African American county supervisors disgruntled over Abele’s 2016 budget

October 8, 2015
By Steve Waring
Special to The Milwaukee TimesChris abele

Speaking in a voice so quiet, which at times was inaudible from the front row of the public gallery, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele presented a balanced $1.375 billion draft 2016 budget to the Milwaukee County Board at its regular meeting on October 1. He said his proposed budget did not raise taxes and included funding for new expenses, such as pay raises and tuition reimbursement for county workers and funding for capital improvements to the park system.

The proposed budget also includes the first $4 million county payment toward the new basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, despite the fact that the legislation to fund the 20-year financial obligation by more aggressively collecting unpaid property taxes and fines has not yet been approved. The formal presentation to the board on October 1 followed an invitation-only presentation at the Pritzlaff Building the previous evening. Invitations to a number of County Board members either arrived late or not at all, an incident which caused County Board Chairman Theodore L. Lipscomb, Sr., to release a public letter encouraging the public to attend. Chairman Lipscomb told WUWM Public Radio there are good reasons the county executive traditionally unveils the budget to the board at the courthouse. He said the public deserves to receive prior notification of public meetings through official channels and that proceedings in the courthouse are recorded and made available online afterward.

After finishing his budget presentation to the county board in the courthouse, Chairman Lipscomb implored Abele to answer a few questions from board members. In response to a question from Supervisor Khalif Rainey about provisions in the budget for assisting impoverished African Americans, Abele said he had improved social services at the House of Corrections, increased funding for the mentally impaired and improved child support, a response which prompted an apology to the African American council members from Supervisor Deanna Alexander and later in the day demands for an apology from four of the five African American members on the 18-member council. “What exactly does he think of the African American community and its problems?” said Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde. “Does he really think additional funding for the House of Corrections is a way to address problems in the African American community?” Supervisors Martin Weddle and Rainey issued a joint statement in which they said they were outraged.