Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
TODAY I BEGIN MY SERIES OF GUEST BLOGS FROM THE FRANKLIN MAYORAL AND ALDERMANIC CANDIDATES. I ASKED EACH CANDIDATE TO SUBMIT HIS/HER OWN GUEST BLOG ON WHY HE/SHE SHOULD BE ELECTED. THEIR PIECES HAVE BEEN UN-EDITED. THE CANDIDATES WERE UNABLE TO SEE WHAT THEIR OPPONENTS WROTE UNTIL NOW. WE START WITH THE MAYORAL CANDIDATES.
FRANKLIN MAYOR TOM TAYLOR
Kevin you asked why I should be elected as Mayor of Franklin:
I contend that there is no comparison between my opponent and myself when it comes to my years of experience as an elected official and as a long-term public administrator. The difference between my opponent and me is dramatic as it relates to how local government works and the experience and knowledge necessary to run a multi-million dollar municipal corporation. Administering a City with hundreds of employees in a fast growing community with a population of some 33,000 residents is a very complicated and multifaceted business that one does not learn overnight.
There is a very large difference between being an alderman and being the Mayor. There is also a great difference between being appointed to a committee and being elected as the chair of a committee. Being a chairman brings with it the responsibility to get things scheduled, voted upon and accomplished and to get people of all occupations to work towards achieving a common goal. I believe my list of accomplishments as a chairman clearly shows that I can get things done.
I was elected and served as an alderman and I was elected as the Common Council President. I served as chairman of the finance committee, the personnel committee, the licensing committee and chairman of the public safety committee of the City.
As chair of finance, I automated the annual budget process, established a methodology for meeting with department heads, and streamlined the process for recommending a budget to the full Common Council.
I created the personnel committee of the city, and I was elected as its first chairman. This committee makes recommendations to the Common Council on subjects like, wages, hours, benefits and working conditions. The personnel committee also oversees the collective bargaining process and it makes recommendations to the Common Council. I would say that roughly 80% of the City's annual budget is directly related to personnel costs and therefore my experience as a labor relations professional and as a former human resources director greatly helps in holding down personnel costs and protecting the city from being successfully sued.
As Mayor, I have chaired the Common Council, the Committee of the Whole, the Plan Commission, and the Community Development Authority (Business Park). I also served as an Environmental Commissioner, a Technology Commissioner and an Economic Development Commissioner.
The mayors and village presidents of the nineteen municipalities within Milwaukee County elected me as Chairman of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council of Milwaukee County (ICC). On behalf of all of the communities stated above I negotiated a three year contract for the continuance of the world famous Paramedic Program, that appears to be a success.
As chairman of the ICC, I authored a resolution that calls for a strong Great Lakes Compact that will keep our clean water from being diverted to places like New Mexico.
I am pleased to report that the City of Franklin still has one of the lowest municipal tax rates in Milwaukee County. In 2006, I proposed a budget that reduced the tax rate in a non-reassessment year and some residents received tax bills that were lower than the previous year. I went over my last three years of tax bills and my wife and I paid an additional $111 in new city taxes for years 2005, 2006 and 2007 even though the assessed value of our home went up. As you know, the mayor and the Common Council are only responsible for the City taxes and not the school district or other taxing units of government.
I am also pleased to state that we have new restaurants. Some of these restaurants are opening and many are being constructed. Places like Gus' Restaurant are now open.
In the last few days the opening of the Wheaton Franciscan Medical Center, a new five story hotel near 76th and Rawson and a new multi-million dollar AZANA Spa for the Fountains of Franklin were announced. All of these new commercial developments will help pay for expenses for the city and our schools.
Since I have been mayor, we have many new shops like Sendik's, Lowe’s, a Target and many smaller stores. We will have hundreds if not thousands of new family supporting jobs created with the new addition to NML at a time when other communities are losing jobs.
I gained valuable experience as a top administrator and a human resources director. As the Human Resource's Director for Milwaukee County, I had seven divisional managers that reported to me with overall responsibility for a payroll of approximately $240,000,000, and health benefits costing approximately $70,000,000. I had a compensation division, an IT division, an affirmative action department, a retirement division and a testing and examination division. I also had the overall responsibility for a workforce of some 9,000 employees.
