25
June
2010

Walker Delays Maintenance: 15 Year Old Boy Dies

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has built his entire career on the simple slogan “cut taxes”. Part of the way he has achieved this reputation is by allowing Milwaukee County’s infrastructure to erode to the point where yesterday, a 15 year old boy lost his life.

Yesterday a 30 foot wide concrete wall fell from the County parking garage near Summerfest, fatally injuring a 15 year old boy and injuring two others. This was a case where a death could have been avoided had Walker paid more attention to governing, and less attention to politicking.

The parking garage under O’Donnell park has had structural problems for years — almost since the day it was built. Past County Executives have dedicated sufficient funds to maintain the structure and assure safety for the public. Sadly, O’Donnell Park was named after former County Executive Bill O’Donnell who did pay attention to County infrastructure and yes, he did raise taxes to pay for County needs and ensure public safety. It has always struck me as being an unfitting memorial to name an ailing parking garage after a former giant in County politics.

Walker has chosen to neglect the garage infrastructure to save money so he can position himself as champion of the taxpayer for his run for Governor. Of course Walker had to use this tragedy as an opportunity to grab a little media attention for himself. In an interview near the O’Donnell parking garage Walker said, “For me, personally, obviously it rips my heart out”… For a man who has built his career on doing as little as possible to keep government providing services and infrastructure, his claim that it “rips my heart out” rings hollow. With chunks of concrete falling from other County buildings and with neglected maintenance needs, this tragedy was entirely predictable.

Tonight there are two parents who have lost a son because Walker has decided that politics is more important than safety.

This isn’t the first time that County infrastructure has caused problems. A few months ago, chunks of the Milwaukee County Courthouse fell off, endangering the public. Maintenance could have avoided those problems, but Walker doesn’t want to fund maintenance. Funding maintenance of infrastructure isn’t a sexy campaign issue.

Then again, neither is killing off constituents to satisfy a craven lust for power.

Walker criticizes Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett at every opportunity for the same reasons he neglected maintaining County infrastructure; to further his own political aspirations. Walker is vying for the Republican nomination for Governor and to many, he is the Republican golden child who is considered a shoe-in for the nomination. Barrett is the only Democrat running. Former Congressman Mark Neumann is running against Walker for the nomination and Team Walker is doing their best to undermine and belittle Neumann.

Neumann should strike back hard.

Imagine the commercial — a piece of concrete falls and shatters. A newspaper headline shows County Courthouse crumbling. Another piece of concrete falls. A newspaper headline shows the Journal-Sentinel headline “1 Dead, 2 injured in downtown Concrete collapse”. Voice over: If Walker can’t even take care of his own County, how can we trust him to run the entire State?

If Neumann fails to hit Walker for this dangerous neglect, Neumann will lose to Walker in the primary and fade into permanent political obscurity. Neumann may not have been a great Congressman, but at least no one died due to his neglect or on his watch.

Should Neumann choose not to pursue this issue, he will leave it up to Barrett who would certainly have to use this issue in his campaign.

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22 Comments

  1. Elizabeth:

    Tonight there are two parents who have lost a son because Walker has decided that politics is more important than safety.

    You are disgusting for writing this article and politicizing this tragedy.

  2. Jim McGuigan:

    The structural issues of the parking garage have been known since the early 90’s. County leaders then kept abreast of them and invested money when there were problems. Walker rolls the dice with delayed infrastructure costs and his gamble just didn’t pay off this time. Unfortunately someone else had to pay the price in his little game of chance.

    Having been in County government and having been in the position where I supported maintenance and infrastructure projects, I was labeled a “taxer”. Walker has managed to avoid that label since 2002 while slinging it at others and now we see the result. 911 was a tragedy, this is death caused by negligence.

    What is disgusting is Walker’s negligence.

  3. Thomas Kulinski:

    First, let me offer my deepest condolences to the family. I can’t even fathom the grief involved in this.

    Jim,

    Elizabeth was absolutely correct. No one with the slightest bit of compassion could look at this article with anything but disgust. You have exploited the death of this child to make a very poorly constructed political point.

    When you removed your commentary from Facebook and asked me to join you on this site, I expected some very intellectual political discussion. But you are not intellectual or spiritual or insightful. You have become one of those dime a dozen haters that spin everything to advance some secular progressive religion.

    You are wrong about the county board. That was a scandal that we are still suffering from today and Sykes and anyone else had every right to call you out on it. You departed from political discussion and responded with personal attacks and deflected blame which is the hallmark of a tiny little man. A page right out of the book used by your mentor Berry who still blames everything on Bush.

    You can have the last irrational word. For me, I’m outa here for good. I’m going to strike up a discourse with someone that has a little better take on current events, maybe Peggy West.

