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Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima to skip Barack Obama visit to GE plant

Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima says he won’t attend President Barack Obama’s visit to his city Thursday.
Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima says he won’t attend President Barack Obama’s visit to his city Thursday. Credit: Mike De Sisti
Jan. 28, 2014
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By Don Behm of the Journal Sentinel

Jan. 28, 2014 0

Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima describes both President Barack Obama and Gov. Scott Walker as political extremists in explaining why he plans to skip Obama's visit to a GE plant in Waukesha on Thursday.

The first-term mayor is comfortable in calling out Obama and Walker as extremists not for advocating extreme measures, as a dictionary might define the term, but for refusing to compromise, Scrima said Tuesday.

"Both Governor Walker and President Obama have failed to come to the center and compromise on issues," he said. "Madison and Washington, D.C., are more polarized than they've ever been. At the local level, that does not help us."

Scrima describes himself as a nonpartisan local official in offering another reason for his planned absence Thursday.

"I've never been a member of a political party," he said. "The office of a local mayor ought to be nonpartisan for all people in the community."

Scrima said he has turned down invitations from Walker and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to participate in their local visits in the last four years.

There was that one time, he acknowledged.

In May of last year, Scrima accepted the invitation of officials from La Casa de Esperanza to speak at a school choice rally in Waukesha. He did not know that Walker would be speaking at the same event, Scrima said.

As far as this week is concerned, Scrima suspects Obama decided to visit Waukesha and the GE plant because manufacturing employment is growing in the community.

More than 700 jobs have been added in Waukesha in the last four years, Scrima said, but he does not credit policies in Madison or Washington for the surge. The job growth in his city is due to assistance from local governments and entrepreneurship, according to Scrima.

Scrima rejected the notion that he does not want to be seen in the president's presence because he is facing a Feb. 18 primary election in his bid for re-election. Three challengers are campaigning to take his nonpartisan job.

Scrima isn't the only 2014 candidate taking a pass on standing with the president. Mary Burke, the Democratic challenger to Walker, announced through a spokesman Tuesday that she's busy campaigning in western Wisconsin and won't be available to attend the president's visit.

Twitter: twitter.com/conserve

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About Don Behm

Don Behm reports on Milwaukee County government, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the environment and communities in southeastern Wisconsin. He has won reporting awards for investigations of Great Lakes water pollution, Milwaukee's cryptosporidiosis outbreak, and the deaths of three sewer construction workers in a Menomonee Valley methane explosion.

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