"the Walker campaign's love of expensive fine dining and other meals that don't come in the made-in-Ohio Brown Paper Bag we see on TV."
Zing! It looks like Mark Neumann has officially become a member of the Bag Scott Walker campaign.
"the Walker campaign's love of expensive fine dining and other meals that don't come in the made-in-Ohio Brown Paper Bag we see on TV."
The county's budget for maintenance on the courthouse and some other major
county buildings has dropped dramatically this decade, from a high of
$2.2 million in 2001 to $140,000 this year, according to county figures. Actual
spending levels have fluctuated less, staying near roughly $1 million most years
- until last year when spending plummeted to just under $150,000.
I have been complaining for some time about Scott Walker's neglect and his administration's incompetence regarding the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division. While individual workers and staff at BHD do a tremendous job, the higher levels of "management" and the Walker Administration have not given them the support that they need. The result of Walker administration incompetence has been disastrous over the years, and a clear and tragic pattern has been developing. Unfortunately the most vulnerable are repeatedly paying the heavy price for it.
In recent months we have seen the reports of sexual assaults of patients and poor conditions that are threatening to wipe out federal funding at BHD. As if these reports were not bad enough, some of the responses by Walker administration officials were contemptible. One of those officials appeared to minimize the sexual assaults by explaining that "this is not a case where there was a fatality or serious injury." One must assume that this disturbing reaction is official Walker administration policy since he took no observable action to correct the record.
Sadly the recent news of sexual assaults is not the first serious problem at BHD. In 2007 there was a 50% rise in assaults on staff. In 2006 the facility was cited by the State after a starvation death and other tragic issues. In 2005 there were preventable drug-related overdose deaths. This is not to even mention some of the budgetary and administrative bungling.
We are obviously witnessing a disturbing pattern of serious problems at BHD and Walker has apparently decided to walk away from them each and every time. When his administration received a letter of concern from a state legislator, he refused to comment and referred it to a county attorney. Maybe Walker is so willing to walk away from these tragic problems because he is worried that his short-staffing and short-funding of BHD will become a topic of discussion. Consider some of the following:
With a record like that, you have to wonder if there isn't a link between Walker's short sighted politically driven policies and some of the major issues that have occurred repeatedly on his watch. Maybe that explains why he is so willing to walk away, when someone starts asking the tough questions.
Who can forget Scott Walker promising to end all unemployment in Wisconsin? The problem is that he lacks any credibility on any real job creation. He has done nothing to create real jobs as Milwaukee County Executive. That is until now. Unfortunately the jobs that he is handing out right now are to all the wrong people.
We all know how he used questionable means to send 27 Milwaukee security guards to the unemployment line. We also know that he awarded a contract to foreign-owned Wackenhut, to replace those jobs.
It is bad enough that this private firm has had a questionable history with Milwaukee County (not to mention others across the country). But now it appears that Wackenhut not only had a convicted felon guarding the Milwaukee County Courthouse, but that it also shipped in workers from Chicago and even Florida to replace the newly unemployed Milwaukee workers. So I guess one could say that Walker created jobs in this example, but unfortunately it was for a convicted felon and for people from Chicago and Florida.
Walker also continued his 8 year practice of recycling his campaign operatives through Milwaukee County government on the taxpayer's dime. Walker promised to eliminate cronyism back in 2002 but then he immediately began perfecting it. Capper draws our attention to a current example: Tim Russell who apparently got a promotion that may have included a
$50,000 $2,500 raise.
Walker has been kind enough to repeatedly find taxpayer financed jobs for Russell, even if he wasn't qualified. Walker must really like Russell because he also pays him big bucks to work on his campaigns. Leading up to the 2008 race for county executive, Walker's campaign shelled out a $10,000 payment to Russell. Wow, Walker is really delivering a lot of cash to this guy! Sometimes courtesy of taxpayers and sometimes courtesy of Republican sugar daddies.
So maybe we can now admit that Scott Walker has created a few jobs this month, unfortunately it has been for all the wrong people. Sending more Milwaukee workers to the unemployment line while hiring felons, out-of-state workers and giving $2,500 raises to political cronies doesn't seem like the kind of jobs plan that will play well with the public.
UPDATE: It looks like we can now add Ohio to the list of out-of-state workers for which Scott Walker has created jobs.
