Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Caption Contest Anyone?

I got this from an anonymous source. I had a caption contest for Mark Neumann so why not for Scott Walker? Submit your captions by posting them as comments. I will approve them as soon as possible. And by "contest" I don't mean that you will actually "win" anything (other than bragging rights).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Refreshing Walker's Recollection: BHD

Apparently someone needs to start refreshing Scott Walker's recollection.

This week we have learned all of the sordid details surrounding Scott Walker's dysfunctional stewardship of the Behavioral Health Division. His policies have caused major staffing problems, massive overtime and total instability. Walker's blindness toward his incompetent underlings (until this week) have only exacerbated those problems. For most of his tenure as county executive we have seen preventable tragedies at BHD coupled with total administrative negligence.

All of these Walker years of dysfunction certainly contrast sharply with his promises back in 2002. At that time he claimed that he didn't advocate privatization at BHD. In fact he went on to declare that he opposed "large-scale privatization in any area." Generally he said that "the first approach should be to make the system work better." Specifically about BHD he said that "efforts to improve and become more efficient must come first." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/24/02]

Obviously it didn't take Scott Walker very long to "forget" these promises. It seems to be a pattern with him: say anything to get elected and then lose your memory after you win. In this specific example, contrary to his words in 2002, Walker has sought to privatize in just about every area possible. He has made it his mission to do this regardless of the actual cost.

As far as Walker's promises to "make the system work better" and to "improve and become more efficient"...well it doesn't take a rocket scientist to confirm that he certainly failed to deliver on those. There is nothing "efficient" about a dangerously short staffing and exploding overtime costs. Likewise, I don't think that anyone would describe what has actually happened on Walker's watch as making "the system work better".

While he runs around making promises and saying anything to get elected, someone really should be present to continually "refresh his recollection" on his own record.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's the Policy Stupid

Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board called for the firing of Milwaukee County Behavioral Health administrator John Chianelli. Milwaukee County First, this blog and many others have been sounding alarms about the problems at BHD for quite a long time. In fact, I remember saying last year that if Scott Walker didn't change course on his BHD policy that he was going to own the incompetence. Maybe the MJS Editorial and the in depth front page stories this week will finally motivate him to actually do something different at BHD. The first thing that he should do is change the policy and the failed formulas that his administration have used there.

These numbers speak for themselves and they reveal longstanding Walker Administration policy.

  • Scott Walker has repeatedly cut staff at BHD. In 2001 there were 1,053.1 funded position equivalents. In 2008 that number went down to 890.9 and in his 2010 proposed budget he wanted to put it all the way down to 746.7.

  • In 2001 overtime costs stood at $2,807,027 (or the equivalent of 77.5 positions). After all of the years of drastically cutting staff at BHD, actual overtime in 2008 shot up to $4,719,383 (or the equivalent of 87 positions).

  • In 2008 there were 113 positions at BHD that were fully funded but not filled.

  • While the MJS lists a variety of reasons in their call for firings, these numbers can not be dismissed. They represent a clear pattern of policy by the Walker administration that have resulted in an overstretched staff at BHD.

    To hear Scott Walker's response ("I formed a committee a few months ago") to the current crisis at BHD, one would think that these problems were new. Sadly preventable tragedies and bad conditions at BHD have occurred throughout most of Walker's tenure as county executive.

  • In 2006 there were starvation and overdose deaths that brought serious warnings from State and Federal regulators.

  • In 2007 there was a 50% increase in assaults on staff.

  • In late 2009 you have the Walker appointee at BHD failing to do timely due diligence and throwing the entire county's budget into near chaos.

  • Now you have sexual assaults at the Mental Health Complex for which BHS was cited and it could have lost $60 million in federal funding.

  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial is correct. There should be multiple firings at BHD. But no one should be under the illusion that such action would correct the problems in the division because many of them come from flawed policy. It is the same kind of policy that put the Milwaukee County House of Correction in full crisis mode in 2007 and 2008. It is the same kind of policy that caused a meltdown in Milwaukee County's Economic Support Division. It seems that all of these issues share a common thread. You can't ignore the Walker policy of seeking short term gain through massive staff cuts. This politically expedient approach has proven to have long term consequences. Sometimes they manifest themselves in dollars, sometimes as terrible tragedies and sometimes they manifest themselves as both. In the end if these kinds of flawed policies are not fully acknowledged and addressed, a few firings are not going to solve our problems.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    I Sense Another Caption Contest...