  4. Aaron Rodriguez:

    Elizabeth is right. Your article is disgusting. You are laying blame on someone without all the facts. Apparently, you think you know more than the engineers currently investigating this tragedy.

    I got an idea, why don’t you give them a call to stop their investigation since you have all the answers.

  5. Nick Cipollone:

    Let me get this straight-

    1) When taxes are cut below a responsible level (almost universally in a way that benefits the most affluent members of our shared community), infrastructue maintenance funding is among the likeliest to be cut in a sustained way. (We’re all in agreement on this, right? Seems kind of totally obvious, seeing as how it’s been forcibly demonstrated to be actual fact, time and time and time again.)

    2) When infrastructure maintenance funding is cut, infrastructure maintenance is defered- done late, or not at all.

    3) When maintenance is not done, infrastructure fails. Sometimes, people die.

    Elizabeth, Thomas, this isn’t that hard to understand. Scott Walker- in fact, all of you who have worked so hard, and so long, to de-fund government- bear some responsibility for this. And the next incident. And the next, etc. (Yes, you- don’t tell me how disgusting you find this, and I won’t tell you how much you disgust me. OK? And Elizabeth, sorry about the big words.)

    Jim- don’t buy your thesis on Neumann- as a tax-cut cultist even more extreme than Walker, this is one line of attack that he can’t really use, considering his base. Not that he might not try- the modern American right-wing extremist (I will not call them Conservatives- Burke would look at these people and puke) are not really rational people, and might find the idea of cutting taxes, reducing deficits, and increasing services entirely plausible. Heck, they bought Sarah Palin, why not this? Maybe you do have a point…

  6. Chris:

    I read this article and discussion and many of you literally have made me ill. When hearing this story I cried inside for that family. I made a vow to myself to NEVER let my children think I do not love them. That will be my personal tribute to this child and there family so that his death was not for nothing. His mother said on the new that “the world was a better place” because of her son so if you read this try to make it so. We should all leave it at that. However; has anyone here read the county budget? Can anyone here show me where Scott Walker has chosen to decrease the amount of money collected, from the workers and home owners of Milw, Co., for the maintenance of structural objects the county is responsible for? I am supposed to belive that Scott Walker is wrong and endangering the public for trying to limit the amount of money the government confiscates from me? According to Nick, Scott mat as well of pushed the cement block himself. If a finger is to be pointed look at the contractor who built the garage, mother nature, God even. That’s all no one elses name should even be mentioned and hopefully God’s is used in prayer and blessing for both of these families. Make the world a better place for this tragedy. Don’t stir the pot and try to spread strife over it. It dishonors this boy, and everyone directly impacted by this event.

  7. Mortified West Allis Resident:

    Jim – I usually agree with you but on this matter I really think you crossed a line. This young man’s death is tragic not something to make political points with. My grandaughter and several of her friends were at summerfest that day, it affected me deeply because “there but for the grace of God.”

    By the way, I can’t stand Walker!!!! I look forward to your next blog posting but not this one.

  8. Nick Cipollone:

    Chris-

    You misunderstood me. I did not say that Scott Walker was directly responsible for the death of that poor kid. I said that ALL OF YOU tax-cut believers are indirectly responsibile for his death, and any other bad outcomes from underfunded government. It’s pretty simple- lack of funding = lack of maintenance, lack of maintenance = people dying- in County parking garages, on Interstate bridges over the Missippi River, from E. Coli poisoned spinach, I could drag out this list for a long time. And all for- what? Historically low income taxes? Get this through your head- a progressive income tax favors the middle class, and the poor. Sales taxes fall hardest on the poor, and property taxes fall hardest on the middle class. Low taxes for the very richest, and a corporate tax code shot full of loopholes = less Federal funding for States, Counties, and cities. Less funding = less regulations, and maintenance = more dead kids. You, Chris, have some responsibility for that. Conservatives keep saying that ideas have consequences. You’re right, they do. Deal with it.

  9. Aaron Rodriguez:

    Nick,

    How is your logic any different than all of the tax-increasers (liberals) are responsible for the amount of bankruptcy-based suicides since high taxes are indirectly related to their decreased take-home revenue?

  10. Jake formerly of the LP:

    ARod- Ya’ll ain’t good with that analogy thing. Taxes don’t make people go bankrupt- job losses and medical emergencies and self-destructive behaviors do.

    But a kid is dead because something fell from a parking garage that had maintenance deferred from it because of a County Executive that valued tax cuts and political poses over paying for needed things. Them’s the FACTS, and your lame attempt at deflection proves you have nothing to say. So OWN IT.

