The prideful and the paranoid few
I thought I heard it all. Walking into the County Board meeting tonight I overheard Dave Cummings, husband to County Supervisor Kathleen Cummings, explain why the “Republicans” were trying to reduce the size of the Waukesha County Board. There’s this plan, you see, to merge Waukesha and Milwaukee counties. And if the Waukesha County Board got reduced to eleven members, then all you need is six members to make the merger happen.
After hearing this for a little bit, I finally spoke up. “Actually, the plan to reduce the number of counties in the state was proposed by a Democrat, Sheldon Wasserman in the Assembly.” He didn’t believe me.
So I’m sitting there during the public comment section of the program when a woman gets up and repeats the conspiracy theory. And she’s yelling at the Taxpayers League members in attendance “to do their homework.” I admit it, I couldn’t stop myself completely and laughed a little at her expense. Then she said it was all on a blog somewhere. Okay, that piqued my interest.
Then the discussion started. County Supervisor Stroud rose to speak on reconsideration of the proposal and she started talking about “the big mystery” of why there was a push to downsize the board. She started getting into the same conspiracy theory before Chairman Dwyer shut her down saying she needed to speak to the motion.
More discussion followed. Finally, Paulson moved to end debate, which passed 27-8, and then the county board voted to reconsider the proposal 22-13. Voting against reconsideration were Manke, Morris, Klein, Hutton, Stamsta, Seitz, Kramer, Thelen, Pavelka, Jaske, Gundrum, Singert and Wilson. The first procedural hurdle was cleared, and the stage was set for the Waukesha County Board to make the minor reduction to 25 members in an effort to thwart the petition and referendum drive to an eleven member county board.
At that Point, Supervisor Kipp (recently defeated for re-election) rose to amend the proposal to “Map #2”. “If this board does not act this decision will be taken out of our hands.” Supervisor Ken Herro apologized to Kipp and claimed that Kipp had voted the last time the way her constituents had wanted. Supervisor Andy Kallin (recently re-elected against an opponent who wanted a 35 member board) rose to tell the room that he spoke with Waukesha Mayor-elect Larry Nelson (whom Kallin did not vote for) and that Chairman Larry was happy with map #2. Map#2 passed 25-10.
Onward to the main motion. An emotional Supervisor Haukol rose to speak. She launched into an attack on talk radio. “I know how talk radio works,” she said, and complained that if they did not pass the 25 member proposal tonight it would not be “a fair and even debate.”
Supervisor Wolff followed with her belief that we currently have “true representation” on the county board. “What do the citizens of Waukesha really want?” she asked, before complaining about the media and talk radio.
The Supervisor Walter Kolb rose and gave a very emotional and very pointed attack on the Waukesha Taxpayers League. He pointed out he once was a member of the Taxpayers League, but was upset that they were using “rhetoric” and not “facts” saying they didn’t have the guts to tell both sides of the story. He pointed to a Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance study that concluded more supervisors meant lower taxes. Then he attacked the Waukesha Taxpayers League for seeking the “power to elect and unelect” county supervisors with this petition drive. At one point, the attacks grew so heated and so directed towards the WTL that one member of the audience started shouting back while Chairman Dwyer attempted to have Kolb direct his comments to his fellow supervisors instead of the audience. The attacks from Kolb, somewhat calmer, continued with a repeated demand to the WTL to demonstrate how reducing the size of the Board would be better.
I’m really, really hurt that Kolb must not read my Waukesha Freeman columns.
County Supervisor Stamson followed in a little calmer tone, and he said that if the issue went to referendum he trusted the public that they would vote no.
Supervisor Seitz (defeated last election by a proponet of reducing the board) followed in the same theme, saying that despite his election misfortune he trusted the voters to make the right decision. He even praised Vrakas and the Waukesha Taxpayers League for getting the voters, who have “their own little lives to live,” “off their little couches.” He then commented that the “Little sleepy heads at home are starting to stir.” Hey, it beats, “The voters have spoken. Damn them.”
Then Seitz went completely over the top and compared WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes to Hitler when he paraphrased Hitler saying, “We control the media. We control the radio. We can convince the people.”
Supervisor Singert then made an appeal to “reason and common sense” in contrast to the “level of anger and bitterness that I see tonight.” He spoke against the proposal, saying they “should not derail the democratic process.”
Think it’s a long meeting at this point? It got longer, after Kallin attempted to call the question, a motion that failed 17-17.
Supervisor Marchese rose to speak and asked the Chairman, in a somewhat confused fashion, when the issue could come up again. Chairman Dwyer said that if the motion passed tonight, it could next be acted on in 2011. “That’s not fair!” Marchese shouted.
