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The Hypocrisy Of Johnny Thomas

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on January 13, 2010

Scott Walker gave his State of the Campaign address today. It has garnered a bit more attention, and definitely not the type, of attention that Walker was counting on.

For example, Supervisor Johnny Thomas sent out this press release, almost immediately afterward. However, I almost sprayed soda all over my monitor when I read this:

“County Executive Scott Walker continues to promote the same failed policy of cutting the work force, borrowing excessively, and dismantling County services as solutions to Milwaukee County’s structural deficit. The County Executive’s neglectful leadership has reached its limits. These are huge burdens that can no longer be ignored by the administration. Parks deferred maintenance has reached $200 million. Projections from Scott Walker’s own administration reveal a $48 million budget hole for 2011. We must be proactive in addressing these challenges, which will not be resolved by limiting services including public safety. Don’t forget that Courts and Sheriff’s Deputies are already subject to eight “floater” furlough days for 2010, along with all other County workers.

I couldn’t believe it. Thomas was criticizing Walker for cutting the work force and not addressing the budget issues, but it was Thomas himself that played heavily into making it all possible for Walker to do these things:

The other big hypocrite is Supervisor Johnny Thomas, who is a member of the Personnel Committee and voted for the contract in committee, but turned around and voted for the layover. But then again, it appears that he is pushing for some higher position himself, as evidenced by his “Road Map for Milwaukee County’s Future.” And like Paul Ryan’s road map, it is a bunch of words that don’t say anything.

By the way, that bit of bad faith bargaining is going to probably end up costing all of us a lot of money. since it is already in the courts.

To double up on the hypocrisy, Thomas’ “Road Map for Milwaukee County” (pdf, p. 7), goes on about how privatization might not be a bad thing after all:

The County Executive’s 2010 Recommended Budget will likely contain a number of privatization initiatives. The County Board’s consideration of these proposals should be grounded in a rational public policy discussion on whether privatization is appropriate and, if so, how it should be accomplished.

Any decision to move forward on privatization should be based on complete and accurate financial data. Past proposals have not uniformly addressed full costs of privatization (e.g. unemployment compensation costs) and a thorough analysis of critical items like revenue offsets and the affect of overhead costs. Careless approaches to management of these initiatives should be avoided. In addition, debates regarding privatization should focus on the County’s level of control over services and the extent to which private vendors will be held accountable for outcomes. Other factors include risks of becoming overly reliant on vendors. This is of particular concern if a privatization results in shedding capital assets (e.g. vehicles, equipment, structures) that are costly to replace if a privatization is to be reversed. The impact on users should also be considered. In Parks programs, for example, consideration should be given to whether private operators would be willing to operate programs with fee structures appropriate to the public purpose for providing the program.

No wonder Thomas is angling for the County Exec position. He probably figures that if Walker can get away with all the hypocrisy, he should be able to do so as well.


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