by Karen Royster
In August, the county leaders announced that there could be severe cuts in parks, swimming pools, bus service, programs for the poor, and transportation for people with disabilities as well as elimination of cleaning and maintenance in many county buildings. Shortly after this announcement, 32 organizations and religious groups came together to establish the Alliance to Protect the Public Good because they care deeply about the public structures that make Milwaukee a good place to live. For generations, we have invested in building a strong county system with good parks, an efficient bus system, courts, sheriffs, services for abused children, programs for senior citizens and help for those in need. Now, we are watching our investment be taken apart. The Alliance is fighting for adequate funding to keep these public structures strong and ensure honest oversight to make them effective. The Alliance is working to prevent cuts in county programs this year and to enact long term tax reforms to protect public structures for the future.
The partners include park and environmental groups who believe that the parks, lakes, river ways and gardens are treasures built over time that allows all residents access to health, beauty, enjoyment and activity. The park system is a major resource attractive to business investors, young professionals, retiring seniors and family homebuyers but the parks have suffered funding cuts for over 10 years and staffing is at an all time low which leaves weedy fields, garbage on the playgrounds, broken equipment and dirty waterways.
Bus riders are another stakeholder group. Currently, bus fares are the highest in the whole United States but we dont have as many routes, we cant get to places we need to and we have to wait too long to catch a bus. The County Executive wants to raise these fares significantly.
There is a lot at stake this year as the County Board decides on a budget plan for 2007. The Alliance has a plan that could prevent many cuts. This plan would:
a) Reduce the amount of money put into the pension plan from $59 million to $40 million. This $40 million is still almost twice as much as was put in last year.
b) Use the $5 million surplus discovered in July for 2007 expenses.
c) Raise property taxes slightly. If the average homeowner pays an extra $35 a year, we would raise $10 million that could be used for parks, buses, and programs for those in need.
The Alliance will be distributing information on the County budget plan and organizing residents to contact their County Supervisors to protest the cuts.
Concerned? Contact County Supervisors Willie Johnson, Jr. (Riverwest & Harambee) or Gerry Broderick (East Side) or County Executive Scott Walker. ~Ed.
Riverwest Currents online edition – October, 2006