Ed Garvey broke the story this weekend – Scott Walker is considering similar legislation to that of Michigan; giving the Governor sweeping power to take over municipalities deemed in fiscal crisis. The duly elected officials of said municipality would be replaced by an agent or agency of the Governor’s choosing; with power to render lawfully enacted policies null and void. Ten years ago this scenario would have seemed an implausible scenario – today, it may be knocking on our door. As I discovered after some research this weekend, this has been in the works for some time and Scott Walker is just the messenger. Time to name names and shed the light of democracy on this plot to use Wisconsin as a laboratory of privatization.
The blog written by Ed Garvey starts with Foley and Lardner, the largest law firm in Wisconsin and a huge national lobby interest. The high level connection between Walker and Foley-Lardner is well documented, so just a quick refresher. Chief Legal Counsel for the Governor is Brian Hagedorn, formerly of Foley and Lardner. More important is the relationship of one Michael Grebe, the Governor’s Campaign manager to his former employer, Foley and Lardner. Michael Grebe was a practicing partner and CEO of Foley and Lardner, is Chair of the ultra Conservative Bradley Foundation, and most recently the Chair of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Mr. Grebe has been accused of patent theft and has managed to avoid prosecution – but I digress.
Michael Grebe, very close to Scott Walker as his campaign manager, is not only Chair of the Bradley Foundation, he Chairs the Greater Milwaukee Committee http://www.gmconline.org/ . This “committee” has been very active in promoting privatization policy in municipalities and schools for years, becoming very aggressive in all of Southeast Wisconsin. This conservative organization recently started the “Make it Your Milwaukee County” campaign – here is the link to their website http://makeityourmilwaukee.com/ . The campaign has released the four page “My Milwaukee County Initiative”, linked in this pdf :
The-MY-Milwaukee-County-Initiative1 Page 3 is the important section, outlining the need for “fiscal stress tests”, “flexibility” in negotiating contracts, consolidating services, redefining elected Treasurer duties, privatization of services, and more. Many of these initiatives are the first steps to complete privatization of Milwaukee county – especially the “fiscal stress test” language. The group sponsored a completely unscientific, targeted survey to skew the public opinion perception, seen here Overview-of-Public-Opinion-Survey-2-12-11 . The survey was obviously directed to people who would affirm the results they were looking for (probably Alberta Darling’s district), as 75% of the respondents were white. US Census data shows the White non-Hispanic population of Milwaukee to be only 57.4%. A trumped – up survey, and initiatives being touted as “good for business” by a front group for ultra conservative privatization policies, chaired by a guiding force in Scott Walker’s policy making. It gets better.
The following story appeared in the Capital Times on October 16, 2010: http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/article_ad49026d-9a14-5625-90c7-66a03ea6df02.html, following a debate with Tom Barrett. Here is the critical excerpt from that story:
Now, with just over two weeks until the election, Walker is finding himself repeatedly in a position to justify how the Greater Milwaukee Committee — a 32-member committee chaired by his campaign chairman — is recommending not only eliminating the county executive position he has held for the past eight years, but also privatizing the Milwaukee County Zoo. County park programs and bus service also could be on the chopping block.
Walker, who routinely preaches the need for smaller government on the campaign trail, says his proposal to solve the county’s financial problem is much bolder than the recommendations of the committee.
“There is no need to have a county government, which is one way to get out of this without the ‘b’ word,” Walker said prior to Friday’s debate. (The “b” word being “bankruptcy”).
The MY Milwaukee initiative was released in February, 2011 – that quote is from October of last year during the Gubernatorial campaign. Obviously, this is not a new idea. It wasn’t until discovering the full study prepared by the Greater Milwaukee Committee that I realized how long this idea has been “brewing.” Here is the full report, released by the Greater Milwaukee Committee in January of 2010. That’s right, January – 9 months before the debate – long enough to be under the radar, as it were.
MilwaukeeCountyStructure.Full (Yes, it’s long – 163 pages) The title of the study is “Should it Stay or Should it Go?.” In a story dated January 27, 2010 http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/82841867.html , Today’s TMJ4 concluded 10 months before the election:
County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker said the report affirms his own reform plans for the county. The Public Policy Forum’s report was commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, which is chaired by Mike Grebe, Walker’s campaign manager.
To summarize, with references to page numbers :
Page 120 – “Scenario 1” – Eliminate Milwaukee County Government, the option the committee was “specifically commissioned to explore.” This section discusses County functions transferred to the state or an “agency appointed manager or other private authority.”
Page 124 – Discusses the issue of removing duly elected Constitutional Officials, requiring an amendment to the Constitution, but that other offices would be “abolished.”
Page 141 – Demonstrates applicable Massachusetts legislation relevant to Milwaukee County – including privatization of County services, pension “reforms,” County Treasurers eliminated, and regional commissions established for basic government functions with no taxing authority.
Page 149 – The most telling conclusion (remember who the Milwaukee County Executive was at the time):
“…a primary lesson learned is that undertaking a government reform that is so complex and contentious requires resolute leadership from state government and a willingness by the state to devote considerable human resources and an up-front financial investment to the endeavor. In Milwaukee County, the current county executive has expressed support for abolishing county government, but the governor and legislative leaders thus far have been largely absent from any discussion about significant downsizing or outright elimination. The Massachusetts example teaches us that state elected officials not only would have to be in on the discussion, but they would have to lead it.”
The roadmap has been there all along, commissioned (and most likely directed) by Michael Grebe and the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Now to make the connection to Foley and Lardner. On the Greater Milwaukee Committee website, the “Director of Policy” is listed as Brian Schupper, address 301 W. Wisconsin Avenue. Brian Schupper works for Michael Grebe. Brian Schupper is registered on the Wisconsin GAB website as a the “Policy Director” for “Smart Government, Inc.”, address 301 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee (quite the coincidence) http://ethics.state.wi.us/scripts/currentSession/oel.asp?PrinID=4407&start=S&start2= Also registered as lobbyists with Smart Government, Inc are three attorneys – Ray Carey, Jason Childress, and Kathleen Walby. All three are employed by Foley and Lardner in Madison, WI. Ray Carey was the Director of the Wisconsin Assembly Republican Caucus prior to working for Foley and Lardner. The listed lobbying interest is “Public affairs advocacy related to reforming local government.” The final connection – all three are also listed as lobbyists with Koch Company Public Industries, LLC in Madison, WI, their primary lobbying interest.
Michael Grebe, through the Greater Milwaukee Committee has a shell lobbying group called “Smart Government, Inc.”, staffed by Foley and Lardner attorneys who are experts at the legislative process. These attorneys are on the Koch Companies payroll through Koch Co. Public Sector Lobby, LLC; and are engaged in well-funded experimentation on privatization as outlined in the GMC’s study. If there is any doubt about their motives – look at the financiers and powers involved. The Governor and Republican Legislators have put many municipalities on the edge of a fiscal knife by cutting state funds and services. It would be very easy to create a fiscal “emergency” in any one of these cities (or entire counties) based on a well designed “stress test” – to enable a rationalized and systemic privatization of that cities services, assets, and revenues. This would create ample opportunity for corporate barons to open new markets and solidify the corporatization of state services and political power.
Call, write, email every legislator with this information. they must be stopped before a bill is introduced, as it is clear they will stop at nothing to pass such a piece of legislation. And thanks to Ed Garvey for opening the door to this action.