Thursday, September 17th, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker met with Hispanics at Tres Hermanos. The purpose of the meeting was to listen to various concerns and to provide feedback as to what Hispanics can expect from Walker if and when he is elected governor. It was a good showing, and many people raised important issues.
Walker began the meeting by providing a brief overlay of his gubernatorial platform, which included fiscal problems in Wisconsin, how the office of governor ought to function (chief advocate vs. chief bureaucrat), and how we can prevent lost revenue in Wisconsin. Walker stressed the problem of state taxes and how it contributes to both jobs vacating the state and retirees electing to move south. The latter, according to Walker, presents a lost opportunity for small and medium sized businesses as retirees choose to spend their resources outside the state. After this brief prelude, he took questions from some Hispanics associated with the business community.
As education was discussed, Walker said that a mayoral takeover of MPS was an interesting idea and would support it if and only if more changes were implemented to ensure that it wasn't just a change in bureaucracy. He favored the notion of partitioning MPS into smaller districts for purposes of increased control and accountability. He also favored lifting the cap on charter schools in Milwaukee stating that students in charter schools outperform those in public schools. Walker also addressed the problem that public schools have with truancy and the importance of eliciting more parental involvement.
Walker wanted to clear up any concerns that he was not pro-life (not sure who was questioning his credentials in this area). He touted his pro-life stance and disapproved of any health care proposal that uses tax dollars to fund abortions. Ironically, a new Rasmussen poll just released today showed that 48% don't want public sponsored health care to cover abortions while only 13% favor it. This shows that Walker's view is in the clear majority with respect to life issues.
Emmanuel Perez, President of the Hispanic GOP of Wisconsin, addressed the apparent difficulty that smaller minority businesses experience when trying to compete with larger non-minority businesses. Walker agreed that some attention needs to be spent on why smaller minority businesses are excluded from a bidding process that union-based businesses seem to enjoy. Walker branched off and said he did not support the notion of "card check" floating around Congress. He believed that the Employee Free Choice Act would have a devastating effect on smaller businesses if legislated. He also pointed out that smaller minority businesses were used by the county to do noise abatement work for neighborhoods near the airport. This, in turn, helped secure more jobs for these contractors as customers learned to appreciate their quality craftsmanship and spread their credentials by word of mouth.
The majority of Walker's time was spend on how to create an environment that keeps jobs in Wisconsin. After a Latino had mentioned his small business in Texas, Walker took the time to explain how Texas should be used as a model for business growth. He said that Texas created more jobs than the other 49 states combined, and this is what happens when money is directed into the hands of the people and the employers.
Unlike at the Neumann meeting over a week ago, I asked Walker only one question. I mentioned to Walker that my mother-in-law is from El Salvador. She is disabled and is currently living in Greenfield. She has no drivers license, so she depends upon the bus system to get around the city. I asked him whether the $6.5 million he gained from selling 13 acres of county grounds property would actually prevent the County from cutting bus routes. Walker said that the bus routes and the frequency that buses travel these routes would stay intact, but there would be some small "internal modifications". This, he added, was a sneak peek of what he will release at his next budget meeting (Next Thursday, I presume). So I guess I beat Steve Schultze to the punch on this one, and I didn't have to camp out at the Courthouse to do it either. Sorry Steve, I have too much going on.
In the past two weeks, Walker has agreed to fund the county EMS program, Disability Aid, the Family Care Program, the homeless shelters, and now he said he will fund the County Transit without cutting any routes. Virtually every discretionary program mentioned so far will be funded, which is making county employees a bit nervous. And with good reason, there is a projected $90 million shortfall, and therefore something will need to be sacrificed to balance the budget. The Milwaukee County Board is also agitated because Walker, by providing aid to popular county programs, is beating them to the punch and taking their credit.
In fact, it bothered them so much that they decided to give a press release whining about how good Walker is looking. It's not fair that Walker gets to save the day by funding programs for the poor, the disabled, and the otherwise needy. Only liberals are allowed to do this. In other words, if he cuts these programs, then he doesn't care about the poor, the elderly, and so on; but if he funds these programs, then he's playing politics for his gubernatorial campaign. It seems like a Republican just cannot win in Milwaukee County.
My only beef with the Milwaukee County Board is why they care. Let's pretend they are right for a moment. Let's pretend that Walker told his County Supervisors to produce skeleton budget proposals so he can come in as the "Knight in Shining Armor" fully funding discretionary programs. So what? Either way, Walker is making their job a whole lot easier by giving them what they already want. If Walker had decided to cut aid to these programs, they would have fought him tooth and nail to preserve them while crying to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. So why are they whining now? It's called politicking.
Overall, the meeting was good. Walker demonstrated a solid grasp of issues that pertained to businesses, education, and the overall needs of the Hispanic community. We only hope that Scott carefully takes our concerns to heart and learns to incorporate them into his overall message of restoring Wisconsin to its former glory.