  11. Nick Cipollone:

    Aaron-

    Let me put this gently, because I don’t want to hurt your feelings.

    Between 2001 and 2007, TWO THIRDS of the nation’s income gains went to THE TOP 1%. In 2001, George W. Bush reduced income taxes to HISTORICALLY LOW LEVELS. In 2007, the recession began, millions of homes were lost to forclosure, millions of jobs were lost to downsizing- and you actually believe that those bankruptcy-related suicides were caused by taxes? Aaron- WAKEY-WAKEY! You’ve been programmed. All those manly voices that shout at you from the AM radio, and all those friendly people on Fox News? THEY LIE. Either wake up and smell the BS, or go back to sleep, I don’t care which.

    In any case, my argument trumps yours, because mine is true, and yours is hogwash.

  12. Aaron Rodriguez:

    Wow, that went entirely over your head.

    The point is that your inference is spurious, much like the example I gave you.

    The inference that Walker is indirectly responsible for Kelner’s death is particularly egregious because engineers haven’t determined why the facade fell. All of the critical or potentially critical maintenance on the O’Donnell Garage has been updated.

    You, like Lee Holloway, spoke before thinking. Try doing some research first, or perhaps wait until more results are in. You won’t look like such an ass to people who are still in shock that a child had died.

  13. Nick Cipollone:

    Things are going over heads- you got that much right.

    Because you made an indefensible inference, that automatically makes mine invalid? Mine was (for the FOURTH TIME in this thread alone -I think McGuigan and I are in essential agreement here) this:

    Irresponsibly low taxes = reduced infrastructure maintenance = eventual infrastructure failure = risk of injury or death for people using that infrastructue at time of failure. That’s a pretty clear and simple chain of causality. At least, if it’s spurious, I’m still waiting for your demonstration of that.

    All of the critical or potentially critically maintenance has been updated? Directly contradicted by a WTMJ report- we’ll see. Was the slab that failed one of those critical issues? We don’t know yet. In any case, the last inspection was done in 2004. Six years, when we’ve known about these problems since 1993- why is that? Why weren’t inspections done more frequently- bugetary reasons? We will find out. You sure this failure wasn’t a defered maintenance or inspection issue?

    Look, if were looking for people to more directly blame, Dave Schultz tops the list- he’s the one who short-circuted the architectural design firm bidding process in the first place. That’s off the point of this issue, though, which is infrastructure maintenance funding, and I’m not going to re-state my thesis again.

    As far as playing politics with that unfortunate young man’s death- that’s what you’re doing when you cut taxes to an irresponsibly low level. Something I will re-state- a progressive income tax favors the poor and the middle class over the rich. Property taxes fall hardest on the middle-class, sales taxes fall hardest on the poor. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember when property taxes began their slow crawl upwards- it was when Ronald Reagan altered the income tax to favor the rich, and began the re-distribution of wealth upwards. Federal aid to states, counties, and cities went down, and we had to pay our cops, heat out schools, and fill our potholes SOMEHOW. A Democratic county exec would have the same problem, but this is Scott Walker’s watch now. He chose to cut maintenance funding. It may well be that that kid paid for that call. I could have- I’ve used that garage, and walked under that slab, too. Perhaps you have, as well. Irresponsibly low taxes, tax cutting for the sake of tax cutting, based on magical thinking, plays politics with all of our lives. So please, spare me the sorrowful noises, and wounded indignation.

    As far as looking like an ass to people who, at the crunch, refuse to accept any responsibility for the downsides of their political ideology: what on Earth makes you think I care? I could express my regrets to the young man’s family and friends, like you have- but I think that sincerity is better expressed by making sure this doesn’t happen again. That means that Milwaukee County has to pay a $200 million repair bill somehow. Got any ideas?

  14. Aaron Rodriguez:

    Nick,

    Are we writing books or comments? Geeesh!

    First, the causal chain you listed is not as simple as you suggest. Starting with your first link, you have yet to demonstrate that taxes are irresponsibly low. When you prove this, then we can move on to reduced infrastructure maintenance.

    Second, you need to recheck WTMJ. Their first report did not mention that all the repairs checked out because they didn’t know it at the time they went with the story. Yeah, I know, go figure. In their second take of the story, they mention it in a single small and forgettable sentence, but it’s there. But WTMJ aside, Sue Black provided the list of repairs done on the Garage since the 2009 audit. The report was given to the media, which of course, was under-reported.

    And third, you look like an ass regardless how you try to rationalize your position. It’s even worse when the blogger is a failed county supervisor who has an axe to grind against Walker and caused a bit of a problem with government scandal.

