The Scrima record
Waukesha Freeman March 27, 2014 Page A6 Opinion
The Scrima record
Mayor’s claims don’t add up
In the movie “Excalibur,” Merlin cautions Arthur, “When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.” With Scrima, we have heard so many lies that the corrupting influence, like rust, permeates city government.
Scrima claims to have created 700 jobs in the city. However, according to Community Development Director Steve Crandell, a number of the business expansions for which Scrima claims credit either began under his predecessor or occurred without government assistance.
SPX Waukesha was an expansion that began under Larry Nelson. The Shoppes at Fox River was a Nelson project, and the recent expansion under Scrima happened under the pre-existing tax incremental finance district. The dorms at Carroll University were approved under Nelson.
There was no financial assistance from the city for GE Gas Engines, just a snub from the mayor when President Barack Obama visited. Nor was there any city financial assistance for ProHealth Care. (Although Scrima is trying to make up for it now by trying to scuttle the joint venture health care clinic with the county and the school district.) Scrima claims he saved us from buying water from Milwaukee, even though it was Milwaukee’s decision not to sell it to us. Scrima claims credit for the letter of intent with Oak Creek, but Scrima played no role in the negotiations and even opposed Waukesha getting water from the Great Lakes.
Scrima also claims he saved the taxpayers money. However, the first two budgets were made possible by a city administrator Scrima chased out of town and a Common Council willing to find the spending cuts. After that, Scrima proposed a $136 per head garbage fee and the following year watched from the sidelines as the tax levy went up 2.74 percent, above the rate of inflation of 1.7 percent.
But beyond the false campaign rhetoric, there is just a terrible record as a leader of a community.
One of the first dramas after Scrima took office was when he tried to use city funds to buy a campaign contributor’s books and force city employees to read it. Because of the religious nature of the book, some of the employees balked, and the scandal came to light. Scrima eventually backed down and paid for the books with his New Day Fund.
Then the Common Council had to step in to manage then-City Administrator Lori Luther because at least some of them feared the city would be sued because the mayor was allegedly creating a hostile working environment. Luther finally left.
Scrima’s precious GuitarTown project began with a secret pass-through of $10,000 through the books of the downtown Business Improvement District, one of the first Scrima dominoes in that organization’s collapse. Scrima then asked the GuitarTown organizers (including Alderman Andy Reiland) to not cooperate with my inquiries. Scrima even sent an email to the BID Executive Director Meghan Sprager asking her to stall my open records requests.
This happened after the Waukesha Freeman sued the mayor on a different open records request.
There has been so much drama the last four years, we almost forget that a city employee alleged the mayor tried to run him over with his car in the City Hall parking lot. Whatever really happened that day, we have Scrima’s word that even though he almost hit the employee, and the employee appeared to be in a daze, Scrima did not even bother to stop to check on the employee. Apparently that supposedly nice Christian Scrima fell asleep in church during the parable of the good Samaritan.
Maybe Scrima was in a hurry to catch up on his studies. He used the office travel and conference budget two years in a row to fund his trip to Harvard School of Business seminars.
Current City Administrator Ed Henschel finds himself locked in a battle with the mayor in the latest drama, this time over the proposed joint venture health clinic. Scrima asked that the city hear a new proposal from losing bidder Pro-Health Care, who just happens to be a toptier contributor to GuitarTown. Henschel is declining, citing ethical concerns about granting a do-over to one bidder but not the others.
The question for city voters is whether they want to continue with the drama, the lying, the blunders and the use of city money for Scrima’s personal benefit. If that’s the record voters have in mind on Tuesday, Shawn Reilly will be our next mayor.
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)