Milwaukee County First, a partisan crew of left-wing bloggers, has recently published an article that betrays the pretense of being a legitimate non-profit organization. Unfortunately, they continue to use outdated material (even after being corrected) to help furnish support for a petition that highlights problems that just don't exist. MCF's petition, which has acquired a meager 65 signatures in the past few weeks, is trying to send a powerful message to Madison that Milwaukee County's parks, transit, and EMS desperately need saving. However, it's somewhat difficult to be convincing when the parks, transit, and EMS have all received national recognition for excellence within the past 13 months. Well, let's be honest here. It's difficult to convince Madison lawmakers to represent your interests when your only tool of persuasion is a petition of 65 signatures.
It has become apparent that Milwaukee County First considers the speculations of County Supervisor Chris Larson to be a matter of fact even though evidence points to the contrary. Milwaukee County First says,
"Let’s say that Walker’s proposal goes through — an odd thing, but not out of the question — and an express bus route is put in. What will happen to the existing east-west routes? County Supervisor Chris Larson was quoted on WUWM-FM this morning saying that he predicts the county executive 'would cut existing bus routes in the east-west corridor if the county creates the rapid transit line.' In other words, a few would be served by the shiny new buses, while much of the central city would be left in the lurch. The story also notes that 'Larson believes the county executive will suggest gutting the current transit system, in order to pay for the rapid buses — increasing fares, and cutting routes.
Big cuts to transit are seen as a real possibility in the forthcoming county budget proposal. The September 9 issue of the Shepherd Express asked some of the right questions about the local transit situation, including if a sales tax boost could rescue local transit."
A few things here. First, at a meeting with Hispanics on September 17th, Scott Walker stated that he will not cut existing bus routes . Although the Hispanic Conservative broke the story first, more details are expected to be announced this Wednesday or Thursday.
Second, cuts in the transit system are not likely because Milwaukee County will receive substantial federal aid (at least $29 million) for 125 new clean diesel buses. Coupled with the fact that county bus routes will stay intact, it appears that MCF arbitrarily chooses which county supervisor to quote and which one to ignore.
And third, Milwaukee County First quotes County Supervisor Chris Larson who is "predicting" what Scott Walker "might" do while entirely ignoring County Supervisor Joseph Rice's comments of what Walker has actually done. Supervisor Rice says this of Scott Walker,
"Earlier this week the County Executive announced that he intends to maintain, and in some cases moderately increase, funding for safety net programs such as homeless shelters, disability, and other services relied upon by vulnerable Milwaukee County residents.
This is welcome news from the County Executive who is to be commended for preserving core services in Milwaukee County despite the overwhelming budget deficit facing Milwaukee County. The County’s budget shortfalls, estimated at up to $90 million, require tough decisions and the County Executive appears to be fashioning a budget that respects both the neediest of populations and county taxpayers.”
The real question is why Milwaukee County First isn't joining Supervisor Rice in commending County Executive Scott Walker? In the past two weeks, Walker has committed to funding the county EMS program, Disability Aid, the Family Care Program, the Homeless Shelter, and now he has announced he will keep bus routes intact. Virtually every discretionary program in the county will be fully funded, and this is certainly good news for Milwaukee County. Right?
The name of Liebenthal's non-profit is "Milwaukee County First". One would then expect coverage of events that put Milwaukee County on the right track to improvement. Milwaukee has a projected budget shortfall of $70 to $90 million and an unemployment rate sitting at a record high. In the past two weeks, Scott Walker has announced the full funding of virtually every program that targets the most needy. Shouldn't this be something newsworthy for MCF to report? After all, they claim to be a grassroots network from all walks of life.
On the contrary, the Chris Liebenthal bizarrely praises the partisan attack on Scott Walker leveled by the Milwaukee County Board for funding such programs. The Milwaukee County Board criticized Walker because they think he's trying to make himself look like "knight in shining armor." One would think that the Board would be happy that Walker has just made their jobs a whole hell of a lot easier by doing what they would have done anyway.
Instead, they attack Walker, and Liebenthal thinks it's the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, he thinks it's so great that he suggests they should write for his blog. Of course, he also said that he would have to teach them to "stop pulling their punches".
Well Chris, the Milwaukee County Board just blasted the Executive for fully funding programs for the poor, the disabled, and for the County's emergency services. This is happening during the most financially pressing times since the great depression; or so we're told. Perhaps you would like to flog the man yourself for not doing enough? Walker will increase funding to the paratransit services and will expand a pilot program called "New Freedom" without raising the fares. And yet there is not one report of this on your website praising Walker for putting Milwaukee County First.
And finally, Milwaukee County First says this,
"Most shockingly, according to the Journal Sentinel, Walker has also called for “increasing the county tax levy support for paratransit by $1.1 million in 2010, to $3.5 million.” That’s right — Mr. Taxes Are Bad has called for a tax increase!"
This is blatant misinformation. The county tax levy this year is $257,637,284, which is the same amount it was last year. There is no net tax increase. This means that Walker has called for a "shifting" or "re-prioritizing" of services so the paratransit (busing for the disabled) will receive more funding. This is no different than someone turning off his home phone and HBO services and then applying those savings to make up the difference when purchasing a new car. Better put, it's reallocating funds to areas of higher priority, not raising taxes on Milwaukee County.
When it comes to County Executive Scott Walker, Milwaukee County First has demonstrated a vile prejudice and absolute inability to keep their facts straight. As long as they disseminate false or fragmented information, we will be here to set the record straight.