Scrima’s tunnel vision

by James Wigderson | March 25, 2010 5:02 pm

Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Mar 25, 2010; Section: Opinion; Page: 10A

Scrima’s tunnel vision
Look into candidate’s claims before voting

Waukesha mayoral candidate Jeff Scrima told The Freeman last Friday, “To be clear, I never said the city is going to build or pay for tunnels under streets.”

To be clear, Jeff Scrima suggested building tunnels under the streets to help the Carroll University students cross East Avenue. He also suggested possibly building a bridge, or even closing down some of the streets near Carroll University.

Scrima said it to a room full of people at Carroll. I was there, I reported it, and I’m standing by it.

His supporters have tried to tell radio talk show host Mark Belling that Scrima said it but didn’t really mean it. They said Scrima was just inexperienced, according to Belling in his Freeman column.

They obviously heard it, too, and it’s just amazing Scrima would try to deny it.

Actually, I shouldn’t be amazed after the other things Scrima has said on the campaign trail.

Let’s start with The Clarke Hotel. Scrima accused City Assessor Paul Klauck of deliberately inflating the hotel’s value. Scrima said Monday night he learned this in a “one-onone” conversation with Klauck. Scrima repeated the charge Tuesday.

In an interview with Klauck, he told me that he did talk to Scrima for half an hour. “He didn’t listen to a lot of what I said, or he misinterpreted a lot of what I said.”

Klauck explained that The Clarke Hotel’s assessment was done like every other business’s assessment in Waukesha. Klauck used a cost basis for the assessment, really the only way available for the new hotel. The data was gathered the same way, fed into the computer, and out came a number, the same as 2,500 other businesses.

Also, as Klauck pointed out, ultimately it doesn’t matter. At the end of the TIF, if the building is not valued at $5 million, the developer’s agreement requires the owners to pay property taxes as if the value were actually $5 million.

Not bad for what was once an eyesore destroying the property values downtown.

Klauck has been in the assessor’s office since 1981. He has been the assessor for 24 years. He has seen mayors come and go in his time. Why would he be in a conspiracy with Mayor Nelson to do anything?

Or how about this whopper: Scrima announced Tuesday night that he would work with the city attorney to prevent any more sex offenders from moving into the city.

I whispered to state Rep. Bill Kramer sitting in front of me, “Well, your job is done.”

If a mayor and the city attorney could stop sex offenders from moving into Waukesha, it would have happened by now. Cities are able to impose reasonable restrictions (as Waukesha has) but ultimately the state and the courts determine in which city the sex offender lives.

Scrima either doesn’t understand the issue, or he’s just trying to shamelessly pander again.

For this week’s costly proposal, Scrima wants the city to add a person that would do nothing but seek out federal and state grants, another mouth to feed on the city payroll.

This is the same candidate that wants to add to your overall tax bill by charging a fee for garbage pickup instead of leaving it on your property taxes that can be deducted from the federal taxes. He would make it worse by reinstating the weekly recycling pickup, raising the city’s costs $350,000 over five years.

He even suggested at Carroll University requiring all of us to separate our recyclables. (He can try to deny that, too.) If you think a two-week pickup cycle for recyclables is annoying, just wait until they refuse to pick it up because you didn’t separate your clear glass bottles from your green glass bottles.

I’m beyond incredulous at this point. I understand frustration with the incumbent. I’ve been taking shots at Nelson in my column since before he took office.

At some point, when Scrima is promising hope and change, somebody has to start listening to the details. We’ve all seen this week what the other hope and change politician was capable of. Waukesha residents need to ask if they want the local version.

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


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