which appear in red on this map). Our goal is smooth, efficient and safe traffic flow.
General Mitchell International Airport is experiencing improvements. You may observe temporary changes in air traffic patterns during the coming months.
First, the main north-south runway (1L/19R) is scheduled to close for tunnel maintenance beneath the runway from May 13 to 24. Runway 13/31 will also experience closures. As a result, commercial aircraft will use the east-west runway (7R-25L).
Runway 7R/25L is anticipated to close for concrete panel replacement and shoulder repair from May 28 to June 24. Most aircraft will utilize runway 1L/19R during that period.
Cranes will install pilings for a new bridge over Howell Avenue. The bridge will be part of a new airport perimeter road that will increase safety by allowing airport vehicles to traverse the airport without having to actually cross a runway. Daily closures of the runway for bridge construction may occur after June 24.
To receive Airfield Updates, please visit www.gmiaairfieldupdate.com
Rainwater in College Avenue Tunnel
During April’s overwhelming wet weather, the College Avenue tunnel experienced flooding. This is not due to stormwater management design. Rather, the landscaping is still establishing itself and erosion obstructed the stormwater infrastructure.
Lakefront Traffic Reconfiguration
In April, the Committee on Economic and Community Development considered the city-county-state partnership to rework the ramps and traffic patterns at the downtown lakefront. You can view this presentation here.
Our Milwaukee County
Fourth graders from across the County created posters for the “Our Milwaukee County” poster contest. Their artwork depicts important services in Milwaukee County. As you can see below, many students featured the Zoo, Grant Park, the transit system, the jail, and landmarks like the Hoan Bridge. Winners of first, second and third place in the poster contest came from South Milwaukee. Congratulations to Gracie, Amaya and Marisa!
Save the Date
The “Pedal in the Park with Pat” bike ride and the Bluegrass Allstars concert will be held at Sheridan Park on Thursday, June 20, 2013. You will not want to miss these events. The bluegrass concert in Sheridan Park has become the unofficial date to kick off our summer events! Watch for details in next month’s e-newsletter.