Will Tommy Thompson, if he even runs, be the SEN candidate who has hardest time
running against #hcr? http://bit.ly/9WFTOr
Chuck Todd's link points to a difficult issue that Thompson will have to face on health care reform, if he actually decides to run for anything. Although Republicans and their extreme base are attacking health care reform largely based on the individual mandate, many of them "forget" that this was also a big Republican idea. In fact a Miami paper actually cites Tommy Thompson, when he was working for George W. Bush, as promoting the idea himself. I wonder if Tommy's support of individual mandates would play well with the tea party types?
Thank goodness we have Chuck Todd's 140 character reporting to rely on! How else are we supposed to find out about these kinds of important and deeply relevant issues? Obviously, when it comes to Tommy Thompson, the Wisconsin media is leaving the heavy reporting to Chuck Todd and his Twitter account.
J.B. Van Hollen may be ok with repeatedly abusing his office for partisan pandering, but the vast majority of AG's around the country are refusing to waste taxpayer's money on political stunts. The latest example comes from Kentucky.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced yesterday that "he will not file a lawsuit against the federal government in trying to refuse the legislation." "I do not intend to use my authority as Kentucky Attorney General to sign our Commonwealth onto a health care lawsuit against the federal government, because I will not waste taxpayer dollars on a political stunt," Conway said. "Trey Grayson's gimmick may be good 'tea party' politics, but it's based on questionable legal principles," Conway said, referring to the Secretary of State's request that he file a lawsuit.
Update: Another AG refuses to abuse his office with JB-style political pandering. Despite threats and heavy political pressure, Georgia AG Thurbert Baker said, "I cannot justify a decision to initiate expensive and time-consuming litigation that I believe has no legal merit."
ht: Wonkroom at Think Progress
Get your hands off my (health care) tax credit!
Unlike pandering politicians, many of whom have been on taxpayer financed healthcare for a very long time, I struggled through almost all of 2009 trying to find health care coverage that I could afford. I had to settle for something that cost too much and did too little. The historic new heath care package that became law yesterday has a ton of benefits, but one that stands out to me are the small business tax credits. That includes tax credits of up to 35% of premiums that are available right now and 50% beginning in 2014. Oh my goodness, I must be a socialist for wanting to take advantage of tax credits!
The benefits don't end with sizable tax credits for small business. There is something to help nearly everyone that has been genuinely struggling to afford decent quality health care. So get your hands off their health care benefits!
Like I said at the outset, I don't have a lot of time to blog this week, so I'll have to stop listing the many benefits of reform. But you get the idea. As long as the public starts realizing some of these benefits of reform, they are going to join the chorus. The quicker that these and other benefits start reaching the people, I think that they will tell grandstanding Republican politicians to, "Get your hands off my healthcare!"
It appears that the Walker administration only values "sunshine" if you are a political ally. In late 2007, Citizens for Responsible Government asked Walker's Administrative Services division to provide a large amount of accounts payable records. In less than one month CRG was charged ZERO dollars for a disk containing information for 188,000 transactions. Last year, in a separate request from the one cited above, I submitted a comparable request within the very same division. I was charged $200 and it took over three times as long as it took to cater to Walker's friends.
Last year even an anonymous request was given preferential treatment from the Walker administration. Some shill for Walker's endless campaign for higher office sent a request directly to his official email. In it they asked for a copy of an email that was sent to Walker's office by our friend Capper. They also asked for any letters of response from the Walker administration. That request was not even signed by an actual person, only by "ScottforGov.com". That request was processed and the documentation sent via email in less than two hours. Not to mention that the Walker administration chose to waive all fees for the extra special service. What makes this even worse is that Walker's cult at "ScottforGov.com" got the response to Capper even before the Walker administration bothered to get it to Capper himself.
I am certainly not the only open records requestor to have problems with Walker's open records obstruction. They have a long history of trying to keep the "wrong people" from public records. Back in 2004 the David Riemer campaign submitted an open records request to the Walker administration. They were trying to learn if Walker had kept one of his original promises: having "at will" employees sign pension benefit waivers. When the Walker administration received this request and realized that they had failed to keep that promise, they ran around trying to get as many waiver signatures as possible. When they finally did send records, it was only a listing rather than copies of the actual waivers (which would have shown the dates of the last minute signatures). Riemer later filed an open records complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Justice who had some of the following choice words for the Walker administration's open records games:
"In sum, this episode evinces a case of how government officials ought not to do business...Nobody honored to serve in public office ought to manipulate public records in this fashion -- that is the opinion of this office."
Although Walker's policy positions change with the wind, it seems that his approach to open records has not changed at all.
