State of Shock: Milwaukee County’s Suffering Under Scott Walker’s Failed Leadership
Eight Years, Eight Disastrous Failures Noted
MADISON, Wis. — If Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is interested in providing an honest assessment in his 2010 “state of the county” address, it will be a long apology to the people of Milwaukee County for his failed leadership, skewed priorities and playing politics with county operations.
“Under Scott Walker, the state of Milwaukee County is failure,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “Scott Walker’s reckless disregard for the needs of the people of Milwaukee County is a shameful failure of leadership.”
Among the ways in which Walker’s failed leadership has hurt Milwaukee County residents includes: reckless fiscal management, slashing economic development and job creation funds, misguided privatization schemes, mismanagement of the food stamps help line, hiking transit fees to the highest in the nation and damaging the park system.
“On every objective measure of meeting his responsibilities to Milwaukee County, Scott Walker has provided either indifference, incompetence – or both,” said Ross. “It’s no wonder that Walker’s only solution is to end county government altogether.”
A snapshot of Walker’s failed leadership over the past eight years includes:
1. Walker’s failure to keep the county’s financial house in order. The non-partisan Public Policy Forum issued a warning that Milwaukee County’s finances are headed towards disaster. “Budgets continue to be patched together by one-time measures and ad hoc arrangements. Issues of major consequence, such as the impending transit deficit, are deflected and decisions postponed. Future costs for unfunded retirement liabilities and deferred maintenance continue to rise. Administrative services function with far fewer resources.” Walker pension investments have also created problems, as the Forum concluded: “the rising cost of health care in general and poor investment returns on pension fund assets caused the unfunded liability for retiree benefits to grow to more than $2 billion.” An added note not in the Forum report is that taxpayers did luck out with Walker on one front: if Walker’s pension obligation bond scheme had gone through, proposed and rejected in the years leading up to the stock market crash – the result could have been a disaster for the county. [Public Policy Forum, 3/09]
2. Walker’s failure to protect economic opportunity. The quality of life has dropped for many in Milwaukee during Walker’s tenure. The unemployment rate has risen from 6.5 percent to 9.2 percent; there are 31,000 less employees in the county; the percent of children in poverty has gone from 24 percent to 28 percent; median family income has remained stagnant and the number of people unable to afford fair market rent has gone from 34 percent to 50 percent. [Bureau of Labor Statistics; Annie E. Casey Foundation]
3. Walker’s failure to prioritize job creation and economic development. Walker has punted responsibility or mismanaged three job creation and economic development offices. After several years of cutting funding to the Office of Community Business Development Partners (slashing support from $680,454 in ‘02 to just $494,688 in ‘05), the County Board took control of the division in 2006. In his 2007 budget, Walker stripped the Department of Administrative Service’s Economic and Community Development Division of millions of dollars, and then completely eliminated the division in 2009. In 2007, Doyle moved the federally-funded Private Industry Council out of Walker’s oversight to the City of Milwaukee after complaints about its effectiveness and loss of funding sources. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/26/2008; Milwaukee County Executive Recommended Budgets: 2003-10]
4. Walker’s failure on a misguided janitorial services privatization plan. Walker privatized janitorial services giving a lucrative no-bid contract to a valued campaign donor, despite rules signed by Walker forbidding such practice. The results have been deteriorating and unsanitary conditions in the courthouse. [Daily Reporter, 3/31/04; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/24/09]
5. Walker’s failure to properly manage the food stamp call center. Walker’s food stamp call center had to be taken over by the state because poor management and drastic understaffing caused one in five deserving applicants to be denied aid in 2008 alone. With hundreds of thousands of calls, over 90 percent were unanswered. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/3/09]
6. Walker’s failure to take responsibility to detect child care center fraud. Walker returned $800,000 in state money originally allocated to detect fraud, despite 95 percent of fraud in the Wisconsin Shares program coming from inside Milwaukee County, according to the Department of Children and Families. [WisPolitics.com, 9/29/2009]
7. Walker’s failure to protect the county’s park system. Walker’s county parks department is $200 million behind in maintenance projects; a hole so deep a recent audit proposed selling off some of the county’s park land to maintain the parks. Walker has neglected. Eleven separate county parks were cited in the audit as having extensive damage, neglect, vandalism or deterioration. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/4/10; Milwaukee Committee on Finance and Audit Report, 12/09]
8. Walker’s failure to manage transit costs, resulting in huge fees hikes. Walker has raised bus fares by 50 percent, including fares for seniors and the disabled. Walker also eliminated lower fares for students, while reducing routes and service. Walker even proposed privatizing Mitchell Airport rather than make tough decisions and lead. [Milwaukee County Division of Fiscal and Budget Affairs; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/16/2008]
“From top to bottom, Scott Walker has been a disaster for the people of Milwaukee County,” said Ross. “Instead of providing leadership when Milwaukee County needed it most, Walker played politics, dismantled county services and on the issue of leadership, most assuredly failed.”