Blaska Policy Werkes

No money for more Madison police but plenty for Common Council staff


UPDATE: Was there a roll call on approving the contract for the hiring of a Common Council chief of staff? No there was not. The voice vote in favor was declared unanimous.

I am put in mind of my old seat mate on the Dane County Board, the late Bill Hitzemann, who farmed in the Town of Blue Mounds. Bill acted the country bumpkin from the “Shiftless Area,” his typically humorous term for the Driftless Area of western Dane County that had not been scoured by the glaciers. In truth, he was a well read conservative intellectual, constantly pressing reading material into my hands.

No one cried out “Roll Call” more than Bill. As often as not, the roll would reveal the vote as 36 to 1, the one and lonely being Supervisor Hitzemann. Bill would smile with satisfaction. His brave opposition had been recorded for posterity.

I am put in mind of Bill Hitzemann for two reasons, the first and most important of which is that the roll was not called for an important vote conducted on June 6, 2017, when the Madison Common Council voted — in a voice vote — the creation of a council chief of staff.

Tonight (12-5-17), the Council (agenda here) will formally hire that chief of staff, one Kwasi K. Obeng of Chicago, at an annual salary of $105,000 plus civil service benefits. Or is it $107,000?

Nice work if you can get it

Kwasi Obeng

Common Council president Marsha Rummel announced Monday night  that Mr. Obeng will get a $2,000 raise before ever having been hired.

Rummel explained that “the Common Council Executive Committee  selected him and then introduced the contract on the Council floor the same day. I’ve been told that this turnaround was faster than the usual process,” Rummel added in what must surely be the understatement of the day.

The new hire apparently received — or, at least, claims — he got a counter-offer from his employer. Other city employees are getting a 1% pay raise. The new chief of staff’s hike works out to 2% but never mind, he is exempt from the civil service rules — but not the fringe benefits!

The position was created as a counter-balance to Mayor Paul Soglin. A full-time strategist and lobbyist for the anti-Soglin faction. Not even the state legislature has a chief of staff.

The Common Council votes tonight on the contract. Ald. Paul Skidmore tells me he is a No vote. Paul, call the roll! But we do know who sponsored this unnecessary accretion of government. They are:

Alds. Rebecca Kemble, Marsha A. Rummel, Samba Baldeh, Denise DeMarb, Sheri Carter, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, Matthew J. Phair, Michael E. Verveer.

Voted against more police but sponsored $100,000+ in more Council staff

The first five voted against adding more local dollars to the application for a federal police grant (the sixth was Ald. Amanda Hall). No money for police, but plenty of money for Common Council bureaucracy.

Since the police money was tied to the federal grant, under council rules, a three-fourths majority must authorize releasing the local match. That’s 15 votes — one more than voted for the Skidmore amendment. Getting that extra vote is a tall order. In our observation of that roll call, Bidar-Sielaff hesitated before mumbling her Yes vote.

True north, true Willett

Now, to close my Bill Hitzemann analogy, congratulations to my old friend Dennis O’Loughlin on retiring after 20 years on the county board. Dennis spearheaded construction of the new courthouse, terribly compromised though it is.

The very substantial Capital Newspapers story that ran Sunday called Dennis “the last of the old guard of conservatives on the board, in the mold of Lyman Anderson, Don Heiliger and Bill Hitzemann, and brothers Mike and David Blaska.” Oddly, the Blaska Policy Werkes can find no equivalent news media encomium for Lyman Anderson, not even at his death in 2005, although former governor Tommy Thompson spoke at his standing-room only memorial service in the Oregon High School auditorium. This county board notice will have to suffice.

Supv. Willett

I have yet to see any notice of the well deserved retirement of another former colleague, Mike Willett, who represents Verona. So this will have to suffice. Mike has been a stalwart conservative, most recently fighting against the liberals’ folly of reducing the capacity of the new county jail. (Story here.) Mike Willett also fought the new wheel tax. Dennis, you’re a nice guy (a problem your Squire never had) but you voted with the liberal majority for both. (UPDATE: and voted against allowing town governments to opt out of county zoning, a goal of conservatives since Lyman Anderson was candling eggs.)

Anderson, Heiliger, and Hitzemann — and Willett and Skidmore — were and are men of courage — not afraid to buck the prevailing political winds. To be on the losing end of a 37 to one vote. Their compass stayed true north no matter the election results.