Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Walker's Worthless Press Release

Even though Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has been busy in Washington, D.C., schmoozing up to special interests and sharing "Stick it to Milwaukee" stories with Tommy Thompson, he still managed to have his campaign office executive's office issue another campaign promotion press release. This has to be the most pointless document he has ever produced.

The press release urges the County Board to take immediate action on four of his campaign promises that he issued last week. The four actions specified by Walker are moving the mental health complex to the decrepit St. Michael's, selling county land to UWM School of Engineering, selling the county interest in the Park East corridor, and approving of his preliminary transit agreement with Waukesha County.

I got in contact with Milwaukee County Board Supervisor John Weishan, Jr. to get his reaction to Walker's fiat, and how soon the Board would act.

At first he wasn't aware of the release, saying Walker's never gotten in touch with the Board about any of it (so much for Walker's promise of cooperation). When I told him about it, he chuckled.

Regarding Walker's persistent attempts to move the mental health complex to St. Mike's, Weishan said that he can't see it happening. He reminded me (like I needed it), that the proposed move would be more expensive than building a new facility on county grounds. He also added that the new building would be much more energy efficient and ecofriendly. On top of all that, he pointed out that there was no guarantee that WEAS Development would still be in existence in five, ten or twenty years, especially in today's economy, so there could be no guarantee that they would keep their end of the deal. Furthermore, after the end of the lease, the County and its taxpayers would be at the mercy of whoever held the rights to the building, as that the County would have hundreds of patients and nowhere else to go with them.

Weishan also questioned why Wheaton Franciscan hadn't torn down the St. Michael's building, like they threatened to do by December 1 of last year:
Wheaton, which owns St. Michael, has closed most of the hospital at 2400 W. Villard Ave. In a letter to the county Friday, Wheaton President and Chief Executive Officer John Oliverio said that unless a deal is reached with the county to take over the hospital by Dec. 1, he’ll order the hospital’s demolition.
Weishan noted that the fact that they kept lowering their price shows that they were trying to overcharge the County all along.

As a last point on the whole mental health complex/St. Michael's issue, Weishan also told me that State Statutes require Milwaukee County to have its own mental health complex, and that putting themselves in such an untenable position could lead to further problems.

Regarding selling county land to UWM for their School of Engineering, Weishan points out that the problem really lies between UWM and Walker, who can't seem to come to an agreement on the price. He told me that the County Board can't vote to approve or deny anything until Walker gives it to them to vote on, which he hasn't done yet. Weishan added that things might go along smoother if there was a Director of Economic Development, but Walker abolished that position in his latest budget. (Not that it was doing the county a lot of good to have one, since Walker kept appointing his unqualified cronies/campaign managers.) This duty falls to the head of the Department of Public Works, but that was George Torres who had quit to work for LaCausa, and Walker hasn't hired anyone to take that position.

Similar problems surround the Park East corridor. Weishan stated that Walker first has to get the City of Milwaukee to come up with the willingness and the money to pay for the land. Then he has to have his non-existent Director of Economic Development or his non-existent head of DPW to submit the proposal before the Board could take any sort of action.

Weishan did state that he had serious concerns about that proposal though, even if it were ever to get actually produced. He stated that what it would do in effect is take all the risk off of the suburbs and put it all on the City of Milwaukee. In other words, Walker is again abdicating his responsibilities as County Executive and trying to dump it on Mayor Barrett and the city taxpayers.

Regarding the transit issue, Weishan said that he is still waiting to see something from Walker so that it can be discussed and voted on. He pointed out that there is a meeting for the Transportation, Public Works and Transit committee on March 4th, and he would expect Walker to have something to them by then, if he is really serious about it.

Meanwhile, while Walker is schmoozing special interests and issuing worthless proclamations, Mayor Barrett is again outshining Walker by showing real leadership by developing a plan to set up a methane pipeline between Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties, as James Rowen puts it succinctly:
In a nutshell, the MMSD aims to capture methane gas at its Muskego landfill - - some intergovernmental cooperation linking Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties - - put it in a 17-mile pipeline and send it into MMSD operations at Jones Island.

Hundreds of jobs would be created in the pipeline construction, so the project would be good for the workforce, air quality, and property taxpayers.

It is this inter-governmental creativity, big-picture, pragmatic, Smart Government approach to stimulus dollars that Walker blew off with his "no thanks" approach.

It's what real leaders practice - - easier when not in full-time campaign mode - - as stewards of public funds and other shared resources, like air quality and natural resource supplies.
You can read James' full post at The Politcal Environment.

It is rather telling when the City of Milwaukee's Mayor Barrett makes a better county executive than Walker does, even though Walker holds that office. Heaven only knows what makes Walker think he is qualified to be governor.

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