Chris Abele delivers his first State of the County address

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele delivered his first State of the County address Monday morning in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Ballroom.

Abele, 45, was elected last April to finish Governor Scott Walker's term. Abele will be running unopposed this spring for a full four-year executive term.


Abele touched on a number of topics and changes that have been made to Milwaukee County since he took office.

He touted the passing of domestic partnership benefits and how he helped balance a $55-million budget deficit.  Abele did so with a number of controversial cuts, including deep cuts to Sheriff David Clarke's department.

Abele also addressed the importance of public safety during his speech.  There has been an ongoing feud between Abele and Clarke over cuts to the Sheriff's department.  Clarke has criticized Abele for cutting dignitary protection from the budget, resulting in reduced patrols for the President Obama's visit earlier this month. Clarke was not there Monday, but Abele expressed his frustration.

"Leadership is not about announcing to everyone who you're angry at or publicly insulting other public servants.  It's also not about encouraging unchecked anger and fear.  If you believe there are problems, offer a solution and respect, not just accusations," Abele said.

At this time, Clarke's office has no response to Abele's speech.  His office says Clarke was at a prior engagement and has not listened to, nor read a copy of the speech.

Abele also focused on jobs and long-term economic development.  He announced a collaboration with the city of Milwaukee to create a task force for the vacant Park East Corridor.  That  was the space Kohl's recently rejected for its headquarters.  The task force is aimed at learning from Kohl's decision and attracting other development to the area.

"Their sole focus will be understanding how we can creatively leverage the assets the city and the county have," Abele said.

"It's important for the city and the county to work together," replied Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.  "Now the key is to see what we can do to create jobs.  That's the goal for both of us."