“All ZIP Codes”: Humble Suggestions for the Next Milwaukee County Executive

With State Sen. Chris Larson formally entering the race yesterday, the field is taking shape to replace Chris Abele as Milwaukee County executive.

And South Milwaukee should take notice. With almost a third of our land owned by the county, including key assets like Grant Park and Grobschmidt Pool, and three bus lines serving us, we’re as reliant on a strong Milwaukee County as any community. Who leads the county matters.

Here is my ask of him or her …

  • Be executive of the whole county. All ZIP codes.
  • Solve problems, together. Leaders unite. Unite, don’t divide. Lead.
  • Develop and have a clear vision for where the county needs to be … and work deliberately to bring that vision to life.
  • Encourage and get behind big, bold ideas. Build on the foundation Chris Abele leaves here. There are no sacred cows.
  • Support cities and villages. This is where real change happens. Partner where possible. More often than not, get out of their way. Start by being a strong advocate for the sales tax legislation.
  • Check the politics at the door. Leave partisanship, political games and overheated rhetoric to Madison and Washington. Tone matters.
  • No political opportunism, please. Want this job because you want this job, not the next job. Chris Abele wanted this job and acted accordingly. His predecessor wanted the next job and acted accordingly. Be Chris Abele. 

And I’ll add one more: Ask tough questions, not necessarily promising these things have to change, but to understand things like this …

  • Why is Milwaukee County the only county in the state that patrols its own freeways?
  • Why does Milwaukee County own an airport?
  • Why is it the Milwaukee County Transit System, and not something more regional? And why doesn’t it include The Hop?
  • Why is the “front line” of county government so inaccessible? Why should you have to fight parking downtown and then go through a metal detector simply to get a birth certificate (and access other basic county government functions)?
  • Why does Milwaukee County own so much parkland, while also making it clear it can not adequately maintain it all, and make necessary investments in its infrastructure?
  • Why is Milwaukee County not in the state pension system?

Good luck to all involved! You have a heck of a job ahead of you … and I look forward to partnering with you to lead Milwaukee County forward.

We are stronger, together.


Filed under South Milwaukee

16 responses to ““All ZIP Codes”: Humble Suggestions for the Next Milwaukee County Executive

  1. All good points. The person you describe is clearly not the last candidate entering the race.

  2. Bryce Ruddock

    I would hope that the next Executive does not model his tenure on that of either Chris Abele or his predecessor. Abele aim was to privatize as much as possible of the public domain. Thank goodness he has gotten bored with his pet project. Who would you prefer to patrol the freeways in the County of Milwaukee, individual municipalities or the State Patrol? The County owns the airport. It has been a big source of revenue. That is why Assembly members Honadel and San Fellippo sought to have it privatized during the early years of Walker’s tenure as governor. The taxpayers would have none of it then. Hopefully that wisdom will prevail. The MCTS is county wide as its hamstrung by the legislature as to any expansion. Waukesha County for instance does not want any minorities entering it vis public transport. Its county exec (Finlay) was adamant in opposition to light rail as well as extended bus service in the region because (his stated reason) that it would allow access by members of Milwaukee’s minority community to Waukesha County. The current state legislature has been doing everything it can to starve MCTS out of existence. Security at the Courthouse increased after 9/11 for obvious reasons. Its a pain. I used to work there and would find it an even bigger pain if I still did on a daily basis. The state pension system excludes Milwaukee County because its designed to do so and the legislature likes it that way. Finally the park land. The County owns so much land in order to preserve it from development. Parks along rivers are public land so that the watersheds are protected, whether it be those parks along the Milwaukee River or the parkways along Honey Creek, Oak Creek, Root River, etc. Lake shore parks designation protect delicate shore land habitats from development else it would all go the way of the Couture and the St Francis lakeshore development corridor. As a citizen of this county for the past sixty-four of my sixty-eight years I learned these things while many of them happened and the rest in school.

    • All good points, and explanations as to how we got here, but they all settle on “status quo” for county government going forward. Maybe that is what is needed, but I don’t see that as sustainable. Not in an era of constrained revenue, rising costs and increased demand for services.

  3. Bryce Ruddock

    So I ask you. What would you propose regarding parks, transport, pensions, etc.?

