Public Rallies for Walker's Vetoes
Residents turned out to support Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's budget vetoes.
Hundreds attended an anti-tax rally at the Italian Community Center in support of Scott Walker’s zero tax levy increase budget proposal while protesters expressed opposition to Walker’s policies outside the center.
The Milwaukee County Executive, who is running for governor, urged the crowd to “keep pressure” on the County Board and their supervisors to uphold Walker’s vetoes.
“I want to talk directly to them, I want to motivate them, I want to encourage them, not only to themselves call or contact members of the County Board… but to try to recruit other people to do the same,” Walker said in an interview.
Orville Seymer is the field operations director for Citizens For Responsible Government (CRG) and an organizer for the rally. “The county always seems to add more spending… and it was time to do something to engage the citizens again and make sure they understood that zero percent actually means zero percent,” he said.
The CRG group staged a similar event last week to drop a proposed wheel tax. They flooded the county switchboard with calls, sent mail and emails, and met with many supervisors directly. “As a result… we slashed the tires on the sales tax,” said CRG Administrator Chris Kliesmet during his speech.
The County Board had proposed the wheel tax, a $20 vehicle registration fee, in place of raising the tax levy. Board members decided to drop the property tax levy increase from 4.4 percent to 3.8 percent.
However, Walker wants to use his veto power to bring the 2010 budget approved by the County Board Tuesday back down to a zero tax increase. The 2010 budget includes a $267 million property tax levy, which is $10 million higher than this year’s $257 million levy.
Walker said he would also veto:
• Denying outsourcing of housekeeping and security jobs
• Funding for staff positions he hopes to privatize
Todd Bouton is a citizen who showed support for a no-increase tax levy at the rally. “It’s not like nobody wants to pay any taxes. It’s just that we don’t want to pay taxes unjustified,” said Bouton.
“Keep The Pressure On”
Walker told the crowd to encourage others to contact their County Board supervisors. “Tell people be courteous… be polite… be kind… but be firm. Don’t give them any reason by being upset and angry to vote the other way,” he said.
Kliesmet urged citizens to keep doing what they did to drop the wheel tax. “Whatever you did last week and the previous month to get us to where we are today, we need to keep doing it. And we need to keep doing it time and time again until they get the message,” said Kliesmet during the rally.
Vicki McKenna, a talk show radio host for 1130 WISN, spoke at the event. She encouraged citizens to “harass” the government. It was the only way to not be ignored, she said. “They feared you on the wheel tax… they need to fear you on the vetoes,” adds McKenna.
“The people have the momentum right now… don’t let it go. Don’t back off. Keep the pressure on. Make your government fear you and harass the holy living hell out of them until they do,” said McKenna to whistles and cheers. She expressed that a government that does not fear its people is a “tyrannical government.”
A Citizen’s Government
Walker stresses the importance of citizen involvement in government to make a difference. “You have demanded your county government back… and that’s exactly what you’re getting,” he said.
The hopes to veto the County Board’s approved budget is only one goal CRG hopes to accomplish.
“Today… we’re going to lay out the battle plan. To not only win this year’s budget battle and the veto battle, but to reestablish, once again, citizen control over county government… once more, and forever,” said Kliesmet to the crowd’s thunderous applause.
James T. Harris, a talk show host for 620 WTMJ, went off the stage and into the crowd during his speech to engage attendees. “We could take it all back. And not just take it back for party’s sake. We need to take it back and put people in the position whose first value is honoring and paying respect to the tax-paying citizens of this nation and this country,” said Harris.
Harris not only supports Walker’s policies, but his run for governor. “I told Scott Walker a year ago that if he were to run for governor, I would be his Oprah,” said a smiling Harris during an interview.
“Walker is sort of the embodiment of the whole idea of government by the people, for the people,” said McKenna in an interview.
Democrats Mayor Tom Barrett and Jared Gary Christiansen are also gubernatorial candidates. Running on the Republican side are Mark Neumann, Mark Todd, Bill Ingram, John Schless, and Scott Paterick.
Protesters outside the rally held homemade signs that displayed slogans like “Veto Walker.” One sign referred to CRG as “Clowns for Ridiculous Government.
They urged people to sign petitions that “support the budget presented by Chairman Lee Holloway and the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.” The petition also stated, “We ask them to stand up to Scott Walker and not allow him to veto the ‘Approved Budget.’”
Jerry Papa, a protester, said Walker does not represent union workers.
“What Mr. Walker’s goal is to take care of the one percent of the people who are corporate leaders. We have to make sure that we get our people in the government so that we can take care of the poor and working class people in this county… that we make sure that this era of Scott Walker is ended,” said Papa.
“We have to get our jobs back, we have to get people working in unionized jobs,” adds Papa.
He also said that a rally is not going to address the bigger issues. “He’s not going to be able to have his one or two-minute sound bites that he can generate and whoop up a crowd on a Saturday afternoon in November. Things are going to get very serious for him… very quickly,” said Papa.
Walker’s vetoes are due Wednesday when the board is scheduled to review them.