Friday, November 24th, 2017

Council again cleans up budget after Scrima screws up process


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Dec 8, 2011; Section:Opinion; Page Number:6A    


Council again cleans up budget after Scrima screws up process

Mayor needs to fulfill his responsibilities

    What did I do after watching the proposed garbage fee for the city of Waukesha go down in flames? I went to Disney World. Nobody asked, but I thought I would tell you anyway.

    While I was away (did you notice my nifty tan?) the city of Waukesha Common Council finally settled on a budget without constructive help from the mayor. We went from a $136 garbage fee hitting almost every household and duplex in the city to a tiny tax increase of $3.76 for the median home.

    Mayor Jeff Scrima was quoted as saying the system of checks and balances worked. Yes it did, and now city residents understand two very important things about city government.

    One, we understand why the Common Council is so reluctant to allow this mayor to have the keys to the city. Two, we learned the hard way the importance of having the right city administrator.

    This is the second year in a row that the mayor did his very best to screw up the city budget process. His few remaining supporters will likely claim that the mayor’s actions resulted in lower tax bills.

    The evidence, however, is that the council has had to clean up after the mayor two years in a row to fix things after his incompetence was given free reign. Last year the council had to find the cuts to the budget to reach a goal of no increase in the levy after Scrima’s incompetent search in the transit budget. This year they had to find the cuts after Scrima declared that there were no cuts to be found, justifying the garbage fee.

    Alderman Eric Payne was right when he said there were more cuts to be found. Any city that owns a cemetery, has a 911 call center redundant with the county’s call center, and makes three leaf collections, ought to be able to find some budget items to cut. The job will be made a little bit easier next year, too, when city employee contracts come to an end.

    Perhaps next year the council won’t wait for the mayor to screw things up before solving another budget crisis. When they find a new city administrator they should make it very clear to that person that the office of mayor is practically vacant until the moment that is most inconvenient to the governance of the city, so the new city administrator shouldn’t expect much help in finding cuts.

    Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for those “efficiencies” Scrima promised when he ran for office.

    * * *

    Speaking of two years in a row, this is the second year that Mayor Jeff Scrima blew off the Christmas parade, perhaps the biggest civic event of the year in Waukesha. According to Milwaukee Magazine, on the wall of Scrima’s office is a chart of the remaining days of his expected lifespan. Perhaps the mayor should put little marks at the points when he is expected to fulfill his civic responsibilities.

    It should not be that hard, given a year’s notice, to avoid a scheduling conflict with the Christmas parade. Danny Gokey was there.

    When Scrima ran for office, he had a verbal tic with the word, “honor.” Everything was an “honor” to him. Meeting people was an “honor.” Running for mayor was an “honor.” Appearing at a debate was an “honor.” Honor this and honor that.

    Well, being the mayor is an honor, and appearing in the Christmas parade is an honor. It would be nice if his honor the mayor of Waukesha would remember that and honor his constituents with his presence when it’s required.

    That goes for important Common Council meetings, too.

    * * *

    A quick note about Mayor Jeff Scrima’s pledge to donate $5,000 from his New Day for Waukesha fund to fix the old bus shelter. It’s a nice gesture by the mayor.

    However, let me point out the obvious that if the mayor had donated half his pay to the city budget as he originally promised, the city would not be scrambling to find the $5,000 in the first place.

    (James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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