PEOPLE-Local 645

  • Quality of Life Alliance

Public Safety vs. Political Spin

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on June 30, 2010

As most people are aware, last week a tragic event took place when part of the facade on the O’Donnell Park parking structure fell, killing a fifteen year old boy and injuring two others.

At Milwaukee County First, I discuss the difference in the ways that Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker handled the issue at the very sensitive first few hours.

Sadly, while Holloway was concerned with public safety, Walker made it appear that he was more concerned with how this would impact his gubernatorial campaign, and went into immediate damage control spin mode:

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.

Walker’s Republican opponent for the Republican nomination (yes, Walker backers, there still is a primary), Mark Neumann did not do himself any favors with the press release he issued:

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.

“Government’s legitimate functions include providing safe infrastructure for its citizens. This concern must be paramount.

“It is clear that along with this latest tragedy, the county courthouse, the Zoo Interchange, and the Hoan Bridge, a number of structures in Milwaukee County are in various stages of disrepair. A full investigation and safety review is absolutely warranted, particularly for structures and facilities that have already been flagged for critical problems.

“This is heartbreaking. Sue and I are deeply sorry to hear of this terrible loss and the families are in our prayers.”

First of all, Neumann could have easily waited until this week before issuing the release. If he wanted to issue a release right away, it would have been much more appropriate to simply express his condolences. To add the jabs at Walker and Tom Barrett was needless and rather boorish at the time of the release.

On the Democratic side, Tom Barrett did it the way a political candidate with any level of statesmanship would. His press release was short and simple and had none of the political superfluity of his Republican opponents:

I extend my sincere sympathy to the family of the victim and to the individuals injured in this very tragic accident. The Milwaukee Fire Department and the Milwaukee Police Department have performed admirably at the scene. We also have City engineers at the scene. I’ve directed all City departments to provide Milwaukee County with any assistance necessary.

To further show his class, when he appeared on WTMJ 620-AM radio Friday morning, he repeatedly, and firmly, stated that he would not comment on the incident except that the City of Milwaukee was prepared and willing to offer any assistance needed as the investigation into the tragedy progresses.

It’s been said that a person can be judged by how he or she acts in time of distress or crisis. If so, the behaviors of these four elected officials in the hours after this critical incident certainly speak for themselves.

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