New Kid's View

Family lured Jerrianne and her husband to South Milwaukee in 2002 from Southern California where she worked as, first, a journalist, then, as a court information officer. She now stays busy with media-relations consulting, playing with her three grandchildren (part of the lure), writing, discovering her new environs, and hoping her garden will produce before the first fall frost.

An Executive Position

Chris Abele, Jeff Stone, Patricia Jursik, Marina Dimitrijevic, Tony Day, Al Richards, Tom Zepecki, Hoan bridge, Great Lakes Water Compact, Aerotropolis, Mitchell International Airport, South Shore

Milwaukee County's two county executive candidates took part in tonight's South Shore Forum for Economic Development at South Milwaukee High School. My take away? It's time that an experienced executive serves as the county executive instead of a career politician.

Each candidate, state Assemblyman Jeff Stone and Argosy Foundation President & CEO Chris Abele, was given an opportunity to state their positions on a number of topics such as the Hoan Bridge, the 794 corridor extension, the parks, public transportation, the Great Lakes Water Compact and the Aerotropolis/Mitchell International Airport and the role of each in the economic development of the South Shore communities.

It seemed to me like Abele understood the assignment. He not only talked about the economic-development opportunities of each entity, he appeared to have done his homework. And he spoke with conviction and enthusiasm.

Stone, despite talking about twice as long as the time allotted him, didn't seem to say much. He sounded more like a booster--how great the parks are, how user-friendly the airport is, how convenient he finds the Hoan bridge--and a resume lister--his years as an alderman and participant on regional projects and issues than a visionary for addressing problems and capitalizing on existing assets.

I also didn't hear Stone actually answer the precious few of the hundred or so written questions forum attendees submitted. While Abele was pretty direct, clear and emphatic in replying to a question of how he differs philosophically from his predecessor, Scott Walker--he didn't agree with essentially stripping public-sector employees of the right to bargain collectively or treating some categories of public workers such as police and firefighters differently from others--about all I got from Stone was that while some people think he's just like Walker and others think he's the exact opposite, he's actually neither.

To a question about privatizing the airport, Stone talked about regionalization, which lost me. I didn't understand how his discussion about regionalizing related to privatizing. Answering the same question, Abele said that privatizing is a tactic, not a goal. That the goal should be to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of airport operations and its service to the public. If that could be done by bringing in some private vendors, then that might be worth considering.

I thought back the forum introductory PowerPoint which announced that Mitchell Field is the fastest growing airport in the nation. That made me think that the county must be doing things right, especially given that it is being operated in the black and without any tax expendature.

County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, who participated in a roundtable discussion with Supervisor Patricia Jusik and mayors Tony Day of Cudahy, Al Richards of St. Francis and Tom Zepecki of South Milwaukee as part of the forum, seemed to read my mind. After extolling all the virtures of the airport under county operation, she pretty well summed it up by saying, "If it isn't broken, then there's no need to fix it."

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