Sunday, August 25th, 2019

Mayor should offer more than vision, surprise vetoes


Since I’m a little behind in everything, here is the part of my column from last Friday that deals with Mayor Jeff Scrima and the city budget.

Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Nov 12, 2010; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A

Mayor should offer more than vision, surprise vetoes
Past time for passive-agressive budgeting

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

Instead of writing a column this week, I thought I would take my cue from Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima, when the mayor said he wants the Common Council to trim the city budget by $110,701 but was not willing to say how.

The office staff in the old television series “Moonlighting” had a great chant of protest: “No work AND pay!” It’s the dream of many elected officials but I never saw one actually try it before.

It was inspiring.

I like to think of myself as a leader, too, an opinion leader. Now I know it is not really my job to offer the little details that make up a good column. My role is to express a vision of what I want to see happen rather than actually make it happen.

My vision is to see roughly 650 words appear every week with my name and picture attached to it. The newspaper column should be about state or local politics, and it should have a joke or two.

Instead of writing this column every week myself, perhaps the good people who copy edit my work could fill in the words. However, I suspect they might not see the wisdom of the suggestion. They might decide to run “The Best of Belling” instead. Permanently.

Alas, the mayor was not able to get away with passive-aggressive budgeting. He eventually did cough up a suggestion on how to trim the budget.

No, it wasn’t taking the money that the mayor promised to return from his pay every year and actually giving it back to the city. Why would he do that?

The mayor has proposed layoffs, “furloughs,” for 1 1/2 days for nonessential public employees. It is not a bad suggestion. The furlough option has certainly been used by other local governments.

The threat of furloughs has been most effective in Milwaukee County, where Governor-elect Scott Walker has used them to try to force county employees to accept wage and benefit concessions. Unfortunately, Scrima is just trying to use the furloughs as a one-time budget gimmick.

It’s also worth noting that the mayor is coming into the budget process rather late, considering his predecessor had a tendency to work with the city administrators ahead of time on the city budgets.

But let’s give the mayor credit. At least the Common Council members know where the mayor stands on the operating budget, and at least he offered a suggestion.

This is, of course, in complete contrast to how he handled the capital improvements budget. After not expressing a clear opinion on the subject of the two fire stations, he vetoed the budget.

As it turns out, the mayor is probably right about the fire stations. They may be able to wait until better financial times.

I just wonder if the mayor had talked to aldermen ahead of time and expressed his concerns how many of them could have been persuaded. Instead, Scrima’s veto caught them by surprise like it was just another of his 4 p.m. memos to the press.

At some point the mayor is going to have to be a little less childish in his dealings with his peers. He is no longer some new kid working at his first real job. He has been mayor since April. He ought to know where to find the phone numbers of the aldermen in the phone book.

As Tony Soprano once said, “Those who want respect give respect.” A little more respect for the mayor’s peers instead of empty-suit showboating might actually advance his stated goals.

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