Saturday, December 6, 2008

MJS Editorial Board: Three Fails In Three Days

Don't they ever get tired of getting things totally wrong?

In Thursday morning's paper, the fine folks on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial Board had a piece about the state of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare and how it needed to be fixed. I pointed out that they were amiss on the point that, instead of lauding State Senator Alberta Darling (R-the nearest golf course), they should have been holding her responsible for her part in the death of all of these foster children, the most recent victim being Christopher Thomas.

Yesterday, they noticed my criticism, and put up a post on their blogsite, defending themselves. Unfortunately, they again failed to either see and/or acknowledge the point I was making.

In this morning's paper, they did it for a third time in as many days.

This time, they fail to support the poor in Milwaukee County. In their editorial piece, they correctly lament the state of the public assistance call center, but then they show that they've ignored their own paper's reporting and would rather believe Scott Walker's propaganda.

I've already written about the issue here and here, but I'll try it again in an effort to help them understand.

The public assistance call center is supposed to help people calling in to update information on their case, to check on the status of their case, or to ask for help in a multitude of different ways. Most of the calls require the worker to access a computer system to either update the information or even to just check on the status of a case. State law requires that the workers who have access to this computer system be public sector employees.

Currently, the county's budget has authorized and fully funded 25 positions for the call center. However, not all of these positions have been filled. In fact, the newspaper itself as reported that there are 717 positions throughout the county that are fully funded, but have not been filled.

This past week, the paper itself reported that there were only seven people of the allotted 25 positions working in the call center. Some of the absences could be attributed to people out sick or on vacation. But the great majority of it comes from Walker and his managers willfully failing to fill these positions in an obvious attempt at sabotaging it, in order to make it easier to privatize it. This has also cost the County money in lost grants due to the poor performance ratings.

Walker offered to fix the problem by not filling all 25 positions but by privatizing it. The number of workers would jump to 38. The catch is that 10 of the new workers would be from UW-Milwaukee. The other 28 would be from Impact, a private agency. That means only ten people, instead of 25, would actually be allowed to do the needed work or find the requested information. The other 28 people would only be answering the phone and taking messages that will require the 10 people to call them back for follow through.

In other words, the number of workers that could do the work will be 40% of what could be now. The rest would be a glorified answering service. This will do nothing to decrease the backlog, and will probably increase it, due to people calling back repeatedly when they don't get return calls. This will require the workers to either sort through the repetitive callers or to waste time calling the same person multiple times on the same issue. Furthermore, there would be no savings to the tax payer, and the other grants would probably still be lost.

The County Boards proposed fix to it would be to demand that Walker and his administrators fill all of the funded positions and five more on top of that. This would be there would be 30 workers who could answer the phones and have access to the computer system, taking care of the matter at hand immediately.

Let's review:
Currently, only 7 of 25 positions filled. Walker's solution would have 38 workers. Only ten of which could address the problem. The other 28 would be an answering service, but couldn't address the problem. The County Board's solution is to have 30 of 30 workers who could answer phones AND address issues immediately.
The MJS editorial board fails the poor with their misinformation. They refuse to hold Walker accountable for willfully failing to fill all 25 position, thereby withholding services to the County's poor and needy. Instead, they use some twisted logic in saying 10 people would somehow be able to be more productive than 30.

Methinks that if the editorial board was genuinely interested in making sure the poor receive the necessary services, they would have argued for having more people that could actually be able to answer the questions and resolve the issues as the better idea. Instead, they promote having less, thinking that will somehow make it better.

And then they wonder why their circulation numbers keep dropping.

First they laud Alberta Darling despite her lack of action or direction regarding foster care. Now they are promoting Walker's proposal to make the call center situation worse. I can't wait to see tomorrow's piece. Perhaps it will be one trying to justify the Iraq War. Maybe it will be about they believe homosexuals don't deserve equal rights. Or maybe it will be on why they think Gableman was correct in willfully telling lies about Louis Butler in the most recent race for the Supreme Court.


  1. State law requires that the workers who have access to this computer system be public sector employees.

    I'm pretty sure it's federal law

  2. It might be both. I know that the county board supervisor was quoting a state statute.

    Either way, though, the results are the same.