Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Be careful what you wish for

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Be careful what you wish for
Taxpayers shouldn’t pay for Scrima’s college

Waukesha Freeman 1/31/13 Page A8 Opinion
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In one of Aesop’s fables, a contented community of frogs decided they needed a king. They asked Zeus to send them one. Zeus sent them a log, and it made a big splash in the frog pond. The frogs feared King Log but soon realized that the log was incapable of doing anything. So they appealed to Zeus again. Annoyed, Zeus sent them a stork, and King Stork began to devour the frogs.

Waukesha’s downtown property owners may never have been the contented community of frogs but they are regretting what they asked for. When the Business Improvement District fell apart last year thanks to the machinations of Mayor Jeff Scrima, they demanded the appointment of a new board to carry on the work of the BID.

It was a reasonable request. After all, Scrima and Alderman Roger Patton engineered the mass resignation of the board last year to avoid, as Patton has said, airing the “dirty laundry” in public.

After a battle with the Common Council, the mayor finally appointed enough representatives for the BID Board to actually meet. Unfortunately, the direction of the city administrator is for the BID to merely become a funding source for events downtown, and no money is to be spent on improvements, cleanup, attracting new businesses, or even staff.

Scrima is relying on age-old formula for leaders in trouble, bread and circuses. Well, at least the circus part. He’s found a pot of money to do it at the BID, and he’s found a few downtown businesses to go along with it.

Downtown property owners are understandably miffed. (At this point I might tease one or two of them about supporting our King Stork for mayor, but they’re well aware of the folly at this point.) Now downtown property owners have to decide whether to disband the BID altogether, or allow the downtown businesses to use the money for their purposes. Put in that calculation that the money for the BID only comes from the property owners, and that the proposed use of the funds may be at cross-purposes of the property owners.

The alternative is to endure and try to mitigate the damage. It’s a tough choice.

As for the “dirty laundry,” it remains hidden away.

* * * Speaking of the mayor spending other people’s money, a popular pastime for politicians, the Waukesha Freeman reported last Friday that Scrima is going back to school. He is partly funding his personal growth and résumé building with $3,677 of the taxpayers’ money.

This is the second year in a row Scrima has added to his résumé at the taxpayers’ expense. The excuse he gives is that he learns things that will make him a better mayor.

We could observe that we were not blessed with a better mayor last year after his seminar at Harvard. Perhaps the city of Waukesha should ask for a refund from the school?

But what needs to be asked is why the taxpayers should be expected to subsidize the mayor’s personal growth.

We’ve come a long way from Scrima’s broken promise to return half of his mayoral salary to the city. What began as a promise of “servant leadership” has devolved into Scrima using the city coffers for his personal enrichment.

Willie Sutton robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” Scrima is getting awfully good at finding other people’s money.

* * * Downtown residents have a choice of five candidates for alderman this spring, including the incumbent Patton. They need to ask themselves if they are willing to re-elect an alderman who, by his own admission, has participated in the coverup of the reasons for the resignation of BID Executive Director Meghan Sprager last year. This is after Patton was caught deleting public records, and after Patton’s odd role in a story involving alleged damage to Sprager’s car.

As the other candidates campaign, residents will need to ask them about The Clarke Hotel, street closings, vandalism and police presence at bar close.

But most important, they will need to judge the character and competence of the candidates.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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