Monday, June 28, 2010

Public Safety vs. Political Spin

As most people are aware, last week a tragic event took place when part of the facade on the O'Donnell Park parking structure fell, killing a fifteen year old boy and injuring two others.

At Milwaukee County First, I discuss the difference in the ways that Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker handled the issue at the very sensitive first few hours.

Sadly, while Holloway was concerned with public safety, Walker made it appear that he was more concerned with how this would impact his gubernatorial campaign, and went into immediate damage control spin mode:

What makes Walker’s accusations even more egregious is that the first thing Walker did was to check in at the courthouse to see if there was any deferred maintenance. At the press conference that occurred shortly after the tragedy, after appropriately expressing his sympathy for the victims, Walker felt it necessary to keep repeating that there was no deferred maintenance that he was aware of. It was as if his first concern was that he didn’t get blamed for this catastrophe.

Regardless of whether this tragedy was caused by poor design, faulty construction, deferred maintenance or something else, the only responsible action would be to inspect all of the county-owned buildings and structures, especially given their history, before anyone else is injured.

For Walker to argue for anything else would make one wonder if he is really concerned about the public safety or if he is just worried about how this might effect his gubernatorial campaign.

Walker's Republican opponent for the Republican nomination (yes, Walker backers, there still is a primary), Mark Neumann did not do himself any favors with the press release he issued:

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.

“Government’s legitimate functions include providing safe infrastructure for its citizens. This concern must be paramount.

“It is clear that along with this latest tragedy, the county courthouse, the Zoo Interchange, and the Hoan Bridge, a number of structures in Milwaukee County are in various stages of disrepair. A full investigation and safety review is absolutely warranted, particularly for structures and facilities that have already been flagged for critical problems.

“This is heartbreaking. Sue and I are deeply sorry to hear of this terrible loss and the families are in our prayers.”

First of all, Neumann could have easily waited until this week before issuing the release. If he wanted to issue a release right away, it would have been much more appropriate to simply express his condolences. To add the jabs at Walker and Tom Barrett was needless and rather boorish at the time of the release.

On the Democratic side, Tom Barrett did it the way a political candidate with any level of statesmanship would. His press release was short and simple and had none of the political superfluity of his Republican opponents:
I extend my sincere sympathy to the family of the victim and to the individuals injured in this very tragic accident. The Milwaukee Fire Department and the Milwaukee Police Department have performed admirably at the scene. We also have City engineers at the scene. I’ve directed all City departments to provide Milwaukee County with any assistance necessary.
To further show his class, when he appeared on WTMJ 620-AM radio Friday morning, he repeatedly, and firmly, stated that he would not comment on the incident except that the City of Milwaukee was prepared and willing to offer any assistance needed as the investigation into the tragedy progresses.

It's been said that a person can be judged by how he or she acts in time of distress or crisis. If so, the behaviors of these four elected officials in the hours after this critical incident certainly speak for themselves.


  1. "the first thing Walker did was to check in at the courthouse to see if there was any deferred maintenance"
    Really? You no doubt have proof evidence this is the FIRST thing he did?

  2. Actually, I remember Walker saying in an interview that he heard about the incident when he was at opening ceremonies for Summerfest and then went directly to the courthouse. Go read the initial transcripts of his initial TV interviews.

  3. You still failed to answer the question. Do you have proof this is the first thing he did? Or, are you "thinking" that is the first thing he did. To make the accusation while the basis of your article suggests political spin is in-itself questionable.

  4. So Neumann "didn't do himself any favors" by going after Walker in his press release, but Holloway was "concerned with public safety," even though he did the same thing?

  5. Interesting. You know, Walker hasn't been around at all lately on Facebook, Twitter, etc. See this:

  6. Anonymous 8:21,

    My proof is what Walker said on TV, as Cory pointed out and verified. Also note that Walker was late getting to the press conference. Why was that? And where is he now?

  7. Coop,

    Holloway is an elected leader and the head of the legislative branch of county gov't. Furthermore, he isn't running for anything. If anything, he'd probably want Walker out so he wouldn't be able to directly keep screwing up the County.

    Neumann is running for office and made it obvious that his statement was campaign oriented.

  8. Splitting hairs, Capper. Holloway's going to have to run for re-election if he wants to keep his job. Not to mention, as an elected leader he should be holding himself to a higher standard.

  9. Holloway has already said he is not seeking re-election. Calling for public safety is a bad thing? It's a helluva lot more than Walker has done in eight years.

  10. Again capper where is the proof? Saying he was going to the court house is not saying he went to check maintenance records. YOU clearly stated this was the first thing he how do you know?

  11. Unlike you, the rest of the world can put two and two together. What do you think he went to the courthouse for? To use one of the clogged up toilets? Or to make sure another part of the cornice didn't fall off?