As a manager and as a director it was my job responsibility on behalf of the citizens of Milwaukee County to be intimately involved in the handling and administration of thousands of grievances and hundreds of grievance arbitration cases. Some of these arbitration cases involved millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money.
While it is the aldermen that really vote on the annual city budget, I do make recommendations to the Finance Committee and they in turn make their recommendation to the Common Council. I have historically made significant cuts to operating departments before making my budget recommendation. I believe the Finance Committee has done a very good job of fiscal management and the last three audits show that the City of Franklin is financially strong and well funded.
Any one that knows me knows that I am very fiscally prudent, and I do not like to raise taxes unless it is absolutely, positively necessary.
In the last three years, the city has moved forward, and its reputation as a place to live and work has increased significantly.
Based on the information above and based on my experience and accomplishments, it is my position that I am the best person to continue to lead Franklin forward for the years 2008 to 2011.
Thank you for this opportunity.
Tom Taylor, Mayor of the City of Franklin
MAYORAL CHALLENGER BASIL RYAN
On April 1, Franklin voters will have a clear choice in the mayor's race: Between an incumbent mayor who defends the fact that taxes have risen in double digits since he took office and a challenger with a proven track record of reducing taxes and a vision for Franklin's future.
I'm the challenger in the race, Basil Ryan, a former two-term alderman, and I thank Kevin Fischer for the opportunity to address the public through his weblog. I believe that Kevin is offering voters a public service by giving candidates this platform.
Since Mayor Thomas Taylor took office, city property taxes have risen 16% and spending is up almost 30%, according to the city's own records. I think that's too much. We can do better without sacrificing the quality services that Franklin residents appreciate. Most other cities have done better, and there is no reason Franklin can't do so as well.
Numbers compiled by the respected, non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance found that three fourths of Wisconsin cities had lower tax levy increases than Franklin during Mayor Taylor's tenure.
135 cities did better than Franklin, and only 55 cities did worse. I will reverse that trend.
When you add in schools and other taxing entities, Franklin's overall tax increase was the worst in Milwaukee County and also one of the worst in the state. But, even when looking at only the city in isolation, as one must do in a mayoral race, we are still shouldering one of the fastest growing tax increases in the state.
In a March 13, 2008 article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reporter Anyssa Johnson wrote: "Taylor defended the increases, saying most of that was offset by new development, and that cuts in revenue were beyond his control, including the loss of state aid and landfill fees."
See the story here: http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=728094
Taylor also recently underscored on his campaign website that he never promised to NOT raise taxes.
This is where we differ. I AM promising to not raise taxes. I am also offering a vision that is in line with Franklin's character and past while building on its vitality. I am concerned by the mayor's pattern of not showing enough concern for the taxpayer. As a Milwaukee County labor official, the mayor accepted a pension buyback and lobbied for workers trying to get them. The media reported that the buybacks are in apparent violation of IRS rules. They could cost taxpayers another $50 million.
I will accomplish protecting the taxpayer as Franklin mayor through greater efficiencies and prioritizing spending. For example, under Mayor Taylor, administration/general government spending has grown at a faster percentage than public safety. I do not agree with that priority.
Here's another way the mayor and I differ. I believe that controlling taxes and spending IS in the mayor's control. The mayor can recommend efficiencies, and he can veto any budgets that don't provide them.
Furthermore, as an alderman, I delivered, passing one of the largest tax reductions in Franklin history. When my colleagues were set to raise taxes 1.8 percent one year, I successfully froze items to show them there was another way.
As an alderman, I tried to make sure residents felt their concerns were addressed. When response times needed improving, I helped secure the building of a new fire station. When residents experienced flooding problems in their homes, I helped them fix them.
I've offered a strong leadership agenda as mayor in many ways. I will ensure that development is thoughtful and planned. Franklin must ensure that development is not haphazard and that it fits into our community's character. I will ensure that new development has a direct, immediate effect on the city's tax base, rather than being tied up in TIF districts for years.
Together, we can get Franklin out of the negative tax rankings. Along with my wife, Karen, and our four children, I've been a proud member of this community for years. I've lived here for 34 years, raised a family here, run a business here, and farm my land here.
I believe in Franklin and its potential. Together, we can make sure that becomes a reality.
TOMORROW: GUEST BLOGS FROM CANDIDATES IN ALDERMANIC DISTRICT 3