Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's the policy stupid! (Times Two)

After the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called for the firing of Scott Walker's hand picked administrator of the Behavioral Health Division (BHD), I pointed out that the firing alone would not solve the problem. At that time I commented that the actual problem with Milwaukee County's BHD and its Mental Health Complex (MHC) was one of flawed Walker administration policy. Today we have the release of two Milwaukee County audits, one on the continual crises at the MHC and the other regarding the dangerous conditions of Milwaukee County buildings and structures. In both cases, I point back to my august observations in again saying "It's the Policy Stupid!"

Regarding the MHC the audit shows that violence has rapidly increased over the last five years. It's not really a surprise when you consider that Scott Walker has had a longtime policy of cutting staff. In 2001 there were 1,053.1 funded position equivalents. In 2008 that number went down to 890.9 and in his 2010 proposed budget he wanted to put it all the way down to 746.7. In addition, in 2008 there were 113 positions at BHD that were fully funded but not filled. Considering all of the tragedies happening on his watch, no wonder Scott Walker is stonewalling nearly everyone that wants to get to the bottom of the problem.

Regarding the widespread problems with building maintenance/inspections, the audit found that "Milwaukee County has taken a haphazard approach to building inspection, with no formal policy and inconsistent follow-up." Again, it is the policy stupid! Consider the following:

  • In the 2002 budget the Architectural, Engineering Environmental Services division had 70.4 full-time equivalent positions. In the 2010 budget there were only 36.4 such positions remaining.
  • Investments in that division have gone down from $7,339,513 in 2002 to $6,703,375 in 2010.

  • Both a Milwaukee County audit in December and a Public Policy Forum analysis last October offered some brief but important commentary on the divisions' staffing issues and its negative impact on proper inspections and monitoring of structures and buildings.

  • You can see this same failed Walker formula in his ($200 million) deferred maintenance approach to parks, and his overtime (218% increase) approach to the House of Corrections. How much mismanagement and short-term policy do we have to see before we collectively come to terms with reality? Here is that reality check: Scott Walker will do and say anything to promote his own political career, even if that means a much higher long-term cost for the rest of us.

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