Some of us want you to succeed, Mr. Abele. So here is some advice, unsolicited, but sincere.
First, walk in the shoes of your county supervisors. Many of these folks need the pay they earn. When you threaten their incomes, you won’t get any passes on your policies and probably won’t get their support on much else. This ain’t Dale Carnegie, but common sense. It is at least one reason why 38 of your 39 vetoes were recently overridden.
Instead of fighting and threatening them, try working with them. Compromise is not a dirty word.
Second, several of your ideas to make Milwaukee County operate better are excellent. Can we handle mental health in a different way? Does the county need such a large Sherriff’s Department when there are no unincorporated municipalities here? You have used facts and statistics in your argument. This is a good step.
But why not meet each supervisor personally to get the accommodations you seek? Listen to them. After all, the county supervisors have more power than the elites who are giving you advice. Yes, this will take some work, but as an ancient philosopher said, “I shall conquer all of my enemies by making them my friends!”
Third, understand that as a child of privilege, you cannot always get your way. Be patient. Look to the example of your friend, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who works in a similar environment but manages to form coalitions.
At Barrett’s State of the City address, he gave full credit to friends and foes for the efforts they have made to move the city ahead. Some of these aldermen, by the way, don’t always support him.
Fourth, walk the “factory floor.” This was something that former County Executive Scott Walker did only for photo opportunities, but you can go and listen to what your employees are saying. You might get some good suggestions from them. I suspect that your dad did this, at least in the beginning, to get good ideas on quality, efficiency and co-operation.
Fifth, admit to yourself that the reason to reduce the size of the County Board has more to do with power than economics. Do you perceive that a smaller board will be weaker and easier to control? Well, guess again. A larger constituency gives a bigger platform to each supervisor. Perhaps you could pull back on your support to reduce the Board.
My advice is unsolicited, and might be unwelcome. After all, I do not live in Milwaukee County. But I work here 10 to 11 hours a day, worship at a downtown church and operate a foundation that helps county residents. Before moving to Grafton (at my wife’s request), I ran two commissions, was a River Hills trustee and sat on several committees that aimed to improve life in the community. So, bottom line, I have a stake in the success of Milwaukee County and of you as county executive.
Bob Chernow is a Milwaukee businessman.