    I had so much fun with the last one. I just hope that someone is taking pictures.

    "Neumann in beer stein holding contest"

    By the looks of this video Neumann may have the stein holding contest enthusiast demographic locked up. I wonder what percentage of the Republican primary they represent?

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Walker's Spin Machine Working Overtime

    First Scott Walker announced that he was going to end all unemployment in the State of Wisconsin. Then he hatched an imaginary plan to "save" money by eliminating state positions that are already vacant. Now Scott Walker has made a big deal (and went as far to produce an ad) about his latest substance-free "plan".

    Walker says that he is going to form a commission to study waste and fraud in state government. He pulls a number out of nowhere saying that his commission will somehow save the state $300 million. He doesn't state specifically how he came up with that number. In fact his campaign spokesperson admitted that the commission wouldn't know all the areas that they could cut until after the November election.

    Of all the examples that Scott Walker could have pulled out of thin air regarding his new phony plan, he chose state overtime costs. What was he thinking? Shortly after Walker announced the "plan", One Wisconsin Now pointed out that the percentage of overtime costs in Milwaukee County have been much higher than they were in the state. The obvious question is if this is Walker's big plan for the state, why couldn't he get his own house in order first? Could it be because it is just another election year gimmick? Yes.

    In fact there are two areas where massive overtime have caused major problems for Milwaukee County. In 2007 and 2008 Walker failed to fill fully funded positions out at the House of Correction and overtime costs ballooned. In fact a Milwaukee County audit found that from 2003 to 2007 overtime had absolutely exploded at the House of Correction by over 218%. Walker's vicious circle of dysfunction and poor management at the House of Correction spiraled out of control leading to a nasty federal audit and to Walker totally losing control of the facility.

    The troubled Behavioral Health Division is another area that has constantly suffered from exploding overtime costs during Scott Walker's administration. Walker has repeatedly and drastically cut staff at BHD. In addition he has failed to fill fully funded positions. So there should be no surprise that overtime costs at BHD have gone up from $2.8 million in 2001 to over $4.7 million in 2008.

    Scott Walker owns this kind of overtime record and he has the nerve to lecture us about overtime costs? Scott Walker's spin machine will certainly have to work some serious overtime to sell this hypocrisy to the public.

    Saturday, August 07, 2010

    Who let this guy back in the race?

    I found just as much amusement as anyone at the way Mark Neumann originally stumbled out of the gate. I think that the above photo-op perfectly symbolized the beginning of his campaign. Eventually however it seemed that the Neumann campaign got its act together becoming a more effective insurgent campaign for the Republican primary.

    Earlier this week Jack Craver asked if Neumann was still in it to win it? After listening to his debate with Scott Walker yesterday, I am actually wondering the same thing. Neumann originally wanted to have debates with Walker all over the state. Now that he finally had his chance he largely failed to draw the aggressive kind of contrasts that an insurgent campaign should be providing. The openings were there on spending, Walker's 24 hour flip-flop on the Arizona immigration law, Walker's waffle on tolls and on infrastructure issues. All were opportunities that he failed to take. In fact, he allowed Walker to be the first to "attack" him regarding his property tax idea. Even when Neumann did approach a contrast it wasn't direct enough ("I'm a businessman, I'm not a career politician" etc).

    Most media described the debate as both candidates agreeing on most issues. That is fine for Walker who has the lead and has the GOP establishment support. For Neumann that perception makes the debate a loss (no matter what his email says). Not because Walker did anything spectacular during the debate (he didn't have to) but because Neumann failed to strongly exploit every opening that he was given.

    It seems like someone let the guy in the hairnet back into the race. I'm just wondering if this was a one-time encore performance or if he is back for good? If it is the latter then it looks like Neumann might just stumble out of the campaign in the same way that he stumbled into it.

    Friday, August 06, 2010

    Walker's Cheap Attacks Contaminate Real Discourse

    Typical Scott Walker. Shamelessly trying to exploit an issue that he suddenly pretends to care about. All because he thinks that he might score cheap political points. This time he is trying to use a historic flood to point fingers about resulting sewer overflows that are actually at historically low levels. He does this even though he has shown no real interest in this issue before. He has never proposed a single solution to the system that his county sewers contribute to nor has he even bothered to attend a single commission meeting. To get an even better view of how little Scott Walker really cares about this issue, you only need to look at his own county sewer failures.

