Friday, December 9th, 2016

Reilly announcement start of long campaign

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Reilly announcement start of long campaign 

Scrima’s record open to challengers

Waukesha Freeman 7/3/13 Opinion page A8

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And so it begins. The announcement by local attorney Shawn Reilly last week he is running begins a long campaign season to replace Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima.

Almost from the beginning of Scrima’s term in office, one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked is who would run to replace him. It ranked right up there with, “When are you taking down your Christmas decorations?”

Here’s a good rule of thumb. If conventional wisdom spends most of its time obsessed with picking a politician’s successor, then that politician is really vulnerable.

Contrast the buzz around Scrima with Gov. Scott Walker. With Scrima, the questions are whether he’ll run again and who will beat him if he runs? With Walker, the questions are will Walker even have a credible opponent (looking less likely) and will he seek higher office?

At a well-attended breast cancer fundraiser Saturday night at Galleria Edge, nobody was asking me about the art. (Too bad. I had definite opinions, even if I did not have room in my house for any of the works of art.) The question was, can Shawn Reilly win?

Reilly is certainly qualified. He was president of downtown Business Improvement District at its apex. He represents both Mukwonago and Eagle, and he has been an active volunteer in the community.

While Reilly starts the campaign as a relative unknown, he has plenty of time to build name recognition. As we enter the city’s budget cycle and controversies continue to swirl around the current mayor, Reilly can pick and choose his spots to raise issues beneficial to his cause.

Reilly also has time to build a fundraising base to make him more than competitive. He may even raise enough money to keep other potential candidates at bay.

In short, Reilly is a serious candidate.

Speculation is that there will likely be no strong candidates from the Common Council, although that could change. It’s doubtful the Republican Party will recruit a candidate, although Scrima has rubbed enough of them the wrong way. The only way state Rep. Bill Kramer could be happier representing Waukesha in Madison is if Jimmy’s Grotto opened a franchise there.

All of which bodes well for a Reilly candidacy.

The issues of a campaign won’t be that hard to figure out. Reilly has already mentioned water. He is correct that the next mayor will be the face of the Great Lakes water application. Look for Scrima’s lack of involvement with the Water Utility Commission to become an issue, as well as suddenly taking credit for the Oak Creek water deal.

The drama and cost of the city budgets under Scrima will also be an issue. The only real contribution to the city’s budget debates was Scrima’s proposed garbage fee, an additional $136 per household, two years ago. Otherwise Scrima has been content to let the Common Council and the city administrator create the budgets while he carped from the sidelines.

Then there are the ethical issues. Let’s check the list. Scrima used city money to fund his personal education. He used the BID accounts to run money through to his pet project without prior approval. He had to be sued by the Waukesha Freeman to comply with an open records request and has told other public officials not to cooperate with open records requests in a timely manner. He broke his promise to give back half of his salary, instead choosing to create a fund for which he solicits contributions, opening up the potential to all kinds of conflicts of interest.

Let’s not forget Scrima’s relationship with the former city administrator, Lori Luther, led to the Common Council removing Scrima’s supervisory role. Women voters in the community should seriously wonder about the mayor’s behavior toward Luther and former BID Executive Director Meghan Sprager.

Now Scrima’s Pizza has the only pizza restaurant in any Woodman’s anywhere, and it just happens to be in a Woodman’s that required TIF financing from the city. While the story told by the mayor’s dad to the Waukesha Freeman was interesting, shouldn’t somebody in the Scrima household have recognized just how awful such a deal looks?

Challengers to Scrima certainly have a lot of material to work with should the mayor decide to run for re-election. Let the games begin.

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