  15. Christopher Thomas:

    I have an idea, Nick. Cut 200 million from other areas of the budget. This is how I maintain my home. County Govt. can do the same. I’m fine with saying I’m sick of overpaying in taxes. Be generous with your own money.

  16. Aaron Rodriguez:

    Chris,

    That’s part of the problem with liberals. They see the taxpayers as an opportunity to reinvent the wheel and create a socially just utopia. With each new program they invent, it amounts to less money that individuals have to create their own wealth and contribute to a high-performance economy.

  17. Jake formerly of the LP:

    Great Chris. Name where you’ll cut. Not generalities, not “administration”. Read the budget documents, and tell me what you would do. Especially when the business of government has more demand for its services with the recession, not less. C’mon, you fancy yourself smart and profound. Tell us what you would SPECIFICALLY do, and what would happen.

    Look, I’d love for every girl to automatically turn their heads and go after me when I stroll into the bar because they recognize my brilliance and excellence, but it doesn’t happen, so I have to adjust to that reality. Likewise, you do not get to have your cake and eat it too when government services are cut. Obvious you never took Econ 101, because if you had. you’d know that the first lesson is that “all decisions involve trade-offs.”

    And oh yeah, I probably pay more taxes than your sedentary self, but I don’t whine and accept it as a small price to pay in order to live in a great place that hosted a helluva time at Summerfest last night. Them’s the separators, I guess.

  18. Nick Cipollone:

    Aaron- sorry about the attention span thing. There are treatments for that, you know. I’ll keep this brief, rather than repeating arguments over and over. Except the part about not caring whether you think I’m an ass or not. I don’t want some magic Libutopia. I want a healthy and broadly prosperous middle-class back. Conservatism hasn’t been doing such a good job of that lately, or are you going to pretend this whole mess began in January, 2009? Even a return to the
    Reagan-era income-tax levels would be a start at relieving the property-tax burden on guys like Chris. As for proving that income-taxes are irresponsibly low, particularly on the top income earners- the more ludricious, the higher you go- get out of the echo-chamber and do your own homework. If you’d rather not, feel free to pretend that we don’t have an infrastructure-maintenance problem.

    Chris- congratulations! That’s exactly what’s gonna happen. So. What parts of the county budget do you want to see cut? Snowplows and road-salt? Sheriffs? How about parks- cut fish stocking ’cause your kids don’t fish, or playground equipment, picnic tables? What services, exactly, do you want to no longer have? It’s a brave new world, Chris, it’s called AUSTERITY, and remember, you asked for it.

    McGuigan- what’s up with your site? I don’t comment much, but I visit a few sites- left and right- and from Freepers to HuffPo, the comments boards reflect the readership of the site. Seems a bit out of balance here.

    Somebody else can have the last word, I’m outta here. ‘Bye.

  19. Aaron Rodriguez:

    “But a kid is dead because something fell from a parking garage that had maintenance deferred from it because of a County Executive that valued tax cuts and political poses over paying for needed things. Them’s the FACTS, and your lame attempt at deflection proves you have nothing to say. So OWN IT.”

    You don’t have all the facts, Jake. There was no deferred maintenance on the parking garage. It was recently updated after a 2009 audit of the property. The fact that you don’t know this means that the media has failed to do their job AKA TMJ4 negligent coverage.

  20. Jake formerly of the LP:

    Aaron- No, SCOTT WALKER said that a 2009 audit said it was OK. It is in Scott Walker’s interest to have people give him reports that say this, and in his interest to release this. Reality’s liberal bias is not in Scott Walker’s interest. This is hardly a complete, independent report like the 2004 one that was the last major assessment of that structure.

    Either you’re a paid liar to support him….or your a gullible simpleton, and that’s why you support him (Walker’s supporters run about 50-50 on this scale). Your excuses keep getting lamer, and you’re not man enough to admit you are wrong….again You can keep flailing and trying to waste our bandwith all you want, but the rest of us know you OWN THIS.

  21. Aaron Rodriguez:

    Jake,

    Please do your homework, this is getting tiring. The 2009 audit, by inspectors via a consultant based out of Boston, showed problems with the O’Donnell Parking Garage. The County used the audit as a framework for addressing the violations. Please check this link. http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/97153569.html

    Furthermore, if you really want Walker to own this, you have to provide evidence. You have to produce evidence that links negligence with the accident, and since there is no deferred maintenance on the property that is relevant to the falling facade, rhetoric is all you can rely on.

  22. Christopher Thomas:

    Nick:

    I’d cut wages across the board 20%. Then all travel. Fish? Yeah, that’s gone. Cut parks–sell them if need be. I’d keep fire, police, road services. Cut all office budgets by 20%. Nothing would happen. The argument that we are spending a lot of money, so we must always do so is B.S.

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