For more than a decade, Milwaukee County has been falling in a downward spiral.
The scandal spurred what was, at the time, a record number of recalls against Ament and the County Board.
Unfortunately, these recalls opened the door for Scott Walker to come in and bring further ruination to the county with his mismanagement and corruption. After eight years of Walker’s regime, Milwaukee County is facing a myriad of woes, including: overwhelming costs in trying to attend hundreds of millions in deferred maintenance and neglected repairs throughout the parks system; a pension fund that is a shambles; a transit system that is in a death spiral; a mental health complex that is in “shoddy condition” and failed to meet the needs of its patients; two illegal budgets and an overall mistrust of government.
While the County Board had considerable success in trying to hold things together in the early going, things have gone downhill with alarming speed in recent years.
But all hope is not lost. Change is in the air.
The recent elections will bring great changes to the Board. There will be five new supervisors. Sadly, out of the five, only three are progressive, and on of the conservative supervisors-elected already has gained the reputation of someone who is not to be trusted.
But perhaps of more significance is the fact that Chairman Lee Holloway, with his bullying and his lashing out, will be stepping down at long last. While some might miss Holloway’s quirkiness, we see it as a chance for Milwaukee County to move forward.
On Monday, after the supervisors are sworn in and the five new supervisors are made welcome, the Board will get down to the business of picking a new Chairman. There are currently five supervisors that are openly running for that seat: Patricia Jursik, Theo Lipscomb, Willie Johnson, Marina Dimitrijevic and John Weishan.
Unbelievably, the corrupt part-time supervisor, Joe Sanfelippo had considered a run at the Chairmanship as well, but it is now being said that he is planning on running to be a part-time state representative now.
What the Board, and Milwaukee County in general, needs right now is a strong, progressive leader with a vision on how to move the County out of the miasma it has been driven into. We need a leader that will put the people and the taxpayers first instead of campaign donors or fellow plutocrats. There are many challenges that need to be overcome, which have already become close to being insurmountable.
The new Chair will also have to be someone who has skin thick enough to deal with the insults thrown at them by the likes of squawk radio and conservative pseudo-journalists, as well as the chutzpah to stand up to the bully boys of Citizens of Responsible Government.
These requirements should quickly eliminate Jursik from consideration. She, like Sanfelippo, treats her role as supervisor as a part-time job. Furthermore, like Sanfelippo, she has been more on the side of being the problem rather than the cure. She has had a direct hand in many of the financial problems that the county is currently facing.
Lipscomb and Johnson are both progressive, but not consistently so. And while they have done some great work and have expressed great ideas, they also have had their share of bad ideas and sided incorrectly on many issues.
That leaves Dimitrijevic and Weishan. Both are strong-willed and visionary. Both are undeniably progressive and both have strong grasps on the seriousness of the issues facing the county, due to both the bad decisions made in the past and by the current administration.
They have both shown the willingness to fight for moving Milwaukee County forward.
That said, there are differences between these two supervisors.
Dimitrijevic has been jockeying for the chairmanship for a long time, working on making allies of other supervisors, especially the new ones. Helping her in this cause is her ability to reach across the aisle to the conservative supervisors and get them to make concessions from their desire to tear the county down.
Unfortunately, as happens to everyone, she has also made some poor choices in her ambition. She has backed questionable supervisory candidates and has been caught in a kerfuffle between her political campaign and her PAC, with accusations of conflict of interests. She also pushed for the reprehensible and draconian “wellness program,” which was both invasive and punitive to the workers.
Weishan has some sweeping ideas that would put the county on much better footing. He also has shown the willingness to take on the bad ideas head on and fight tirelessly for what he believes is the best idea. Unfortunately, Weishan is not always the most tactful person and can be abrasive at times, which is not always a bad thing.
In sum, we believe that Supervisor Weishan would make the better choice for Chairman and be a greater champion for Milwaukee County, its citizens and the tax payers. His ideas would help lead the state in the recovery that it’s trying to make in the face of Walker’s malfeasance. It was Weishan, after all, that was calling foul on the corruption in Walker’s administration before the John Doe investigation was initiated and who has been consistent in supporting both the tax payers and the county employees.
However, Dimitrijevic, who would also make a fine Chairwoman, probably has the edge in the race, given her alliance-building and statesmanship. If she does win the vote of the Board and is appointed Chairwoman, it would behoove her to pay heed to Weishan’s council on many subjects, and possibly appointment as First Vice-Chairman.
She would also be well-served to make sure she tightens up the operations of the political side of her life, since she would be open to even greater scrutiny by those that do not wish her well and frankly, we’ve had more than our fair share of scandals in the past decade.
Regardless of who does win the Chair, we will be ready to assist in finding new ways to make Milwaukee County a place that is for the people and not just the special interests.