Friday, June 19, 2009

Groundhog Day: Starring Scott Walker

So Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker was forced to reverse himself again after closing local pools in the summer? Hasn't this happened before? If he follows his pattern from last time, maybe we can look forward to him blaming senior staff and firing them. As I thought about the similarities between this swimming scandal and the last one I started to also think about all of the other Walker shtick that has repeated itself over the last seven years. As I looked back at some of the older stories it started feeling like a Milwaukee County version of the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. The only difference is that Scott Walker replaces Bill Murray and forces us to go through the same old bad policy over and over again.

I should note that I am not the first person to make the comparison between Scott Walker and the Groundhog Day movie. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Steve Schultze made the comparison in a blog late last year. He was specifically talking about the dysfunctional budget process that we have had in Milwaukee County government on Walker's watch. It goes something like this: Walker threatens vetoes, Walker issues vetoes, the board overrides his vetoes and corrects his budgetary mistakes and Walker runs around town bashing the board. Same drill every budget…just like Groundhog Day.

But the budget process and pools are not the only areas where we go through the same thing over and over with Walker. The way that Scott Walker is dealing with county workers in bad faith is also nothing new. Walker's tactics have not changed much year after year. After running around talking about a $15 million deficit, that later proved grossly exaggerated, Walker tried to rush the unions to agree to an open ended furlough and reduction of hours. When they didn't immediately agree with him, he started with his threats of imminent layoffs of hundreds of workers. Keep in mind that Walker is supposed to be working on a new contract with the unions and it is hardly acting in good faith to do all of this in the media rather than at a negotiating table. Yet this is also not a first, it is only the latest Walker repeat. Take a look at some of the things that he has done involving county workers in the past. Does any of this sound familiar?

  • In an August 13, 2003 Journal Sentinel story, they report that Walker was jumping up and down about deficits. What was his solution at that time? Shortened work weeks for all employees. What did he say when unions didn't simply jump on board? He threatened to lay off hundreds of them. Again, it was another case of either/or from Walker even though there were serious questions about whether he could unilaterally take some of those actions in 2003.

  • A December 16, 2006 Journal Sentinel story reminds me of yet another time when Walker was planning on laying off over 100 workers. The story states that the union successfully got a temporary restraining order stopping Walker's effort to lay off the workers and replace them through privatization. Again this incident happened in the middle of contract negotiations and the union said that public statements by Walker appeared to be linked to concession demands that Walker wanted the union to make. It should be noted that the story states that Walker issued the layoffs this time even though there was still funding for the positions. About a month later a labor agreement was finally reached and extended through 2008.

  • An October 7, 2008 Journal Sentinel story cites Scott Walker's 2009 budget and once again mentions that he plans on laying off 339 workers and privatizing the services. Given his pattern, it is no surprise that Walker again chose to make these threats at a time when a new contract negotiation was close at hand.

Now here we find ourselves once again, in the middle of contract negotiations, and Walker is pulling all of the same stunts. Demand blind acceptance of furloughs, shortened work weeks, pay cuts or face drastic layoffs. Again we have questions of Scott Walker acting outside of his authority and again we have pool closings and new fees being retracted just about as quickly as they were proposed. With Walker there is nothing new and given his repeated pattern we certainly know what to expect. Unfortunately very little of it is good for Milwaukee County.

Thanks to Zach at Blogging Blue for providing the above picture


Anonymous said...

You should see a doctor for your obsession with Walker. Seriously.

Cory Liebmann said...

I’m averaging one Walker blog a week for the last 1.5 months…(that is since he officially announced his latest campaign to run the entire state)…that is obsessed? Really? I trust you suggested the same for the right wing blogs that have been "obsessing" over Governor Doyle for the last several years.

Try to come here with a little substance next time.

Zach W. said...

Careful Cory, or Walker might take out a restraining order on you, considering how you're stalking him.

Anonymous said...


Once a week is a lot - especially when we have more than a year left of campaigning.

Right wing sites? I don't visit them, so I wouldn't know.

Anonymous said...

Outsiders can't imagine the chaos inside County Goverment these days.

Once a week posting is showing GREAT restraint when it comes to Walkers terrible administration of County Goverment on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

Um, . . . oddly, I don't see a once a week posting on Doyle's great job running our state deficit up to emergency levels. Interesting.