Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Walker Strategy: Pretend You Just Got into Office

Watching Scott Walker's latest ad about Milwaukee County's mental health crisis, you might think that he was just recently elected county executive. If you looked at his new budgetary plans for the Behavioral Health Division (BHD), you might think that he was some new guy cleaning up after the jerk before him that ran the system into the ground. That is what you might think if you didn't know any better. But we do know better and we do know that Walker has been Milwaukee County Executive for eight long years. We also know that his policies today are nothing more than a shameless election year conversion.

Although many terrible things have been reported in the last few months regarding Milwaukee County's Mental Health Complex, scandals are certainly not new. There have been tragic tales of repeated neglect and mismanagement at the Behavioral Health Division spanning most of Walker's tenure in Milwaukee County.

  • The mentally ill being allowed to live in the most horrendous conditions.
  • A starvation death and another near starvation death.
  • An overdose death.
  • The mental Health Complex losing its accreditation.
  • The Mental Health Complex being repeatedly cited by the state.
  • A 50% increase in assaults on staff.
  • The threat of losing federal money because of the various unsafe conditions.
  • And now the more recent stories about policies that allowed sexual assaults of patients.

  • Now in an election year and after numerous front page stories, Walker suddenly creates a committee to offer suggestions? He has been getting suggestions every year for his entire time in office, he just hasn't listened to them. After decimating staffing levels for years, the nurses at BHD repeatedly warned him about needing more staff. He chose to simply ignore that advice. Now suddenly Scott Walker claims that he will add staff in his 2011 budget. Here is a little reality check: In 2001 there were 1,053.1 funded position equivalents at BHD. In 2008 that number went down to 890.9 and in his 2010 proposed budget Walker wanted to put it all the way down to 746.7. Now suddenly in an election year he wants to change that eight year pattern?

    Apparently Scott Walker's strategy for dealing with his disastrous BHD record, is to simply pretend that he just got into office. Hopefully the media and the public will stay focused on his entire eight years in office. He has a long record and he should have to own the entire thing, not just the pronouncements and promises that he makes in the midst of an election year.

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