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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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It sure is easy to spend other people's money.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard or read of a politician or public employee writing off seemingly wasteful spending because, "'s Federal Grant money."

Locals use that excuse all the time when they get called out by the taxpayers for items of questionable cash allocation. In the best of circumstances these officials are accused of buying things we could maybe do without in tight budget times. In the worst of cases, they're just throwing away money. 

Let's say you got a truck full of cash... free... no strings attached. Would you drive around with the rear door open... money pouring out into the street? Would you justify it by saying, "it was free money to begin with."

Aaron Diamant of our Investigative Team did a number of stories about how our tax dollars are being frittered away, even as the politicians cry poor. We have MPS, which just jacked taxpayers for a 16 percent rate hike, spent millions of dollars over the last few years sending people on trips and to conferences and conventions. We're firing librarians and ending music programs, but we're sending administrator to conventions to better our students' opportunities for learning. Nice.

The Milwaukee Police department, again... totally strapped for cash... allowing it's outgoing chief to spend more time at home than in the office all summer, and then sending her to an out-of-state cop convention weeks before she was retiring. Nice. That story was Mick Trevey's.

Then it's Diamant again telling us the City of Milwaukee (which just raised our taxes again) is spending as much as $1400 apiece for "decorative" trash cans.

The cans were part of streetscaping projects, which are generally a good idea.  We all want our city to look nice. You can argue it spurs growth and economic development too. People are more likely to open businesses in nice areas. People are more likely to visit those areas, shop in those areas, raise families in those areas. I'm for streetscaping! It can be money very well spent, and can pay dividends down the road. But One Thousand Four Hundred dollars for a trash can! Nope.

My favorite part in Aaron's story was the video of these "solid gold" trash cans... overflowing with trash. We can afford to spend more than a grand per on a trash can, but we can't afford to hire anyone to empty them! Nice.

A city official also reminded taxpayers that much of the money wasted, I mean spent on those trash cans was from federal grants. I love when they say that. What they're really saying is... well... it's not my money so it's okay if I waste it. I don't care if the city won the lottery, that doesn't mean officials ought to lose judgment and overpay for all sorts of stuff.

You wonder why our taxes are so high? Here's one reason. The entire country is helping Milwaukee pay for 14-hundred dollar trash cans. Meanwhile I'm sure we're buying 500 dollar toilette seats in Nebraska, and a 600 dollar hammer for some city crew in Portland, Maine. . And they're telling the investigative reporters there, "Don't worry... we're wasting federal money, so it's okay."

Money distributed by the federal government is still our money. It's not okay to waste it, no matter where it comes from. If you live in Milwaukee you've got the City, County, MPS, and State already voting to raise your taxes. If only some federal grant money could take the edge off of that.



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