Friday, February 02, 2007

And the George Petak award for flip-flopping goes to....

...Sharon Robinson, Mayor Tom Barrett's director of administration.

George Petak, for those who don't remember or never knew, was a Republican state legislator from Racine who swore to his constituents he wouldn't vote in favor of the plan to build Miller Park. When crunch time came, though, Petak flipped and cast the deciding vote in favor of the stadium plan. He was promptly recalled from office and now enjoys life as a lobbyist.

Robinson is out-Petak-ing Petak in her duties on the Regional Transit Authority. Last week, she told a Common Council committee that she would not vote in favor of any funding plan for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail system that did not also include a plan for funding local transit. When crunch time came at an RTA meeting earlier this week, though, Robinson flipped and voted in favor of a plan that funds only the KRM. Barrett's team said she had no choice -- any proposals to fund local transit were doomed, the KRM is important to the region, and Robinson was able at least to win a promise that the issue of local transit would be considered later.

OK. Giving Robinson the benefit of the doubt, maybe she should have hedged a bit more with the committee. She should engrave on her heart: "Never say never." Several key aldermen, though, are furious with both her and Barrett. It's pretty clear that her switcheroo left relations between the them and the mayor's office in a pretty chilly state.

Robinson apparently isn't one for damage control, as she went on to inflict more. Last week, she respeatedly told the council committee last week that Barrett supported a 0.3% sales tax increase for local transit and the KRM, with 0.05% going to the KRM and .25% going to transit.

This week, though, she told the JS that Barrett had planned to try to later manipulate that plan had it been approved, a point she did not share with the council committee or the general public. Reports the JS:

Robinson's boss, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, has said he wants a new local sales tax to fund parks and public safety agencies as well as public transit. She said Barrett would have backed the transit sales tax but then would have sought changes to use some of the money for those other services. (Emphasis added)

This newly-revealed scheme ought to plunge council-Barrett administration relations into the "frozen mackerel" zone. It won't do anything to build the public's faith in the mayor's office, either.

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