Patti Wenzel

Stone says experience, integrity will help him lead Milwaukee

By - Mar 22nd, 2011 04:00 am

Jeff Stone discusses the issues before the Milwaukee Press Club. Photos by Patti Wenzel.

At a recent appearance before the Milwaukee Press Club, Jeff Stone said he has three reasons why voters should choose him on April 5 for Milwaukee County Executive: experience, quality ideas, and integrity.

His experience as a state and local legislator. His ideas to fund transit, cost savings for health care and consolidation of services with municipalities. His integrity to follow through and fight for his beliefs.

Except for a slight jab at his opponent, Chris Abele, whom he described as “having trouble with figuring out the law,” Stone stayed above the fray and focused on what he plans on doing as the next executive.

Of course, the discussion focused on the proposed cuts in Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget and the recent passage of the budget repair bill. Stone has expressed support for both, but also some apprehension at the details in both documents.

“I am neither for nor against Walker, but I have a different approach,” Stone said. “We have had this problem for over 10 years (budget deficits) and I would have preferred changes to the mediation and arbitrator process. But I agree with the governor that we have no choice but to give the municipalities the tools to solve this. We’re at a point of no other choice than to take dramatic action.”

Stone plans to use those tools to avoid making economic layoffs of county employees.

“Executive Walker was unable to get agreements, so he had to use furloughs,” Stone said. “Now we can address the issues that increase costs and keep them working.”

Stone acknowledged that the governor is proposing to cut more than $25 million in state aids to the county, including $7 million from buses. He openly disagrees with that cut and would like to see more support for regional transit authorities.

But he said there are staffing and labor changes that can be made within MCTS  that could save $1 million and he would like to see a portion of the automobile sales tax diverted into a dedicated fund for transit purposes. That could take the burden of transit off of property taxpayers, but that type of change would need the approval of the legislature and support of the governor.

“This is a top priority for me,” he said. “Buses and RTAs are the key to growth in the community and we need to work regionally for funding over the long term.”

He added that his contacts and experience in Madison will make his attempts to make that funding happen easier than that of his opponent.

Stone also has consolidation plans, inside the courthouse and out. In his prepared statements, he announced the consolidation of labor negotiations, benefit management and human resources under one manager. He explained that bringing everything related to employees under one department will make it easier to incorporate the changes in compensation coming from the state.

Outside of the courthouse, Stone will pursue consolidation with the municipalities for services through the creation of a liaison position. This position will be located in the courthouse and will work to find partnerships that can save the cities and villages money and can also save the county dollars.

Stone has plans to introduce a health and wellness program for county employees, similar to those at large private employers such as QuadGraphics and Northwestern Mutual Insurance.

“You can’t solve the health care cost problems with a larger (insured) pool. We can’t just cost shift. If the county pools with MPS it might result in short-term savings, but we need to pursue policies that drive down use, improve delivery and improve health and wellness.”

Stone will consider privatizing some county functions and also the possibility of selling or leasing surplus properties. He points to the success of such private/public partnership such as the Bartollota’s Northpoint Custard Stand or the Starbucks in Red Arrow Park, as an example to follow. However, he says he will not move forward with any sales before implementing a full study of the economic benefits.

He would use the funds from any sale or lease agreement to build a reserve fund for the parks, not for general county operational costs.

Jeff Stone on the Assembly floor.

“Our parks are a gem in the nation,” he said. “We can’t recreate the history of this emerald necklace. We have to protect that because 100 years from now we will have what other communities will want.”

Stone looks forward to working with Tom Barrett to solve shared problems. He noted his work with Barrett on RTA legislation and authoring legislation that has benefited the city. And he believes he is tough enough to work with Chairman Lee Holloway, the self-described “Godzilla” of the county board.

“I worked with the board and the chairman on the pension bonding issue and helped move it through the legislature,” he said. “I also believe the chair will work with me on behavioral health changes.”

Stone plans on implementing the Public Policy Forum’s recommendations of small 16-bed housing units and private partnerships for crisis care.

“I am relentless, I don’t stop and I keep working until I am done.”

Stone has a long career in politics having served in the state assembly for 12 years and on the Greenfield City Council for 4 years. In addition, he has served on numerous organizations and authored a variety of legislation beneficial to Milwaukee County communities.

  • Member, Milwaukee County Historical Society Board of Directors
  • Member, Greendale Lions Club
  • Member, Greenfield Beautification Committee
  • Member, Milwaukee Parks People
  • Former officer, Greenfield Chamber of Commerce
  • Former member, Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee
  • Volunteer member, Greenfield Land Use Planning Committee
  • Volunteer member, City of Greenfield Board of Health

Stone authored two bills with former state representative Antonio Riley at the request of the City of Milwaukee that changed registration requirements for motor vehicles and another that admitted certain police reports for preliminary hearings.

He also wrote the law that allows for “Segway” type vehicles on sidewalks and streets, worked to obtain federal transportation funds to pay for repairs to the Hoan Bridge and worked on legislation authorizing the creation of Neighborhood Improvement Districts (at the request of the city of Milwaukee).

Stone and Abele will face off in the general election on April 5. For more information on voting locations or voter registration, please visit the Milwaukee County Election Commission.

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