The phony brown bag campaign. Not only was it a total knock-off on someone else's 1998 gimmick but it is an attempt to rebrand Walker as frugal, when reality points to the exact opposite. Look at his campaign's big-spending habits, look at the increases in spending in his own proposed budgets, look at him breaking a 2002 promise by giving himself a $50,000 raise in 2008.
It is certainly worth noting that Mark Neumann is the latest Republican to hold a double standard on the federal stimulus, but for anyone associated with the Walker campaign to complain about hypocrisy on this issue is really quite shameless. Walker has been on so many sides of the federal stimulus issue (often at the same time) that he should just stop talking about it all together, much less attacking someone else for inconsistencies. If he is going to talk at all about the stimulus, perhaps he should finally answer the question about what he would have done without it.
You can tell that Walker and friends were on the defensive recently because they moved their phoniness into a dangerously high level. Claiming that you are going to end all unemployment in Wisconsin and then attacking strong efforts at job creation is bad enough. But to attack those efforts because one of your campaign sugar daddies didn't get to benefit from it is pretty disgusting. Then going on to attack a bid system that you yourself helped put in place is really quite remarkable.
Several months ago I warned that Scott Walker is like a slippery salesman that will say and do anything to promote himself, no matter how shameless. Recent events have not only verified this point but they have actually shown us that he is willing to go to uncharted levels of phony to advance his political career.
Last month I pointed out that Scott Walker's latest political gimmick, the brown bag lunch campaign, was a total knock-off on something that was done in 1998. In fact Walker's phony brown bag gimmick is almost an exact copy of the 1998 version, complete with a template letter from the candidate's wife. Today the Associated Press is reporting on Walker's shameless recycling of other people's ideas. Walker's recycled brown bag campaign is bad enough, but he will need a lot more than a brown bag to hold all of the phony rhetoric that he is spewing out during it.
The entire premise of the recycled brown bag campaign is that Walker is supposedly a tightwad with money. It may be hard to make that pitch to the public when both recent news and his past record totally refutes the fake image that he is trying to create of himself.
Whether it is his latest campaign gimmick or his actual record as county executive, there aren't enough brown bags to hold the many levels of phony rhetoric flowing from Scott Walker.
Milwaukee County First is again calling for some accountability at Milwaukee County's Behavioral Health Division. In fact, they are again calling on Scott Walker to finally fire his appointee that "runs" the division. While there are many frontline workers, project managers and professionals doing great work at BHD, the upper levels of management are doing them no favors. Back in November, after yet another scandal involving BHD's upper management, I commented that someone must own the incompetence related to that division. I also said that if Scott Walker didn't take some kind of substantive action that he ultimately would have to take ownership of it. Having seen no signs to suggest otherwise, it appears that Walker is perfectly content with the situation. As far as I am concerned, Scott Walker now owns the incompetence at BHD.
Where do you even begin talking about all of the terrible things happening at BHD on Walker's watch?
Walker can be held accountable for this terrible track record because he has chosen not to hold anyone accountable himself. On the other hand, maybe Walker isn't holding the appropriate person accountable because he is that person. It seems that a very good case can be made for how his politically driven budgetary policies have helped foster the tragic conditions that we have witnessed at BHD. Consider some of the following data taken directly from the 2003 and 2010 proposed budgets:
Not only should Scott Walker own the tragic problems that have been happening at BHD on his watch, but he should also have to fully answer for how his politically motivated policies have helped foster the complete breakdown in the first place.
Since May 2009 I have periodically asked if GOP big-wig Jim Klauser was losing his influence in the Republican Party. It started when he (recruited?) got behind Mark Neumann and went on a media blitz that stepped on Scott Walker's official announcement. He was met with a stiff dose of reality and must have realized that this was no longer the Republican Party of old. Essentially the far right wing "patients" had taken over the Republican "asylum". It took a while but once he fully realized this fact he switched sides in the Republican primary for governor. Since then he has taken on a key role for the train wreck that is the Terrence Wall candidacy. Assuming that Klauser wont bail on yet another candidate, I can't help wondering if he is trying to keep his old friend Tommy out of the race while so many others are trying to get him in it.
Jim Klauser served in all sorts of roles for Tommy Thompson. He has been described as a close friend, key campaign advisor, and Secretary of Thompson's Department of Administration. Some actually referred to Klauser as a "shadow" or "second" governor while he was serving Tommy. So with all of this long history, what are the odds that Jim Klauser can fight back the sea of D.C. special interests (aka "all the right people") that are trying to convince Tommy to run? If he is unable to keep Tommy out of the Republican primary, does that mean that he has even lost influence with Tommy Thompson? Who would have thought?
