Friday, December 5, 2008

Walker's Trend For Downward Spirals

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an article about how Milwaukee County is going to set a record for money paid in overtime this year. It even comes with a nice chart to show the breakdown.

The departments having the most money spent is the House of Corrections, Behavioral Health Division (mental health complex) and Human Services (economic support).

It is disappointing, but not surprising. This is the pattern that County Executive and Chief Weasel Scott Walker has sent since he first took office in 2002.

I pointed out 15 months ago, at folkbum's, that the House of Correction was severely short staffed. Not only did this constitute a very unsafe environment for the guards and inmates, it also set up the need for recording breaking and budget breaking overtime.

Today's article points out that HOC was short 50 officers until the County Board got all over Superintendent Ron Malone to fill those spots and another 27 positions. Malone claims he did that in May, but then allowed the lapse to grow back to 50 workers since then.

Now that Walker's thrown his hand-picked superintendent under the bus, Sheriff Clarke has come in and found that many of the new hires have been working without ever being formally trained and certified for the job. Now he has ordered that the officers go through several hours of training just to keep the facility certified:

The extra overtime became necessary after Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. ordered completion of previously delayed staff training by the end of the year.

That's led to a return to forced overtime shifts for some correctional officers while others attend training classes so the lockup can maintain its state certification.

Guards are cramming in 48 hours of training - two years' worth - during the first three weeks of December to accommodate Clarke. He already runs the jail and will take over management of the House of Correction in Franklin and downtown work-release center in January.

The training was put off over the summer because of a large number of job vacancies, said House of Correction Superintendent Ron Malone. He also wanted to avoid assigning large amounts of forced overtime then because he was under pressure from the County Board to halt the practice, Malone said.

Just like with HOC, Walker has continuously short staffed the mental health complex, which also had an exceptional amount of injurious and cases of worker burn out.

He has also willfully sabotage economic support and the public aid call center in an effort to privatize it and garnish favors with the private sector. He will of course need to rely on them for political and financial support if he even wants to have a slim chance of making it to the primaries.

Not only are the workers get shafted by getting all of this overtime forced on them, but so are there families. So are the people that the workers are supposed to be servicing, due to longer wait times and workers that are so tired that their efficiency suffers. So are the taxpayers who paid their taxes so that these vacant jobs could be filled. Instead, they get less services as well due to cut backs to make up for the overages.

But the real kicker in the article comes near the end, when Walker tries to explain why the overtime is about to set a record:

Walker said ongoing difficulties in filling nurse jobs at the county's Mental Health Complex have contributed to continued high use of overtime there. Behavioral Health Division Administrator John Chianelli said his division had made some progress in recruiting nurses but has had difficulty in staying fully staffed. His division had $3.6 million in overtime costs by Nov. 1. That's $1.3 million more than the division's overtime budget for the year.


In seeking every possible savings, Walker said: "We're looking under every stone and pebble."
Gee, I can't imagine why there would be any difficulty filling these spots. Doesn't every one want to work in a job
  • where they face unbearable amounts of forced overtime due to staff shortages,
  • where they face an unacceptably high risk of being injured again due to staff shortages,
  • where they run a high risk of being falsely blamed and fired for doing their job to the best of their ability even without the proper training and equipment, and
  • where, every fall, the boss threatens to lay them off and privatize their jobs.
I would have thought that those would be big draws for potential employees. After all, Walker is only doing that to help maintain his perpetual run for governor.

But if Walker was really serious about looking for ways to make things better, instead of looking under stones and pebbles, maybe he should look in the mirror.

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