Tuesday, December 01, 2009

But what is CRG not telling us?

Yesterday Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) sent out another wild-eyed rant in the form of a letter. It demands that people hurry up and call their elected officials. It focuses on a proposed ordinance in the City of Milwaukee related to the inspection of apartment buildings in two specific neighborhoods. If someone wasn't familiar with the characters involved at CRG, who knows what they would think about the hyperbolic rhetoric in the letter. Here is a small taste of the high minded dialogue on public policy that CRG apparently wants to foster (all caps, bolds, underlines and repeated use of exclamation points belong to CRG):

  • "WARNING! The City of Milwaukee Wants to Expand Their Bureaucracy…"
  • "Rental Property Inspection Scheme"
  • "…this is 'Big Brother' in its most Orwellian sense."
  • "A new 'backdoor tax' scheme YOU pay."
  • "Bureaucrats with the right to search your private living space…without a warrant!"
  • "…perhaps unconstitutionally!"
  • "Call City Hall…Do it NOW!!!"

In October, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did us the favor of describing the proposed ordinance without all of the "colorful" language (this time the emphasis is mine).

Under the proposal, to be reviewed by the full council at its Nov. 3 meeting, landlords would apply for an inspection by the city Department of Neighborhood Services to make sure each rental unit meets building and zoning codes.

The inspection will cost the landlord $85 per unit, with the certification for each unit lasting four years if no health and safety code violations are found after the initial inspection, said Art Dahlberg, department commissioner. If such violations are found, the landlords will be required to undergo annual inspections.

The ordinance would apply only in two neighborhoods with older rentals, and problems with code violations: an area near University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, bordered by Edgewood Ave., Newberry Blvd., Cambridge Ave. and Hackett Ave., and the Lindsay Heights neighborhood on the north side, Dahlberg said. It would affect around 3,700 units.

That description clearly tells me that the proposed ordinance is specifically targeted at an area that has a history of persistent code violations. It doesn't seem to be the far reaching attack on our personal freedom and privacy that the CRG mailing would have us believe. So what is really going on here and why would CRG pick up this specific cause in the middle of their effort to advance Scott Walker's political career? What aren't they telling us in the letter?

One of the "two guys" behind CRG is Franklin resident Orville Seymer. It is no secret that he is also a landlord of rental properties, owns a rental property management business, and has also been a leader in the local Apartment Association. Therefore, it would stand to reason that Seymer could have a significant personal interest in fighting this ordinance (for example, does he own a property in the two neighborhoods directly affected by this proposed ordinance?). Did he help write the CRG letter? Given his own over-the-top rhetoric on this specific subject, it seems very likely.

So at what point should an organization let us know that one of the "two guys" running it may have a significant personal interest in the organization's latest crusade? I don't really care what CRG does internally, but shouldn't at least one of the "two guys" running the outfit at least ponder the possible appearances here?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is not shocking. The other half of CRG, Chris Kleismet, was advocating for Walker to push through the six sigma program so he could profit from it.