This will certainly be a big test for Klauser, when you consider the special interest cash and influences that have taken over Tommy for the last several years. Let's face it; Tommy hustles for so many big D.C. special interests that he couldn't even remember all of them the other day. I guess the key question here is will Tommy listen to Jim Klauser or to special interests like Verichip? If Tommy eventually sides with the special interests does that mean that Klauser has even lost his influence with Tommy?
Once again, Scott Walker is trying to blame someone or something else for his failed policies in Milwaukee County. This time it is after a report that Milwaukee County transit ridership plunged to a 35 year low. Walker's response was predictable as he placed blame elsewhere. This time it wasn't an actual person or entity, this time he played the economy card. While the economy certainly could have played a role, it is no wonder that Walker ignored the other contributors that have made the problem so much worse.
This isn't the first time that ridership levels have plunged to historic depths on Walker's watch. The last time was before the Great Bush Recession, so placing blame solely on it now is just a weak attempt to transfer blame. Perhaps Walker would like to forget that 2007 was also a record breaking year for MCTS plunging ridership numbers. Again, that was before the Great Bush Recession and it was at the same time that transit systems nationally were soaring to a 50 year high. No, these latest numbers can't be laid at the feet of the economy alone. One can't seriously address this problem without addressing Walker's short-term thinking on transit. Short term thinking that totally ignores the devestating long term consequences that it breeds.
Scott Walker has proposed eliminating routes, raising fares or a combination of both in almost every budget that he has ever proposed as county executive. Those kinds of short sighted polices have consequences, and we started seeing them dramatically in 2007. Now we are seeing that they got even worse in 2009. There is no mystery here. The analysis of the historic 2007 ridership drop and the current drop both focus on the role of constantly rising fares and cuts in service.
In 2008 the Public Policy Forum released a study focusing on the desperate state of the MCTS. In that study they found a direct correlation between route cuts, fare increases and dramatically reduced ridership. They found that during years when there was no fare increase, the average annual ridership went up by over 184,000. They also found that during years of fare increases, average ridership numbers went down by an amazingly high 2.1 million.
Although all of the available data shows a very clear connection between raising fares and losing ridership, Walker continued his flawed short-term thinking on transit. In fact he tried to step up his short term thinking by inventing brand new ways to charge riders such as his proposed transfer fee. Not only did he continue the bad policies but he even went out of his way to create more. Not only did he promote these proven ridership killers but he did so at a time when people were already struggling to survive the Great Bush Recession. Walker may try to transfer his self inflicted transit problem, but eventually the truth will become one route that Walker just can't cut.
UPDATE: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel later reported that the current ridership plunge in Milwaukee County was more than twice as fast as the national average.
Since Terrence Wall is a multi-millionaire, he shouldn't have much of a problem springing for a tutor for his campaign. Blogging Blue shows us exactly why such a tutor is necessary. One of T-Wall's underlings posted a blog citing U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and absurd comments that he made against having an up or down vote on the final version of health care reform legislation. As Blogging Blue has already pointed out, Hatch himself has repeatedly voted for bills that were passed through reconciliation. In fact his comments are being easily panned all over the place, the only thing that the T-Wall campaign had to do was care enough about the facts.
Maybe the staff at Team Pumpkin are too busy trying to figure out how to explain their candidates' tax issues or maybe they are too tied up in trying to keep Tommy out of the race to focus on accuracy. Since they are clearly too busy to study or fact check their own talking points, maybe T-Wall should spring for a campaign tutor or someone else to do their homework for them. For now, I will do them the favor of suggesting some good reading for the subject at hand. Who knows, maybe they will post a correction later.
First T-Wall and Company may want to review the long list of times during the Bush administration when Hatch and the Republicans passed bills through reconciliation. Even a conservative has described how Hatch has tried to entirely redefine words just to fit them into his list of talking points. Yet another observer explains how Orrin Hatch must think that you are stupid, if you believe his absurd arguments. If T-Wall and Company would rather just read one item on this issue, they should take a look at E.J. Dionne's column which hits nearly every point on why Republicans current rhetoric on reconciliation is a "big lie".
For all I know, T-Wall and Company are visual learners. Just in case that is the situation, I will provide this great presentation of the facts on Orrin Hatch, health care legislation and the Republican hypocrisy on reconciliation.
