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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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The Milwaukee County pension scandal is perhaps the biggest story I've covered here at Today's TMJ4.

I know this, because almost a decade later, we're still talking about it, and still paying for it. It's back in the news this week because the guy in charge when the taxpayers got taken for the ride of a lifetime, that guy thinks you might vote for him again.

I last contacted Tom Ament several years ago. I called him to see if he might do an interview with me, years removed from the scandal that cost him his career in 2002. He was nice enough, but declined. I got the sense he just wanted to move on. I thought he was missing an opportunity to apologize... to say he was wrong, responsible, and sorry for the condition in which his decisions left the County.

Turned out he wasn't about to say any of those things.

He didn't then, and certainly does not now believe it was his fault. An article in Tuesday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out Ament now feels vindicated. A link to the article is below. It's written by Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Umhoefer, who started on the County beat at the height of the pension scandal. Another nice piece of journalism by Dave.

I love it. Really?

Ament, "...can't give up the possibility," of getting into politics again. What will the campaign slogan be? "Vote Ament... I told you it wasn't my fault!"

180,000 people signed the recall petition to get Ament out of office. It's considerably more people than voted to put him in office. Taxpayers bear the unpleasant burden to this day of living in a County that's paying retiring employees hundreds of thousand of dollars on their way out the door, and watching cuts challenge every budget. Services slashed, taxes raised, and the cycle is endless. It's the same story every year.

I played Dretzka golf course on the north side the other week. There were half-foot high dandelions in the fairway! Can't do much about it, apparently. Current County Executive Scott Walker told me in an interview Tuesday that taxpayers will put more money in the pension fund this year than they will contribute to the Parks, Transit, and the Zoo combined! That's with the 30 million dollars or so they won in the settlement with Mercer.

Sure, the settlement with the County's financial adviser certainly shows there's some blame on that firm for not doing its job. Let's not forget, however, the only reason any of this happened is because the Ament Administration was looking to dramatically enhance retirement benefits for County workers.

It was not looking to dramatically enhance taxpayer benefits. It was not looking for a new way to expand transit, serve the parks, build attractions on the lakefront, spend more on mental health services, add resources for the Sheriff's Office. No. The Administration was spending a lot of time and energy devising a way to take care of its own first.

Now, I am terrible at math, and I don't know much about economics. That said, if I'm in charge over there and somebody's trying to tell me we can pay out lottery jackpots to retirees at no cost to the taxpayer I think I'm going to do more than say, "sounds great."

I hope Mr. Ament does run again. It would give voters another chance to remind him what his true legacy in Milwaukee County is.



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