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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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The Milwaukee Department of Public Works is having a tough year, but they don't need to lie to the taxpayers.

I always did find it frustrating. The City of Milwaukee constantly reminds property owners they have 24 hours after a snowfall to shovel their sidewalks. If you don't... they'll fine you. That's fair.

Not fair, is that throughout the City, properties owned by the City are routinely left unshoveled. I know this having lived in the City for 7 years, and having covered news in every neighborhood in Milwaukee. There are City owned lots that I'm confident don't get shoveled or plowed all winter long.

Recently we've done stories about a north side neighborhood that finally got fed up and started making some noise about the unshoveled, City owned properties on their blocks. For days we followed the promises of Milwaukee's DPW to get out there and take care of the problem. To their credit, they finally did.

In their defense, the folks at DPW revealed they're responsible for 3,000 City properties, for which they have only 2 full time staffers. They then offer that because of this, sometimes they occasionally miss some properties.

Not true. Every year, some properties never get touched. C'mon. Do the math.

If those two staffers shoveled 100 properties a day, every day... it would take them a month to reach them all. I don't know 2 guys who can get to 100 properties a day.

What's a realistic number? If this super shoveling tandem hit 5 properties an hour... they'd shovel out 50 in a ten hour day. Even that seems like unlikely, and that would make it 2 months until the City got to every property.

So what gives? If you really have only 2 guys for all those properties, the statement that occasionally some properties are missed is disingenuous, if not flatly dishonest.

I'm guessing the truth is, DPW knows it doesn't have the staff to get to all those properties. That's not their fault. They don't set their own budget. They know they need more people to do the job right, if at all. But then they need to say that.

They need to be honest and say if they worked their 2-man crew all winter long, they'd never get to every property after every snowfall. They need to say that they just figure people won't complain. They need to say they figure when people do complain they'll likely be ignored. They need to say that if those same people then finally contact the media, they'll get their neighborhood sidewalks shoveled when the PR starts to get real ugly for DPW.

I'm not cracking on those workers. They're probably some of the most overworked people in Southeast Wisconsin. I'm not cracking on their immediate bosses who are likely doing all they can with the limited resources they have. I'm cracking on the politicians both elected and buried in the bureaucracy.

You have a job to do. Fund it. Staff it. Do it.

Well, they'll say... then we have to raise taxes. Are you kidding me? I paid nearly 5 grand in property taxes on my Milwaukee home which was by no means a mansion. It didn't even have a garage! You're telling me with that kind of annual tax chunk coming in, people can't have a reasonable expectation that you shovel the properties you own?

I'm glad we did this story to expose the hypocrisy that runs rampant in large bureaucracies. Do as we say, not as we do. I also applaud the people of that north side neighborhood who finally had enough, and got the City to go out there and take care of its business. Stay on 'em and keep 'em honest.




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