On Monday morning, just a week before the recall primary, Scott Walker, with his entourage of Lt. Governor Becky Kleefisch and Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, comes traipsing to Milwaukee to take a shot at potential recall opponent Mayor Tom Barrett by announcing a scheme he dubbed “Transform Milwaukee.”
To make a long story short, Walker wants to take credit for taking WHEDA funding and use it for what it’s meant to be used for.
Excuse me, but for anyone who is familiar with the history of Milwaukee, both the county and the city, for the past ten years, this is like Walker bragging about cleaning up the milk he spilled.
But first, let’s look at what he’s claiming now.
If we’re to believe Walker, he’s been secretly planning to revitalize Milwaukee for the past year, even though he never met with Mayor Barrett until last month and has never met with Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. (But he did allegedly meet with Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny Thomas about the time he was being investigated and charged for taking a bribe in a separate John Doe investigation. Maybe they held their discussion while waiting to be interviewed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney?)
And, as I pointed out above, the fact that this plan has been going on for over a year now, and he is only announcing it now is more than highly suspicious. It’s blatant politicking. (I warned about this happening, but alas, no one heeded my alarms.)
But what really burns me is his record on the things he claims he wants to do now. Walker said that this grand scheme of his is to accomplish certain things, although he isn’t very specific on the when or how he plans to go about this:
- Create jobs
- Take care of foreclosed and vacant properties
- Economic Development
- Create bioswales and other structures to address flooding problems
- Improve the intermodal transportation structure
Sounds great, right? Well, until you look at his track record on these points, it might.
As governor, Walker has had the dubious honor of leading Wisconsin to be the only state in the nation to have statistically significant job losses for the past year. For seven of the last nine months, Wisconsin has been hemorrhaging jobs, all due directly to Walker’s failed policies.Ironically, the 30th Street Corridor, the spot that Walker is proposing to be the beneficiary of his newly found largesse also happens to be the home of Talgo, the train manufacturing company that Walker is personally forcing to leave the state.
Even when he was county executive, Walker was a failure at creating jobs. So much so that in 2007, then Governor Jim Doyle had to take the Private Industry Council, which was supposed to help train and find employment for Milwaukee’s poor and minorities, away from Walker and give it to Mayor Tom Barrett.
To add to Walker’s miserable record as county executive, he continuously pared down the transit system. By 2008, he already cut out 20% of the bus services, which left more than 40,000 jobs inaccessible to people reliant on the transit system. As governor, he slashed the funding for the Milwaukee County Transit System by even more. A 2011 study done by the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee issued this warning:
“Particularly in the current economic climate, a substantial reduction of transit service to regional employers would create further difficulties for a regional economy that is already showing few signs of life.”
They further advocated for a dedicated funding source for the transit system, which is the only one in the only major transit system in the nation without one, like the dedicated sales tax, which was approved by the voters but Walker actively fought against:
Finally, we join others in urging state and local policymakers to pass the necessary legislation to create a dedicated local funding source for transit in Milwaukee County. The chronic budget shortfalls experienced by MCTS in recent years are due in no small part to the competition MCTS faces every year for a share of county property tax revenues. This arrangement, highly unusual for a large transit system like MCTS, is no longer sustainable. A proposal for a county sales tax to replace property tax funding for transit was approved by Milwaukee County voters in an advisory referendum in 2008. State and local policymakers should respect the preferences of voters and act soon to establish a permanent, dedicated funding source for transit that would help put MCTS on more solid financial footing.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Walker laid off over 20% of Milwaukee County’s workforce in his time as county executive. Most of these layoffs came in housekeeping, security and the parks. Furthering his long history of pay for play, he gave out contracts to Edward Aprahamian, Wackenhut and Kujawa Enterprises, Inc., respectively. And yeah, all three of these have donated to Walker’s campaign.
Foreclosed and Vacant Properties
This would make them prime targets for commercial realtors. And I’m sure that it’s a mere coincidence that the Commercial Association of REALTORS Wisconsin were big supporters of Walker and played heavily in his gubernatorial campaign. Just as I’m sure it’s purely coincidental that the Wisconsin Realtors Association has already endorsed Walker in the upcoming recall election.
This is almost as much of a joke as the job creation bit.
As Milwaukee County Executive, Walker first used the economic development positions as political appointment slots for his unqualified campaign workers, who failed miserably:
Walker’s last two choices to lead the county economic development office, Bob Dennik and Tim Russell, came from his campaign and lacked depth in the development business, Clark said. Dennik left the post this week to become an executive with a Pewaukee construction company. Russell is now Walker’s community relations director.
“Walker chooses folks who don’t have (the necessary) experience,” she said. Dennik came under repeated fire from the board the last two years over disappointing land sales results that put the county budget in a jam. He didn’t return several phone calls seeking comment.
Only about $226,000 of the $7.2 million in budgeted land sales revenue for this year has materialized, contributing to a projected multimillion-dollar, year-end deficit. The land-sales budgets have been off $1 million or more in four of the last seven years, county figures show.
In his 2009 budget, in the height of the recession, Walker eliminated the economic development office altogether.
Of course, what can one expect from the person who said that a plan to develop and promote Milwaukee County and the surrounding area to be akin to putting “lipstick on a pig.”
Perhaps his newly found devotion has to do with all the left over Koch-o Brown lipstick he had from his invitation-only croquet fundraiser.
Walker claims that he wants to use some of the funding to construct bioswales and work on the infrastructure to control flooding. The funny thing is he didn’t appear that worried about flooding in his last year as county executive, when he vetoed a resolution which would prevent Waukesha County from dumping 10.9 million gallons of their sewer water into Milwaukee County rivers. These rivers already had a problem with flooding, especially during the spring rains and snow melt.
Of course, Milwaukee home owners aren’t as affluent as Waukesha County residents or as commercial realtors, so their plights hold little influence for Walker.
Intermodal Transportation Structure
In his press release, Walker stated that he wanted to direct resourced to “an established intermodal transportation infrastructure to ensure the efficient transportation of Milwaukee products to national and global markets utilizing the water, air, rail and highway systems.”
How Walker proposes to do this should be interesting.
His attack on the working people of Wisconsin has already damaged the economy that the once primary airline is all but pulling out of Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport.
And his myopic approach to rail already killed any chance of high speed rail, and all the jobs that come with it, from ever coming to Wisconsin.
And with his inane attack on mass transit, as noted above, he’s put Milwaukee’s transit system in a death spiral. Even if there were jobs, people would not have a way to get to them.
But I’m sure that this won’t keep Walker from claiming he’s got to widen the entire interstate in the region, since he does have the road builders to pay back for their more than generous support.
Besides the hypocrisy of Walker’s sudden conversion into actually giving a damn about the people of Milwaukee, something he’s done for the past ten years, it’s downright insulting knowing that he as no intention of following through with any of this. Just like when Walker and his Republican cohorts in the state legislature tried to ram through the corporate-written mining bill, this has nothing to do with jobs.
This stunt was nothing but a cynical piece of political game-playing. Like all of his “job creating” proposals, this is nothing more than a smoke and mirrors act while he doles out more taxpayer money to his wealthy friends and campaign contributors, while letting those who would cling onto his false promises sit and rot.
It’s one thing to continuously attack a group of people because of greed and misguided – OK, insane – ideology. But then to come back and dangle a phony life preserver in front of the people he’s thrown overboard is indescribably cruel.
For that alone he deserves to be recalled.