Scott Walker’s Legacy of Ruin
After more than eight years of mismanagement and failed policies that have driven the county to the brink of economic collapse, Scott Walker has ended his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive.
The residents of Milwaukee County may have a welcome reprieve from Walker’s imperious rule for at least the next few days, but it’s of little consolation considering the ramifications of his actions, and inactions, will affect the county for years to come. And, of course, once he is sworn in as Governor on January 3rd he’ll have the potential to wreak the same type of havoc on the state.
Let’s take a look back at the Best of the Worst of the Walker Reign of Terror:
1. Privatization failures – Chief on Walker’s agenda as Milwaukee County Executive was privatization of public enterprises, resulting in tragedy, dysfunction and enfeebled services. Walker’s privatization of jobs and overall mismanagement of the Mental Health Complex was marked by multiple reports of patient deaths, the sexual assault of mentally handicapped patients and the findings of a federal investigation, which Walker suppressed during his campaign for governor, that the county failed to manage the complex and protect patients.
Walker also seeks to use the outsourcing of county jobs as a panacea for his soaring structural deficits and budget woes. When his policy of kicking the can down the road fails, he simply tries to sell off county services rather than address fiscal problems. In addition to his attempts privatize the successful Milwaukee County Zoo, Walker has attempted the sell off of Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport on multiple occasions, yet touts its growth as his success.
2. Budget woes – Walker falsely claims that he consistently balanced budgets in Milwaukee County, but what he doesn’t cop to are the “funny math” tactics that rely on federal stimulus funds and un-bargained-for county employee concessions to plug holes in his budgets.
After eight years of Walker’s feckless money mismanagement, Milwaukee County is on the verge of bankruptcy, according to a report by the Greater Milwaukee Committee with the structural deficit expected to climb to nearly $100 million by 2014. This comes as no surprise to Milwaukee County residents who have seen firsthand Walker’s historic soaring budget deficits and his series of short term fixes that pass the buck to future generations and amount to nothing more than putting a band-aid over a bullet wound.
In fact, many of Walker’s “solutions” to budget problems, such as slashing custodial jobs at the courthouse resulting in cockroach infestation, and implementing a 35 hour workweek for county employees, which was recently declared an overstep of his authority by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, have actually cost the county and state money in legal fees and corrective actions.
Worst of all was Walker’s refusal to address Milwaukee County’s literally crumbling infrastructure, which ultimately resulted in a tragic loss of life at the O’Donnell parking garage.
3. Mismanagement – In an unprecedented move following years of Scott Walker’s failure to provide adequate services, the state was forced to take over Milwaukee County’s public assistance program. Walker’s mismanagement, underfunding and ineptitude, despite millions of dollars and thousands of hours in resources from the state, led to thousands deserving applicants being denied assistance for food and health care for weeks or months, if they received help at all.
Following this takeover, news came that another program, the Wisconsin Shares child care program, would be wrested from Walker’s control due to his incapability to provide competent governance.
Walker’s mismanagement was also evident in the transit system, which ultimately required federal stimulus funds to address massive fiscal problems. Because of Walker’s failure to control transit costs, Milwaukee County residents were forced to shoulder huge fee hikes, reduced routes and fewer services, all while faced with up to a 50 percent in fare increases, including fares for seniors, students and the disabled.
4. Economic Development and Jobs – Walker has a long track record of failure when it comes to promoting and stimulating economic growth, losing more than 30,000 jobs in 2009 alone according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Whether deriding the efforts of the M7 to foster economic development in Southeastern Wisconsin as akin to putting “lipstick on a pig,” eliminating the county’s Economic & Community Development department in the midst of the 2008 economic collapse, after years of de-funding, proposing the county’s share of federal stimulus money to be used to provide a sales tax holiday, or using a one-time gift of $2 million meant to create an economic development trust fund to offset his budget deficit, Walker consistently proved incapable of understanding the economic challenges facing Milwaukee County and unable or unwilling to offer solutions of his own.
The only solutions Walker offered were tax cuts for millionaires, financed by draconian cuts in social services, including the elimination of funds for homeless shelters and short-term disability aid programs, as well as cuts to programs for the elderly, disabled and at-risk youths.