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So What Changed?

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on August 28, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

In the editorial section of this morning’s issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is claiming that Scott Walker is finally taking ownership of the problems at the mental health complex:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker told the Editorial Board Friday that the “buck stops with me,” when it comes to violence and other problems at the county’s Mental Health Complex.

Walker is right. It is his responsibility. The mess at the complex, which never should have happened, occurred on his watch And now, it’s up to Walker – and the County Board – to fix problems at the facility as quickly as possible. Aggressive steps are underway, and an interim director from outside the complex will be named sometime next week, Walker said.

It is questionable at best if Walker is really taking ownership of the problems and taking responsibility.  I have not seen an apology come from him for his bad judgment or his poor decisions, like not providing sufficient staffing or for rejecting secure units for the more behaviorally challenging patients.

Earlier, I outlined four things that would be necessary to show Walker taking responsibility for this mess he has created:

  1. To actually be here to deal with the mess,
  2. Admitting he made several mistakes in the way he handled BHD over the years,
  3. An apology, and
  4. Showing he sincerely wants to fix BHD.

He has failed to do all four of those things.  Even while the crisis was going on, his Twitter feed shows he was on the road campaigning more than not.  He has yet to admit that he had made errors or to apologize for them.  And he has not shown any indication that he wants to hire enough staff, train them properly or allow secure units to be re-established.

All he has done is shown us a lot of pageantry, given us a lot of talk, but has taken little action in actually owning up or fixing anything.

But for the sake of argument, even though all the evidence shows to the contrary, let us say Walker is sincere in taking ownership.  As I was discussing this issue with a friend, he kept asking, “So. What changed?”

Walker didn’t change his approach four years ago, after a patient was allowed to starve to death.

Walker didn’t feel the need to change three years ago, when overtime was through the roof and the number of assaults on staff was unacceptable.

Walker didn’t feel the need to change anything at the beginning of the year, when the sexual assaults were first reported.  He didn’t change anything after John Chianelli called the sexual assaults a “trade off.”  He didn’t feel the need to do anything when it was reported that the building was in “shoddy condition” due to years of deferred maintenance.

So what changed now that Walker is allegedly so interested in fixing things?

Simple.  Walker has realized that the problems at the mental health complex are having a negative effect on his polling numbers in the gubernatorial race.

The question then should be: “Can we trust Walker will keep his newly found commitment to these vulnerable citizens once the elections are over or is this just an act of political convenience?


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