Monday, December 28, 2015

What Bobby D doesn't know about Milwaukee's winter road costs

As the snow and freezing rain falls throughout the state (the drive home from work here in Madison was quite the treat), it leads me to recognize a winner of the “Nice timing, dipshit” award for today. It goes to Milwaukee Alder and Mayoral candidate “Bathroom Bob” Donovan. This throwback to the 1970s (and not in a good way) loves to legislate by press release and AM talk show blubbering vs working out any real solutions to the City’s problems, and what Bobby sent out last Wednesday was a great example.
I applaud Mayor Barrett for using some common sense and lifting the winter parking restrictions through January 1, 2016. And he certainly looked Santa-like in making the announcement yesterday, with his red jacket, red tie and that silver hair.

(To be honest I am disappointed the winter parking move by the mayor still requires those affected by alternate side parking to comply with those requirements, and Santa will still need to check those signs before parking his sleigh!).

But I say there’s no need to stop there, as we’ve just approved charging our beleaguered property owners a hefty annual snow and ice fee – when there’s no snow and no signs of ice!

I will be exploring legislation to give city property owners a snow and ice fee rebate – at the very least a percentage rebate – and I’m hoping the mayor will join me in support of this “giving” move.
There is plenty of absurdity in Donovan’s proposal in giving a rebate for the city’s snow and ice fee, which is levied based on property frontage (at $0.9155 a foot) and is projected to raise $8.74 million that is earmarked for the duties involved in removing snow and ice (taking these services off of the property tax). This amount is the same as it was in 2015, as you can see on Page 154 of the City of Milwaukee’s budget document (page 178 in the PDF). Here are two ways that Donovan’s proposal makes little to no sense in the above-ground world.

1. A local government like the City of Milwaukee runs on a calendar year basis, which means the 2016 snow and ice fee is being levied for the next 12 months, not paying for the services that were given out in 2015. Donovan’s observation of “no snow and no signs of ice” in Milwaukee is only a benefit to the 2015 City budget, not the 2016 one (in addition to today’s weather blowing up the “no snow/ice” part of Donovan's statement). In fact, the first half of 2015 did not unusually lack for snow in Milwaukee, as this NOAA chart shows.

As you can see, Milwaukee was about 8 inches behind the average snowfall amount on January 1 for last winter, but only ended up around 5-6 inches behind when the winter of 2014-15 ended. Even the 2015-16 season was ahead of normal amounts of snow until early December, courtesy of that big snow that hit the weekend before Thanksgiving, and Milwaukee was only about 5 inches of snow behind schedule until today. That doesn’t seem to translate to major savings to me (although I admit I haven’t seen the snow and ice cost numbers).

2. Obviously no one knows how much snow removal or related winter maintenance work will be needed for next year at this time, which makes the fee a moving target in each year it is set. To give back some of the 2016 amount in summer if the snow removal needs stay low, as Donovan is suggesting, could mean that snow operations would be shortchanged in November and December of next year, if Milwaukee’s winter comes early and/or heavy at that time.

So you can see how Donovan’s suggestion to give Milwaukee property owners a payback on the 2016 snow and ice fee is foolish due to the calendar-year basis for City budgeting. He is either displaying a sickening amount of cynicism in trying to play on the emotions of the dwindling number of Archie Bunker types who buy into his BS, or it’s an absurd amount of ignorance of reality in both budgeting and Milwaukee’s weather (in Bobby D’s case, it could well be both).

Now will this reality be explained by our media or by AM radio hosts the next time Donovan opens up his obnoxious yapper? Of course not. But that doesn’t change the fact that unless Donovan has hard proof of major funds not being used by the snow and ice fee in the last 2 years, this idea of a rebate is as ridiculous as…well…Bathroom Bob Donovan.

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