Tom, the third time is not the charm

The conservative group, Club for Growth, is thanking Mayor Tom Barrett for using Gov. Scott Walker's tools to save the City of Milwaukee money. That isn't something a Democrat in Wisconsin really wants, is it?

So Tom Barrett is thinking of running for governor, again. Well, sorry Tom, but the third time isn’t going to be the charm.

Barrett has been non-committal until now about whether he would run against Gov. Scott Walker if the recall effort is successful. But earlier this week, he gave a hint that he might be interested in trying for the office again – just 14 months after he lost that battle.

But Barrett should listen to his union visitors – Mary Bell from the Wisconsin Education Association Council and Marty Beil from AFCME – who told him to sit this election out. Their choice to run against Walker, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. They told Barrett in no uncertain terms they don’t want him.

But he doesn’t seem to get the message, so here’s some reasons why he shouldn’t run.

First – Mary Bell and Marty Beil don’t want him. Oh wait, I said that already. And while I’d like to believe that most public union members don’t march in lock-step with their leaders, many of them do and will do their bidding. Too bad for Tom.

Second – Barrett not only angered Bell, but also the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association when he suggested that he should be the leader of MPS in 2010.  He would have had the power to appoint the superintendent and school board. The board would have retained policy and fiscal oversight, but be answerable to the mayor. The idea died a quick death after an uproar from board members, citizens and teachers, but who’s to say Gov. Barrett wouldn’t take a look at this idea again in light of MPS’s continued failures.

Third – Barrett is a hypocrite of the highest degree. And now his hypocrisy has made him the poster boy for the far-right PAC Club for Growth. This is the man who spent the first six months of 2011 decrying the governor and legislature for cuts in shared revenue and the collective bargaining changes which allowed governmental bodies to find savings through health insurance and pension contributions.

He ranted and railed how it was unfair to the city, that it was unfair that public safety officers were excluded from the changes, that it would lead to horrific cuts in services.

Then, with very little fanfare Barrett presented the city council with a 2012 budget that made full use of the contributions expected from public employees toward their health care and pensions. He changed work rules to make the budget work. He used the tools the governor gave him.

Fourth – I’ll give him an attaboy for the new businesses in the Menomonee Valley, but as for his overall management of the city, Barrett has been lackluster at best, comical at worst. The craziest of Barrett’s ideas – the boondoggle trolley. Laid out to run from nowhere into one of the most congested areas of the east side and back, the train uses money that could be put to better, more flexible use (buses) and underestimates the real cost to businesses on the route. AT&T has said it will cost millions to move cables and fiber optics and if the current tourist trolley on the Lower East Side and Third Ward are any indication, fare collections are not going to pay for this. But Tom doesn’t care – he wants a train and he wants it now.

And finally the best reason Tom should run is Tom himself.  He ran a lackluster campaign in 2010 for governor, after being pushed into the race by President Obama. He seems preoccupied and restless, like he would rather be doing anything other than what he is doing. Wisconsin doesn’t need a governor who seems to be looking for a better gig. We need a governor who is in this for the long haul, with a fire in their belly and a groundswell of support.

We told Tom this 14 months ago. I think we should tell him that again.


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