Public Policy Forum Blog

Framing the issues for the county executive candidates

During the past three years, the Public Policy Forum has churned out more than a half-dozen reports on issues pertaining to Milwaukee County government as part of our mission to educate the public about key policy issues impacting the region's economy and quality of life.

Those include an award-winning report on the county's transit funding crisis; a comprehensive review of the fiscal condition of its parks system and cultural facilities; another award-winning assessment of its overall fiscal condition; a redesign plan for its adult mental health system; and a carefully-researched analysis of potential substantive changes to its governance structure.

Today, we release a 2011 Milwaukee County Executive Election Brief that describes and frames those issues in a manner designed to be comprehensible to voters and helpful to the candidates themselves. The report begins with an overview of Milwaukee County’s budget and finances that provides a broad sense of the county’s budgetary structure and its longstanding fiscal challenges. Then, it summarizes and updates our recent research on the structural deficit, mass transit, mental health, and parks/recreation/culture. Each section concludes with a set of questions and policy considerations that should be foremost in the minds of candidates and voters.

Our goal, as always, is to cut through the politics and boil down these controversial issues to their basics. Doing so shows that in many respects, the issues and problems facing Milwaukee County government are elementary in nature and demand equally elementary, yet politically difficult, responses. Our hope is that the candidates will acknowledge the relatively uncomplicated roots of the county's challenges and candidly discuss their proposed solutions.

The full report can be accessed here. Also, tomorrow's the last day to sign up here for our February 4 county executive candidates forum, at which the report will be discussed.

Rob Henken