Supervisor Mitchell rose to speak and said that regardless of how the vote went tonight, the sun will rise and the sun will set and Waukesha will still be a great place to live. He was corrected by another county supervisor who pointed out that the sun only appears to rise and set because of the Earth’s rotation.
Supervisor Paulson was upset that the Taxpayers league started their referendum drive when they did. “We were still working on it.” Which is funny because that’s what Chris Lufter of the Waukesha Taxpayers League told the county board before the meeting as a reason they should not pass the 25 member board tonight.
Supervisor Stamke warned, “The Madison Wave is coming.” Madison is very unpopular with this group.
Then Supervisor Stroud spoke again. “I don’t know if it’s from the Republican party” she said, before explaining that this is all a conspiracy to combine Waukesha, Milwaukee and Racine counties as part of some grand scheme to reduce Wisconsin to 18 districts. Her reason why Milwaukee and Waukesha counties would merge? “Because we are so rich.” (Some of us more than others.)
After complaining about Milwaukee’s “80 million dollar sink hole” which we Waukesha residents would inherit under the conspiracy, she brought up the Milwaukee County pension scandal. She said “they” couldn’t go after the staff because they were protected. “Who did they go after? Their representatives.”
I’m not picking on Stroud, really. However, for those of you concerned about your representation, she represents district 31 in New Berlin. (“New Berlin, that explains it.”)
That’s when the original conspiracy theorist speaker from before the meeting walked past me and I caught a glimpse of what they were referring to. “Watchdog Milwaukee.” Oh yeah, there’s a hotbed of rightwing conspiracy activity. Handwritten across the top of the page was my blog’s URL. So let me take a moment to give a major shout out to my friends in tin-foil hat land. Make sure you stop by often!
Then Supervisor Kathleen Cummings spoke. We got it all. She brought up our soldiers overseas. Apparently they’re fighting for super-sized county boards. Then she complained “Madison made a stupid law.” Then she got mad because, as there were only nine contested county supervisor races, the lower county vote total meant that less signatures had to be gathered. “THAT”S WRONG” and she repeated it for effect. She brought up Scott Jensen, and how he’s going to jail.
Then she launched into the conspiracy theory. Reducing the size of the County Board “can’t be about efficiency.” No, this was a plan to install regional government. It’s about a “meld” of the counties “for a bigger pot.”
Then she complained that County Executive Dan Vrakas “allowed” the county board “to be trashed.” “We are his board,” she said. She complained about his “SILENCE” and repeated it gravely for effect, “SILENCE.”
She announced, “the train is leaving the station” which was followed with, “But you know… I lost my train of thought.”
She then mentioned her dad and her grandfather until even Chairman Dwyer got tired of the story and asked her to wrap up her point. Supervisor Cummings comes from district 25 in Waukesha. She also serves on the Waukesha Common Council.
Supervisor Herro tried to make a point about direct costs to the county having more of an impact than reducing the county board. He said he wanted small government, too. After all, the county board is made up of property owners. (Talk about a conservative requirement for serving on the board.) And he asked the question, “Why are they (voters) so angry?” And then he said, the county board has been answering, “Please don’t be angry with us. It’s the other guy.” Herro then told his fellow supervisors the voters would just get more angry because they “passed the buck.” He was supportive of 25 members before Dan Vrakas was cool.
Supervisor Klein, who is leaving to become the City of Pewaukee’s mayor, said he still has “not heard how this works.” What? Is he too cheap to spend the fifty cents to read my column in the Waukesha Freeman? Geez, you can even read it online, too.
Supervisor Broesch of Menomonee Falls offered to share his provisions of cheese, crackers and peanut butter with the crowd. He then asked why senior citizens, autistic children, kids 0-3 years old, veterans, jail alternatives, drug addicts and alcoholics were not being discussed. Tell you the truth, by then I was wondering what kind of peanut butter he had. He then condemned hate radio. I don’t know how he feels about blogs merging counties.
Supervisor Thelen actually said, “ditto” to a number of supervisors who spoke earlier. Given the talk about talk radio, I’m surprised “ditto” isn’t banned from the courthouse. He said, “people circulating the petitions are on to something.” What it was apparently didn’t matter, because he supported 25, too.
Supervisor Gundrum still hasn’t seen a plan. Supervisor Swan explained at 25 the committees can stay the same.
Seitz spoke one more time, claiming if you wanted a streamlined government, everyone should just elect him to run the whole county. Nobody made a motion to that effect (fortunately) and the vote to reduce the membership of the Waukesha County Board passed 21-14.