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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Dave Begel says it's no secret that Ald. Milele Coggs and Chief Edward Flynn don't get along. (PHOTO: WISN-TV)

Coggs makes politics personal


A big chunk of my life has been spent around organizations that are run by municipal elected officials, school boards, council members, state legislators and other small timers like that.

And I can say, without much fear of contradiction, that as a general rule they are frequently petty micromanagers who are guided almost solely by the expedience of politics.

If you want to look any further, just take a look at the way Ald. Milele Coggs went after the Milwaukee Police Department in budget deliberations.

It's no secret that Coggs and Chief Edward Flynn don't get along. Coggs is one of the leaders of the demonstrators who are demanding answers about the death of Derek Williams in police custody.

The way I see it, in the budget deliberations, Coggs figured the way to get back at the chief was to eliminate the salary for the public relations position at the police department.

Here's the excuse she used: She said that the position – the liaison between the police and the media – was a waste of taxpayer's money.

But as they say, there's more to this story than meets the eye.

I talked with Coggs this week about this matter. I asked her why the position was a waste of money.

She said that she was concerned that the public information officer, Anne E. Schwartz, didn't call her when there was something serious, like a shooting, in her district.

"They call the mayor," she said. "They should call the alderman, too, so we don't find out about it from someone in church or somewhere."

And so, I suggested, the position itself wasn't really a waste. She just didn't like the way Schwartz was doing the job. I've known Schwartz for decades and hold her in the highest respect. (Editor's note: Schwartz has facilitated the dozens of unique MPD stories published on OnMilwaukee.com.)

"No," Coggs said. "It's not personal at all. But the job description calls for being a liaison with the community and I've never seen her at any community meetings."

Here's the way a mature elected official handles this:

She calls the person's supervisor. She says, "We have a little problem here, how can we fix it?" And they find a solution.

An immature elected official just throws a bomb and makes one problem go away while creating other, bigger problems.

Coggs admitted she had never even talked with Schwartz about her concerns. She said she met with the supervisor but that he didn't even have the right job description when he came to the meeting.

Coggs even acted offended that I was asking her about this. She upbraided me for not watching the committee meetings on the city cable channel. Yeah, right.

Now, here's where I have a problem with Coggs and a number of her cohorts on the council.

At the height of the debate over the budget, she threw her bomb and then issued a press release to notify the media that they should come to cover her "politics and poetry" event at City Hall. The special guest poet at this event was to be Congresswoman Gwen Moore, who was going to read some of her own poetry. Just thinking about that one makes my head hurt.

I asked Coggs if she thought she might have made a mistake to eliminate the salary for this position, but she wouldn't give me a yes or no answer.

Instead, she just kept dancing. She can do the Dance of A Thousand Excuses as well as the next politician.

Schwartz has handled this whole thing like a pro. She hasn't complained. Even at my prodding, she wouldn't take the opportunity to tee off on those who took her job away.

"It is my privilege and honor to serve the citizens of this city and to work beside the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department for the past eight years," she told me. "I respect the Council's decision and, while disappointed, I will continue to serve until the end of this year when I will explore my next opportunity here in Milwaukee."

Class is a good thing. Pettiness is a bad thing. And, as they say on Fox News, "You decide."

Talkbacks

amosandrew | Nov. 16, 2012 at 6:54 p.m. (report)

Ms. Coggs is extremely unprofessional and openly racist. Ms. Schwartz is a classy lady. I wish her well in the future.

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duhawk05 | Nov. 16, 2012 at 5:26 p.m. (report)

Coggs also led the charge to raze the Sydney HIH complex after mumbling through her interview on the MLK Drive episode of John McGivern's "Around the Corner" series, where she praised rehabbing historic buildings and encouraging business growth.

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mygreendoor | Nov. 16, 2012 at 1:48 p.m. (report)

Having worked many years for one of Cogg's colleagues on the Council, I can say with certainty that her claim that Schwartz didn't do her job is completely untrue. Of course the MPD briefs the Mayor - the Mayor appoints the Chief. However, my boss had no problem getting a response/ansers from Schwartz. How? Instead of dropping bombs, he established a postive rapport with her from the get go. As in, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. For the record, he too has sparred with MPD on many occassions, but still enjoys a good working relationship with Schwartz as well as the district Captain and Chief. I wonder how on earth Coggs expects a positive working relationship with the MPD when she plays politics with their budget instead of trying things the friendly - i.e. professional way, first.

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PlayerGotGame | Nov. 16, 2012 at 1:35 p.m. (report)

Ms. Coggs is an embarrassment. She's unprofessional, unresponsive, and the very definition of "bad government" in action. I don't often agree with Mr. Begel, but today, his assessment is right on the money.

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AverageGuy | Nov. 15, 2012 at 5:08 p.m. (report)

Here's what happens if you watch Alderwoman Coggs on TV or in person. She shows up late, then proceeds to tweet while testimony is being given and then asks the speaker to repeat what they were saying because she didn't hear/understand what they were presenting because she wasn't paying attention. Hoped I saved you from taking the time out to watch.

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