Milwaukee comptrollers and treasurers last forever. Wally Morics, the current comptroller, is just the sixth to serve in the last century. Wayne Whittow, the city treasurer, has served since 1976, and upon finishing his current term in 2012, will tie the 36-year record for longevity set by his predecessor, Joseph Krueger.  Now that Morics has […]

Milwaukee comptrollers and treasurers last forever. Wally Morics, the current comptroller, is just the sixth to serve in the last century. Wayne Whittow, the city treasurer, has served since 1976, and upon finishing his current term in 2012, will tie the 36-year record for longevity set by his predecessor, Joseph Krueger

Now that Morics has announced he will retire in 2012, several candidates are considering running for the office. One of them, Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny Thomas, has suggested the office of comptroller and treasurer be combined into one office to save money. Meanwhile, Mayor Tom Barrett and Ald. Michael Murphy (who also wants to run for comptroller) say they have directed the city’s budget office to study this idea.

It’s a smart proposal and an obvious way to make city government more efficient. Both positions pay a rather kingly salary of $139,633. With benefits included, that works out to about $200,000 a year for each position.

Whittow has argued his position is needed to assure there are enough financial checks and balances in city government. Nonsense. The city treasurer is an artifact of 19th century ideas on governmental structure. Nowadays, the mayor’s staff could handle the duties of collecting property tax payments and overseeing any investments. 

By contrast, the comptroller has wide-ranging authority to analyze the financial impact of any law or program, from city repair projects to tax incremental financing districts to the proposed streetcar line (where Morics has questioned the estimated costs). And because the comptroller is independently elected, he has the authority to challenge any proposal of the mayor or common council.

Consider what happened in Milwaukee County because there was no independently elected financial authority, ala the comptroller, to question the disastrous pension plan passed in 2000: its notorious back drop has paid out gazillions in the form of huge lump sum payments (as high as $1 million) to county retirees. Something like that is quite unlikely to happen in the city of Milwaukee because the idea would have been challenged by the comptroller.

Whittow hasn’t decided if he wants to run for election in 2012. And of course government officials usually don’t like to eliminate an office while the incumbent is still serving. But Whittow will be 78 by 2012, having served in government for 52 years, including 16 years as a state legislator prior to becoming city treasurer. (One can only imagine the combined pension he will get.)

So let’s all salute Whittow for his five decades of service and then move to eliminate the position. This is the 21st century after all, and we can leave behind the old horse-and-buggy forms of government.  

Is Darling Ducking Debates?

The campaign of Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay), the challenger in the recall election of state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) accuses Darling of “repeated delay tactics and flat out rejections of proposed debates.”

By contrast, the campaign claims, “Pasch has accepted debate invitations from Milwaukee Press Club, Up Front with Mike Gousha, Fox 6 News/Patch.com, Public Policy Forum, Advocates for Education and Make it Work Milwaukee/Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force, but Senator Darling has only accepted one, and only after rescheduling the date three times.”

Darling campaign manager Andrew Davis denies this, sort of.  He assures me Darling and Pasch will tape the Gousha show this Friday, and that the two will make a “joint appearance” at a Milwaukee Press Club event and at a Menomonee Falls Rotary Club meeting.

In fact, according to a Milwaukee Press Club press release, Darling and Pasch will appear before the club on separate days. “The Press Club had attempted to present a debate between the two candidates at one setting,” the release noted. “Pasch accepted the debate proposal. Darling declined.”

Pasch had challenged Darling to three debates back on June 28, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, and Darling did not respond to the paper’s requests for a comment.

The Menomonee Falls Rotary Club event is one hour long and will have the two candidates together, but this is not a debate format. The Gousha show will at least have some tough questions from him, which is the closest the candidates will get to a debate.

Davis does concede Darling has turned down some requests for joint appearances.  “If we take every request we’d be debating every day,” he says. “We feel Alberta’s time is best spent talking to voters in the district.”

The Buzz

-The Aurora chain announced it will take away the nurses and nurse practitioners it had previously provided at no cost to 10 Milwaukee Public Schools, leaving a full time Aurora nurse at just one MPS facility. Why? “Aurora Health Care reviews its array of services on an ongoing basis to better align services with patient needs and best practices,” Aurora spokesman Mike Brophy said, in an explanation that explained nothing. The real answer is that Aurora, a tax-exempt non-profit that regularly solicits charitable donations, operates more and more like a for-profit company whose main concern is not humanitarian outreach but maximizing revenue.

-And catch my take on the week’s events on WUWM-FM 89.7 in the 2:00 hour every Saturday and Sunday.

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