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  • Quality of Life Alliance

Walker: To Win A State, Sometimes You Have To Destroy A County

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on June 16, 2009

Scott Walker wants to be governor in the worst way. Unfortunately, the path he is choosing to give him the best chance for the job is the worst way.

Walker, since Day One, has made his one and only campaign plank about not raising taxes.

Due to that single-mindedness, it has led Milwaukee County into one disaster after another.

First, he wanted to close the pools early, during one of the hottest summers on record. This led to the predictable outcry from the public, and Walker backed off of the plan, and shifted the blame onto then Parks Director Sue Baldwin.

Then, there was the crisis involving the poor care the chronically mentally ill were receiving. This only turned around after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a series of stories about it and the public again raised their voices in protest.

The list goes on and on, from the poor supervision at the House of Correction, culminating in the death of a young man, to a decaying infrastructure which will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, to the failing transit system while other systems around the country are have a resurgence in ridership.

To make up for his lack of any real substance, Walker has tried to fill the hole in his leadership with a lot of showboating and bluster. There are too many incidents of this to list, but one key example that should be highlighted is in regard to the last bout of union contract negotiations. During his last run for governor, Walker tried to present himself has a real hard nose when it came to the unions. Unfortunately for him, history has shown him to be nothing more than a hypocrite and a liar.

Now that Walker is running again for governor, his bluster has ramped up exponentially. In fact, his showboating has transformed into a massive power grab by Walker, using a page from the Bush administration’s playbook on how to be a bad leader.

Walker started out by creating a shadow budget that not even the County Board could fix. A prime example is how he claimed to be expecting about $7 million in revenue in land sales, even though he abolished the position that was responsible for peddling the land. Even when offered a fix to his surely doomed budget, in the form of the American Restoration and Reinvestment Fund (stimulus dollars), he tried to sabotage those dollars from coming here, until the County Board quickly intervened and slapped him back down.

Despite this, Walker still claimed that the County was in a fiscal crisis, and has used that excuse as the reason for his latest round of lunacy, and continues to overstep his authority. His apparent hope is too be able to present himself as a strong leader for the rest of the state, hoping that they notice that he is attacking his own county with a scorched earth approach in doing so.

But this could very well prove to be his undoing.

Walker has claimed that after only three months into the fiscal year, Milwaukee County is in a fiscal crisis, and that there is a projected deficit of nearly $15 million. Walker has used this alleged deficit for bashing both the unions and for bashing the citizenry, especially the elderly, the poor, the minorities and the children.

Walker has used this supposed crisis to help push along the ill-advised sale of the county grounds. He has used this supposed crisis to try to force the unions into an indefinite furlough and to accept hundreds of layoffs, to show how tough he can be as a leader. As a wise man once told me, a rule of thumb in politics is that you can always win more votes running against the union than you can get running with them.

It just so happens that the County is again in negotiations with the unions, and have been since last fall. However, Walker has not allowed the county’s labor negotiators to sit down and work with the unions to hammer out an agreement. I cannot go into specifics at this time, as that the contract talks are still supposed to be going on, and given that I am a county employee and active in the union (but not on the negotiating committee), but I will say this much: Walker is lying through his teeth about what is happening between the County and the unions. When the contracts are signed, trust me, I will tell you the whole story.

Walker has also used this alleged crisis to usurp power that rightfully and legally belongs with the County Board. His power trip includes doing such draconian and immoral things such as stealing the money that senior citizens have paid for year round passes to Noyes and Pulaski Parks’ indoor swimming pools, and then closing the pools. He also wants to create a new fee on the use of the splash pads, taxing toddlers, even though by law, he cannot do this.

I have learned tonight that Walker also wants the County’s Treasurer’s Office to impose much stricter and much steeper fines on people going through foreclosure on their homes. (Interesting on how that ties in to his threats of lay offs.)

But there are some problems with Walker’s Machiavellian scheming.

One is that, well, Walker is a liar. There is no $15 million deficit.

Acting on some tips, from myself and others, that Walker’s furloughs and layoffs would hurt the county’s revenue stream, the County Board ordered the county’s auditor, Jerome Heer, and the Board’s fiscal and budget analyst, Stephen Cady, to look at Walker’s claims of a deficit and his proposed plans to fix it. Their findings were astonishing, even to me.

I knew from talking to both County and union officials that there was no $15 million dollar deficit. But never did I imagine that it was so low as being only $650,000:

Milwaukee County’s budget shortfall this year would be only a small fraction of the $15 million figure County Executive Scott Walker has used to justify cutting employee pay, curtailing services and threatening hundreds of layoffs, according to a report released Monday.

The county faces a $650,000 shortfall for 2009, according to the report by County Auditor Jerome Heer and Stephen Cady, the County Board’s fiscal and budget analyst.

A four-week furlough of County workers, which the union is not contesting, despite Walker’s false claims otherwise, would cover that and then some. But even the furlough isn’t absolutely necessary since the County Board, after years of dealing with Walker’s shenanigans, have learned to put in a multimillion dollar contingency fund, to cover the inevitable shortfalls that come with any Walker budget.

Needless to say, the unions and the County Board are rightfully angry about Walker’s behaviors.

As mentioned above, the county and the unions are in the midst of contract negotiations. Walker’s public grandstanding, while it may convince some that he for the “little guy” is really only bad faith bargaining. Not only that, but it has been roughly estimated that Walker has already cost the taxpayers around $2 million dollars in lost savings by not having a new contract in place. I certainly hope that union leaders, besides grieving the illegal indefinite furlough, are also pursuing legal recourse regarding his bad faith bargaining and even notifying WERC about this as well.

The County Board is also taking several steps regarding Walker’s malicious abuse of power. Their various committees are having a series of special meetings to address Walker’s dishonesty, his usurpation of power, and how to fix the fiscal deficit that Walker’s deceit and/or incompetence has caused.

I have also learned that Supervisor John Weishan is leading an effort to have this matter be brought to court. Supervisor Weishan told me that it shouldn’t matter who the County Executive is, they should not have the ability to abuse the power of their office in this fashion.

He is absolutely correct. It is immoral and unethical for any elected official to falsely declare a state of emergency, whether it is a fiscal crisis, as Walker is claiming, or to exploit a true crisis, like a national security issue, as George W. Bush did, in an effort to take control and ram through their own special agendas for personal and/or political gain.

I also encourage the members of the County Board to consider making a request of the Attorney General, or even better, the U.S. Attorney, for an investigation into possible misconduct in office charges.

Please contact Scott Walker by calling him at 414-278-4211 or emailing him at countyexec@milwcnty.com and tell him to stop playing politics with people’s lives.

See also: Jason Haas’ Walker’s Scare Tactics and James Rowen’s Scott Walker: Master of Disinformation.

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One Response to “Walker: To Win A State, Sometimes You Have To Destroy A County”

  1. […] executive who has no idea what goes on in the county. It becomes a problem when that same airhead attempts to implement policy that coincides with his delusion. Walker said he won’t back off his 35-hour week plan – […]

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