    • I propose exploring options, at least asking tough questions. The status quo is not sustainable. Parks is an example. I certainly support pushing the state for alternative revenue options, like legislation enabling the sales tax, formation of parks districts, etc. But that is unlikely. So, while you work for that in Madison, you have to continue with the road they are going down, finding alternate sources of revenue. I love the new Parks Foundation as one example. You must also find ways to monetize where it makes sense (see beer gardens, Grant Park Beach concession lease, etc.) At the same time, I think the county must look at shedding parkland, smartly. You can maintain the “emerald necklace” but with less land. I’m not saying sell it to private interests in all, or even most, cases. Find nonprofit or other partners (Friends, other governments, etc.) willing to commit to make investments in the property the county simply isn’t able or willing to make, and encourage those. These are among the solutions we need to look at …

  4. Bryce Ruddock

    We need to ask why revenue has been constrained? How do we make a modicum of provided services sustainable? We know that the status quo is currently woefully inadequate in its provision for maintenance of services so how do we change it for the better, to provide the needs for the greater community? Why are costs rising and how do we control them and bargain them down by joining in some services with adjacent communities? Yes I know we have joined in some emergency services with neighbors.

  5. Randall

    What a joke. First, your ask “Check the politics at the door. Leave partisanship, political games and overheated rhetoric to Madison and Washington. Tone matters.” and then you ask “No political opportunism, please. Want this job because you want this job, not the next job. Chris Abele wanted this job and acted accordingly. His predecessor wanted the next job and acted accordingly. Be Chris Abele.” Scott Walker did more for this county than Abele ever pretended to. Why don’t YOU check your politics and partisanship at the door. Also, please stop BEGGING for more of our hard-earned tax dollars. It’s just a sign that you, like Milwaukee and Milwaukee County can’t budget responsibly.

    • Melanie Poser

      Randall, the asking for more and more is what Democrats do. They love spending our money, someday more residents will figure this out. Can Seniors really afford all these tax increases? Maybe a fiscally conservative man or woman should actually give our Mayor some competition.

      • Bryce Ruddock

        I am a senior on a fixed income and have no issue with the mayor at all except he is too much a conservative for my tastes.

      • Randall

        This is the reason, in not too many years, we’re moving out of Milwaukee County. Too many free-spending liberals with our tax dollars. Would love to see more conservatives be able to win elections in this county but, sadly, don’t see that happening. Good to hear from you!

  6. SM Guy

    I agree with you on the park issue. The first time I heard a similar question about the parks, I disagreed. Living in SM, I wondered who would want to sell off Grant or Warnimont or Sheridan or Whitnall. Then the person pointed out to me what this is really about. The county owns a whole bunch of dinky little parks, some not even one block in size. Example – Jansen Park by South Ridge. These are the things that should be sold off in order to support the others.

  7. Frank Gratke

    I am not a fan of selling park land. I am a fan of leasing it. I belief the future the earth surface will be far less man made improvements and much more natural. We can take lease park land back after the lease is up.

    The building of the City of Milwaukee trolley shows Federal money needs to be better spend. The 60 million grant and 60 million in Tax Incentive Financing TIF money The county portion of the TIF is about 12 million or 10 dollars for every county resident.The trolley is extremely limited and that is a big issue.

    We in South Milwaukee need to make our voice heard. We have common services with St Francis and Cudahy. We need to combine efforts with them in getting our issues across. I belief forming a political action group with Cudahy and St Francis would focus on the issues facing us.

    The more center of political structure you are the easier it is to influence politicians because they know your are a swing vote. South Milwaukee being a “blue collar suburb” we can swing either way. The next national election, Wisconsin is a key battleground state and the blue collar suburbs are the key battleground areas in the state.

    Now its time to ask, get are issues on the table. The issue at the county level of doing core drilling tests of Mill Pond is the top of my list. I belief Mill Pond will just set until those tests are done.

    I would like to compliment the Mayor in keeping the South Milwaukee Police force intact. The cuts in the City of Milwaukee police are going to effect a wide area. AKA, the crime is going to come out of the big city.

    On the outgoing and past County Executive , Who cares. We need to worry about the incoming one.

  8. Bryce Ruddock

    Randall this is the reason I am a Green. Not having any Pac money and not accepting anything from millionaires and billionaires the Greens have had to learn to learn to live within their means as they have no sugar daddy to bank roll them. There is hypocrisy in each of the duopoly parties. True political independence comes from not accepting donations from the wealthy.

    • Randall

      If you being a “Green” means you’re an “environmentalist” or are for the “New Green Deal” then, I can’t agree with your positions as they are just wealth redistribution schemes. Please gives specifics on your “Green” positions if I am mistaken.

  9. Bryce Ruddock

    Well Randall the so called Green New Deal is a pale mirror image of the Green Party’s version which was our plank in both of the previous two election cycles. Progressive Democrats have “borrowed” both the phrase and a few of its principles. I had a hand in writing some of the Green Part environmental issues when serving on both the National Committee from 2006 til 2010 and later while serving on the environmental committee for the Green Party of the United States. Call it wealth redistribution if you like. That is not exactly what it is. Its called a fair deal. Maybe not as fair for themselves as the rich would like. Check at the Green Party’s website for details as it would take too long to explain and I am not going to hijack this blog in order to do so.

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