We already know that Scott Walker has a severe case of rhetoric-reality syndrome but his recent comments on jobs demonstrate just how severe it is getting. First he announces that he is going to create 250,000 jobs and completely end unemployment in Wisconsin. It is pretty clear that this number is based on nothing and was concocted somewhere in the depths of the Walker's imagination. Only days after making his grandiose promise, he proceeded to send 76 more people (that had real jobs) to the unemployment line. Based on Walker's comments to WISN TV, he apparently thinks that these jobs didn't count and were not real since they were in the public sector (by the way, what does that say about his job for which he gave himself a massive raise in 2008?). So 250,000 imaginary jobs count but 76 real jobs don't?
So if Walker is declaring that only private sector jobs count as being real, then why does he want to stop the investment in things like high speed rail in Wisconsin? Just today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the train manufacturer's plant development would help bring as many as 1,000 jobs to Milwaukee. That number doesn't even include the jobs that will be created by them doing business with various area suppliers. So what is Walker's criteria for determining what counts as a real job? These are private sector jobs aren't they? Then why is he fighting the effort to create them?
If jobs generated through public investment and public-private partnerships don't count as real jobs, then what does that say for Walker's "Milwaukee County Works" (government) program? Walker's program itself is funded largely by the federal stimulus, and back in December Walker was talking about how his (government) program "jumpstarts job creation". So using Walker's latest line of reasoning, does he even consider his own program to be actually generating real jobs?
It seems that Scott Walker is going to treat the jobs issue just like he has treated the stimulus issue. He apparently plans to come down on every conceivable side of the issue (sometimes at the same time) just to hedge his political bets. In the end, Walker's imaginations about higher office are costing real people real jobs and that is a real problem for all of us.
A large portion of the 76 working families that Scott Walker is sending to the unemployment line are experienced courthouse security personnel. Walker couldn't privatize that important work in his budget so he apparently has opted for a back door approach. He tries to privatize services, gets shot down, then develops a sabotage-based budget. When it inevitably explodes, he claims the emergency rule and lays off and/or privatizes the jobs that he wanted to in the first place. At least that seems to be the drill that I have observed over Walker's time in office. This time Walker plans on replacing the experienced workers with new people from Wackenhut. It will be interesting to learn more about the bidding process (assuming that there was one) for choosing this firm, because they have not had the best relationship with Milwaukee County in the last number of years.
For a number of years Wackenhut has had a contract with Milwaukee County to provide security services for its transit system. When assaults on buses started generating a ton of bad publicity, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke began publicly questioning the services that Wackenhut was providing. In 2007 Sheriff Clarke was so concerned about Wackenhut's level of service that he sent a letter to Scott Walker asking for an audit of the county's $1 million-a-year contract. In the letter Clarke stated that his office had to use its own personnel to address security problems on the buses. The hope was for Clarke to turn this extra security back over to Wackenhut after some order was restored but Clarke commented:
After nearly two years, we have not been able to turn this over to Wackenhut, not because we haven't established an acceptable amount of order, but because we fear that we will have to come back due to Wackenhut's mismanagement.
The story that reported on Sheriff Clarke's letter interestingly notes that Walker "could not be reached for comment…"
As reports of violence on Milwaukee County buses appeared to increase, there were no observable acts of leadership by Scott Walker. His lack of action was somewhat surprising given that his political ally, Sheriff David Clarke, had urged him to act on this public safety issue. The incidents were having a real impact on the image of the Milwaukee County Transit System based on the results of an internal MCTS opinion poll. The poll found that 14.6% of residents in 2008 felt that personal security on the buses had become worse. That was much higher than the 3.8% that felt that way in 2007.
Finally after no observable action from Scott Walker, the Milwaukee County Board passed a resolution calling for an audit of Wackenhut's performance in providing security for the MCTS. That internal Milwaukee County audit was completed in early 2009 and seemed to confirm many of Sheriff Clarke's concerns. The main take away from the audit was the fact that the private security force was spending only 3% of their time actually on the buses. According to the report, this was contrary to their original pledge when they first won the contract in 2003. At that time they promised that their security officers would spend closer to 85% of their time on the buses.
Not only did Scott Walker ignore Sheriff Clarke's questions about Wackenhut's level of service, but now he has decided to use them to replace courthouse security veterans? Is it smart to reward a questionable record with an entirely new contract and more responsibility? I know that it might fit Walker's rigid ideology and political goals, but someone should ask if it is smart to bring Wackenhut's bus-style security to the Milwaukee County Courthouse.