Election will name next county executive

Voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide if incumbent County Executive Scott Walker should keep his job. David Riemer is challenging Walker, his first shot at elected office.

Riemer has experience as both the City of Milwaukee's budget director and as the state budget director, which he thinks puts him in a good spot to help with the county's budget, Campaign Manager Jodi Goldberg said.

Riemer plans to change the county budget by "getting rid of a lot of the waste and duplication in county government," Goldberg said. On budget issues, Walker points to his two-year record, according to Campaign Manager Jim Villa.

Villa said Walker "kept his promise" two years in a row to decrease the property tax levy and reduce the size of county government. Walker served for almost nine years as a representative of the 14th State Assembly district.

He won a special election to the county executive's seat in April of 2002, following the resignation of Thomas Ament after his involvement in the pension scandal was made public.

The county is facing a challenge with high health care costs. Villa said Walker would work with employers to try driving down costs. Many county workers have contracts that are negotiated through bargaining units. These units work with employers, employees and the county executive to determine wages and benefit costs.

Villa said all but one of the units have contract renewals in the next year. Walker plans to discuss options to drive down costs.

Riemer 's "approach is much more global than just bargaining benefits," Goldberg said. Private industry and non-profit organizations interested in bringing down health care costs could join with county workers, creating a large pool of people needing heath care services which would ideally bring down costs without decreasing benefits, she said.

This would "cause insurance companies to compete for this large pool," Goldberg said. Riemer implemented this plan for the city, and it worked. Villa said the plan, using the same numbers used for the city, could cost the county more. Goldberg said the plan would be tweaked to meet the county's needs.

Both candidates are concerned with getting more commercial development into the county, specifically using the 16 acres of county-owned land formerly used for the Park East Freeway within the city. Further, they agree on how to bring in the business – reduce health care costs and the property tax.

Both are also concerned with getting university students to stay in the area after they graduate. Milwaukee has a low-level retention rate for graduating college students, compared with national averages.

Walker "wants folks who come to Marquette to say here," Villa said. Walker would work on bringing in the types of job that would support individuals wanting to start families in Milwaukee. Also, more graduate retention would help Walker's aim to "increase our tax base and not our tax burden."

Riemer is "sincere in his goals to make the city better for its citizens," Goldberg said. "Students want to have a vibrant city, (and) to have a job when they graduate."

She said Riemer's plan for retention focuses on helping the "venerable people" to make Milwaukee a place students "want to be" by decreasing health care costs and improving public transportation.