- Views & Opinions
Earlier this year, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele decisively won a bitter re-election battle against state Sen. Chris Larson and his coalition of backers with animus toward Abele. With that divisive experience in the rearview mirror, we had hoped that county supervisors would move the interests of their constituents to the top of their agenda, where they belong. Instead, many supervisors seem mired in scorched-earth political mode. They appear far more interested in outmaneuvering Abele than serving the county’s residents.
Their latest shenanigan is an effort to obstruct Abele’s reappointment of Héctor Colón as director of the Department of Health and Human Services.
By a vote of 3–2, the Milwaukee County Board Health and Human Needs Committee rejected Colón. A definitive vote by the entire board is scheduled for Sept. 22.
Whatever the outcome, the three committee members who rejected Colón show how destructive they’re willing to go just to thwart Abele at the county’s expense.
By any reasonable measure, Colón’s six-year tenure in the position has been exceptional. Among the many community organizations calling for his reappointment are the Milwaukee Urban League, Disability Rights Wisconsin, the American Public Human Services Association, the United Community Center, and the Combined Community Services Board.
Colón’s supporters cite a number of achievements on his part, including:
• Success in securing a $2.4 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help end chronic homelessness.
• A 70 percent decrease in chronic homelessness. (Colón’s foes dispute this figure, using twisted reasoning to justify their aim of discrediting it.)
• Ending a 12-year waiting list for Section 8 housing.
• The transition of hundreds of mentally challenged people into community-living arrangements.
• Implementation of more than $20 million dollars of new or enhanced community-based services that have led to a 34 percent decrease in emergency detentions and a 20 percent decrease in emergency room visits.
• Numerous awards from national, state and community groups.
The list goes on, towering over the objections — most of them dubious — to Colón’s performance in office. Looked at side by side, it’s obvious that the real motive for opposing Colón is politics. Just consider the three supervisors who voted against his reappointment.
Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic seems to oppose Abele with every breath she takes. She heads the Working Families Party of Wisconsin, a left-wing tea party-style group that was Larson’s leading donor.
Also rejecting Colón was Sequanna Taylor, who was endorsed and backed by Dimitrijevic’s group. The third vote against Colón came from Supreme Moore Omokunde, who was also a Larson backer. He cited Colón’s lack of transparency as a reason for opposing him, which was hypocritical to say the least: Omokunde was one of seven supervisors who defeated a transparency measure that would have allowed the public to see budget amendments prior to final committee votes.
Colón has earned reappointment. And the residents of Milwaukee County deserve representatives who make decisions based on merit rather than personal grudges.
We’d like to remind Colón’s detractors that the AbeleLarson race is over and their horse lost. Get over it.