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Public Safety Trumps Political Spin

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on June 30, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

On Thursday, June 24, 2010, part of the facade on the O’Donnell Park parking structure suddenly fell off, killing a fifteen year boy and injuring two other people.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the victims and their families as they try to cope with their injuries and loss.

Within hours of this tragic incident, Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway issued a statement remembering the victims and calling for an immediate inspection of all county structures and buildings.  Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker criticized Holloway’s actions and called them “irresponsible.”

However, there is more than enough reason for these inspections to be done.  In fact, they actually should have been done long ago.

Look at some things from just the last few years:

  • In 2008, some of the parks bathrooms had to be closed because they were unsafe and unserviceable.
  • In 2009, a county audit found many of the parks buildings and parts of the infrastructure to be in deep repair and/or desperate need of maintenance.
  • Earlier this year, a piece of the cornice on the Milwaukee County Courthouse fell off, even though the county was warned two years ago of the needed repairs to it.
  • Recently, it has been reported that an inspection of the mental health complex found the facility to be in “shoddy condition.”

In 2007, when the bridge in Minnesota collapsed, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty and several other governors called for an immediate inspection of   the bridges in their respective states.  No one ever called them irresponsible or accused them of playing politics with that horrific event.

What makes Walker’s accusations even more egregious is that the first thing Walker did was to check in at the courthouse to see if there was any deferred maintenance.  At the press conference that occurred shortly after the tragedy, after appropriately expressing his sympathy for the victims, Walker felt it necessary to keep repeating that there was no deferred maintenance that he was aware of.  It was as if his first concern was that he didn’t get blamed for this catastrophe.

Regardless of whether this tragedy was caused by poor design, faulty construction, deferred maintenance or something else, the only responsible action would be to inspect all of the county-owned buildings and structures, especially given their history, before anyone else is injured.

For Walker to argue for anything else would make one wonder if he is really concerned about the public safety or if he is just worried about how this might effect his gubernatorial campaign.

Here is the press release we issued today regarding this series of events.


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