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The Sick Leave Ordinance As It Relates to Transit

January 14, 2009
Population Density of Milwaukee County

Population Density of Milwaukee County

John Michlig has an excellent post up about the sick leave ordinance at his blog, Sprawled Out.  He eloquently describes the reason such a law is necessary and exposes some of the distasteful politicking going on in the  southwestern Milwaukee suburb of Franklin over a counter-ordinance to Milwaukee’s which would prohibit any such mandate in their fair city.

My personal opinion of the sick leave ordinance is mixed.  I fully support the idea of giving workers time to take care of their families, but I think the political climate of the outlying suburbs towards this ordinance provides an object lesson in ideology run amok.   The city is stepping up and providing a much needed safeguard for its workers by allowing up to 5 days of paid time off in the event of illness.  Every surrounding suburb is chomping at the bit to prove how pro-business they are, setting up an unnecessary contrast between the city proper and the suburbs.

The ordinance is right, but because it only covers the city it allows the surrounding areas to exploit the city’s pro-labor attitude.   This relationship of scavenger/host is apparent in the funding of our respective school systems and the county’s transit policy.  The city is slowly picked apart by lower-taxed, lower-density suburbs that draw workers  farther and farther away from the city and its downtown corridor where most of them work and play.    This leads to policies that encourage more and more driving  since the sprawl keeps efficient transit options from becoming viable in any area other than the immediate areas around downtown.  But since workers living in the suburban areas think they’ll derive no benefit from enhanced transit options, but shoulder the enormous tax burden of a half cent sales tax, no plans move past planning and the entire region stagnates as other, smaller cities around the country move forward with ambitious plans that recreate their cities into more livable and efficient places.

For the sick leave ordinance to work it needs to be enacted in a way that would discourage this scavenger/host relationship.   Maybe once the policy is enforced and businesses realize the sky won’t fall, other communities will come around to the idea that policies that are good for workers can be good for businesses.  But until regional cooperation is more than an idea, Milwaukee will have to shoulder the burden of doing what’s right in spite of the suburbs.

  1. Super Id permalink
    January 16, 2009 8:20 am

    You have raised some decent points about the parasitic suburbs. Personally, I’d like to see Milwaukee cut its property taxes, especially on expensive properties to levels where it is cheaper to live in Milwaukee than in the burbs. I relize this is would be a regressive tax but it would keep money from flowing out of the city.

    The paid sick day thing is a disaster for the city. As a business owner in Milwaukee, I should be able to provide the benefits to my employees that I want to provide. In the past we’ve given paid vacation days, large bonuses, and raises to part time employees. But to pay for the ordinance, we had to cut the vacation days and the bonuses. Its simple math, you can’t provide all things to all people.

  2. January 17, 2009 12:19 am

    Super Id, a good way to lower the property tax is to enact the .5% increase in the sales tax. I have no idea of it’s effectiveness, but a larger increase in the sales tax coupled with a reduction in the property tax could go a long way towards making living in the city more cost effective for higher priced property. At the same time, though, the property tax rate is substantially less than it was in the 1990’s. You can check that out at the City of Milwaukee website.

    I understand your frustration about the sick pay ordinance. I don’t know if there’s a good answer for you, but hopefully there’s a clear set of guidelines created that will help you figure out how much it’ll cost you.

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