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What Ever Happened To Safety, Affordability And Pride?

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on January 14, 2010

In 2007, Scott Walker gave a theme to his 2008 county budget, which he then carried over in his re-election campaign for April 2008 (even though he promised he wouldn’t run again).

The theme was Safety, Affordability and Pride.

Recent events has made me wonder what the heck happened to those campaign promises.


Scott Walker promised safety for the citizens of Milwaukee County. He has fallen way short of that promise.

When Walker was in charge of overseeing the House of Correction, there were many problems, including inmates escaping, and an inmate allowed to die from a drug overdose. Things had gotten so bad at the HOC.

Walker was also responsible for the serious decline in the quality of mental health services, to the point that our mentally ill citizens were allowed to squander in dangerous, and sometimes fatal, living situations. And these poor souls wouldn’t be able to get help at the mental health complex, since Walker cut that so severely, there weren’t enough beds to meet everyone’s needs. Furthermore, for the people that were inpatient, and for staff, Walker’s cuts created a very unsafe environment.

There is also the physical danger presented by the exposed PCBs in Estabrook Park, that makes it unhealthy to eat any fish caught there, drink the water or to even be in the area on a windy day.

More recently, after attacking Tom Barrett for giving Milwaukee Police officers two days of furloughs and ripping into Governor Jim Doyle for the early release of prisoners, we find that Walker is the ultimate hypocrite. Through his own incompetence, Walker gave eight days of furloughs to the deputy sheriffs. And now the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that Walker’s budget cuts have put a $5 million hole in the budget for the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff David Clarke is so exasperated with Walker’s mismanagement that he is talking about releasing over 100 inmates from the House of Correction and cutting highway patrols:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. says his 2010 budget has a nearly $5 million hole in it, which will force him to release 120 jail inmates to home detention, discontinue inmate rehabilitation programs and possibly reduce freeway patrols.

“There are consequences to how you have patched this budget together,” Clarke says in a letter to County Executive Scott Walker, County Board Chairman Lee Holloway and other supervisors. “That is not a threat; it is reality.”

The sheriff said, however, that he is not asking for additional money. On Wednesday, Clarke said his cuts were agonizing choices that he knew would upset some. But he said he was determined to make his budget balance rather than seek additional money from the County Board and County Executive Scott Walker.


As with safety, Walker’s rhetoric about providing services in a more efficient and cost-effective manner proves to be just empty rhetoric.

Walker’s cuts in the number of county workers is a popular meme among his ultraconservative base, but he reality of the cost of those cuts is something completely different. Due to severe staffing shortages, overtime costs at the House of Corrections soared for at least two consecutive years. Likewise, overtime costs at the mental health complex have continuously been running over budget, again due to the shortage of staff. And recent reports tell me that they are still having overtime coming out of their ears.

Furthermore, it has been proven that the cost of not providing adequate mental health services actually costs more than the price tag of ensuring proper care. Furthermore, even if Walker manipulates the county numbers to make it look like he is saving tax payers some money, he is, in reality, only passing it down the line to the municipalities, who see their own costs soar out of control, directly related to Walker’s budget cuts.

I would also be remiss if I did not point out Cory Liebmann’s work, showing that Walker’s “cost saving” privatizations schemes actually cost more than if they were left in the public sector.

Then there is the $238 million in deferred maintenance and repairs in just the parks alone, not to mention the entire infrastructure.

And frankly, I wouldn’t even know where to begin to add up all of the lawsuits that have been filed against the county due to Walker’s ineptitude and ideological myopia. Even if the county is successful in defending the lawsuits, it still has high costs just to provide the defense.


As bad as Walker has done in providing safety and affordability, pride is the are where Walker is simply at his worst.

The first thing that has to come to anyone’s mind is, of course, the way Walker managed to have Milwaukee County be an embarrassment in front of the entire country by letting the courthouse become so filthy that the pictures of the clogged toilet became symbolic of his campaign.

Then there is the bug infested food being served at the mental health complex, the crumbling parks and infrastructure, and the transit system on the verge of collapse.

Almost as symbolic as the clogged courthouse toilet, is the way that Walker has willfully neglected the historic Eschweiler Buildings and the blatant disregard for the true value of keeping the county grounds in its natural state.

In summary, through blunders great and small, and acts of willful malfeasance, Walker has failed to deliver in any way imaginable of his promises of safety, affordability or pride. Given the fact that he has brought Milwaukee County literally to the verge of ruination, I cannot fathom why anyone would want him in the governor’s chair, unless they had a death wish for the entire state.


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