County Executive Chris Abele delivered an upbeat 2014 State of the County address on Monday.
Abele says his goal is to continue making monumental changes for the good. Some people who attended don’t see quite as rosy a picture.
When County Executive Chris Abele took center stage to deliver the annual address, he pointed to the county transit center near Milwaukee’s lakefront.
“I’m proud to tell you that you can now bid you can now bid your fond farewell to that building and start looking forward to the Couture. In addition to creating thousands of jobs and providing a stunning addition to the Milwaukee skyline, the Couture represents what can happen when enough of us all work together, persist through challenges and debate and never lose focus on opportunity,” Abele says.
Abele has been lobbying to let a developer build a high rise called the Couture in place of the transit center. Arguments persist as to whether the land must remain public, but state leaders recently passed a bill, stating the land can be privately developed.
Abele highlighted another project underway just a few blocks north – it’s where Northwestern Mutual will construct a new office tower.
“These two building represent a powerful and undeniably positive statement about a real commitment to Milwaukee--a belief in the vibrancy of its future. In addition to making a huge impact on the downtown skyline, I see both buildings serving as giant exclamation points at the end of the sentence, Milwaukee County is coming back,” Abele says.
Besides touting construction projects, Abele says fiscally, Milwaukee County is stronger than in the past – with its debt decreasing.
He also spent a lot time talking about what he says democracy should be—people serving an idea, not a political party.
County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic says she has a slightly different view of democracy, at least on one item. Next Tuesday, county voters will decide whether to slash supervisors’ pay and benefits. Abele supports the referendum.
“That’s not an example of working together. It’s been a tough year, and as I’ve said before, on April 1st the voters have a decision before them in a referendum that was written by the state of Wisconsin. It’s confusing and I’ve called it a sham, I think it is because even if the voters to choose to vote no, the cuts have already been made to the county board and a lot of power has been consolidated into one persons hands, which is dangerous for democracy,” Dimitrijevic says.
Dimitrijevic says it’s also time for Abele to restart the process of hiring a company to run the transit system. The board rejected Abele’s first choice saying the bidding process was flawed and the firm was unlikely to meet its promises.
Supervisor David Bowen says he wishes he’d heard more about concerns affecting his constituents.
“My issues are in my district are poverty related, and making sure we can focus on jobs and economic development. He touched on that a little bit today on the economic development side. I don’t know about poverty, but that’s why we moved on the living wage ordinance and we got that done,” Bowen says.
The ordinance calls for the county to pay its workers and those who work for contractors at least $11.32 an hour.
Abele did not mention the issue during his address, but afterward, he said opposes the minimum county wage because it’s higher than that federal government’s and excludes union members.