    In 2005 scientists from UW-Milwaukee's Great Lakes Water Institute (GLWI) and the City of Milwaukee Health Department repeatedly discovered contamination on Milwaukee County's Bradford Beach. The contamination included E. coli, a bacterium found in human and animal waste. James Rowen wrote one of the first accounts of these findings and the resulting actions that were taken (by everyone but Scott Walker). In typical fashion Walker and his administration were busy pointing fingers instead of working toward solutions. In the end it was found that Milwaukee County sewer "outfalls" were the primary reason for the repeated contamination of Bradford Beach. After rainfalls they would repeatedly spray contaminated water all across it.

    Even though it was a Milwaukee County beach and a Milwaukee County source of repeated contamination everyone else had to step up to identify and solve Milwaukee County's problem. Apparently Scott Walker didn't care much about sewers or contaminated beaches in 2005. Again, even though it turned out to be a County problem, it was the GLWI scientists, the City of Milwaukee Health Department, and MMSD that took the lead in identifying and solving it.

    Walker attacks MMSD today but actually he should be thanking them for helping solve his mismanagement and the neglect of his own county sewer and beach. The Blue Wave award that he loves to crow about now would have not been possible without their help and over $80,000 MMSD dollars which they were not required to give him. How many of those dollars could have been invested elsewhere if it weren't for Scott Walker's neglected sewers and beach? It should be noted that Walker also received at least $35,000 from the state to help fix his E. Coli problem. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/15/05; 3/1/05; 5/25/05]

    Even though everyone else rushed to help solve the problem that doesn't mean that they were particularly happy about doing Walker's work for him. Here are some of the telling quotes that were reported at the time:

    "We're bringing the money to the table, and UWM is bringing the science. Milwaukee County is bringing a dirty beach." - Former Alderman Michael D'Amato

    "From my point of view, we're just encouraging irresponsible behavior. Maintaining county parks and beaches is the responsibility of Milwaukee County." -State Rep. Pedro Colon

    "Bradford Beach suffers from poor maintenance," said Kevin Shafer, MMSD's executive director, in an Oct. 29 report to the district's commissioners (which also advocated for spending $25,000 to help solve the problem).

    If Scott Walker didn't have a solution for his own sewer problem in 2005, why should we expect him to have any solutions now? For team Walker everything is a political calculation and a cheap talking point. I'd tell him to flush his cheap attacks down a county sewer but I'm worried that it would again contaminate Bradford Beach. One thing that his cheap attacks have certainly contaminated is meaningful discourse about actual solutions.

    Thursday, August 05, 2010

    One Delusional Republican Endorses the Other

    So how perfect is it that Congressman Paul Ryan would endorse equally delusional Republican Scott Walker? What is even more remarkable is that he would use the words "smart budgeting" and "less government spending" in any conversation about either his own record in Congress or for Scott Walker's failure as Milwaukee County Executive.

    Scott Walker's own proposed budgets show that he has been willing to increase Milwaukee County spending by some 35% during his time as county executive. That number far eclipses Democratic Governor Jim Doyle's spending record over the same period.

    And "smart budgeting"? I wonder what is "smart" about at least $200 million in looming deferred maintenance in the Milwaukee County Parks system alone? I wonder what is "smart" about vetoing $150k for building inspections to only (after a tragedy) be forced later to spend an unexpected $700k in the form of a no-bid contract to a campaign contributor? I wonder who defines as "smart budgeting" the act of not paying a pension obligation and instead putting taxpayers on the hook for $400 million more in debt? Not to mention front loading 3 years of borrowing and spending into one (election) year.

    One of the only people that could possibly be shameless enough to refer to Walker's record as "smart budgeting" and "less government spending" is Paul Ryan. He has applied that very same delusional practice to his own record in Congress.
    Ryan voted in favor of every single federal budget-joining the then-Republican majority in increasing the federal budget by $1 trillion. During that time he also voted for defense authorization measures that were filled with massive earmarks and other pork barrel spending. Ryan is also a lead cheerleader for the renewal of George W. Bush tax cuts for the rich even though such giveaways are a major source of our increasing national deficit.

    Given the fact that Paul Ryan suffers from serious delusions regarding his own record, it is really no surprise that he would endorse Scott Walker who suffers from the very same rhetoric v. reality syndrome.