MADISON – During last night’s gubernatorial debate, Scott Walker trotted out his latest gimmick, declaring he would call an emergency session of the Legislature to focus on jobs.
In fact, Walker had such a chance as Milwaukee County executive, but instead, defunded his own economic development division in the first year of the Recession.
That was after he put a pair of clownish cronies in charge of the division, which they promptly ran into the ground.
Repeated attempts by others to restore the division succeeded earlier this year, but Walker failed to staff the office, or even give it phones.
This followed the state’s removal of the county’s Private Industry Council from Walker’s control, owing to Walker’s total neglect.
Which comes as no surprise after Walker famously mocked bringing jobs to Wisconsin as, “putting lipstick on a pig.”
Walker additionally continued to misrepresent his role in the G.E. Medical center in Wauwatosa, which he actively worked to kill, before other leaders, including Gov. Doyle, stepped in to correct his hostility toward the project. He also continued to take credit for the growth at Mitchell Field, the plans for which preceded his administration and which his repeated attempts to sell off would put at risk.
“Time and again Scott Walker has aggressively neglected jobs-creation and gone out of his way to fight any programs that might actually grow businesses in Wisconsin, and, without any successes of his own, he continues to lie and claim those of others,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Saturday. “With his outrageous lies last night, Wisconsin saw that you can’t trust Scott Walker to care about any job but his own.”
Political Cronies Making a Mess
Although he promised to eliminate cronyism and nepotism when he first ran for Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker in many cases has chosen political friends and supporters for county jobs for which they had insufficient qualifications. This is especially true with regard to the former Executive Director position of Economic and Community Development. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Walker has rewards in mind for backers,” 5/9/2002)
Both of Walker’s two choices to lead economic development efforts were previously staffers from his political campaigns. One County Supervisor commented that both Bob Dennik and Tim Russell didn’t have the necessary experience to lead that division. Dennik particularly came under fire from the County Board over disappointing land sale results that put the county into repeated budgetary problems. A specific example of this came in October 2008 when only $226,000 of the $7.2 million in budgeted land sales revenue actually had materialized. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Walker plan shifts developments efforts,” 10/3/2008).
The 2008 land sale problem was certainly not the first for Walker’s appointee, Bob Dennik. In 2007 he was the subject of an open letter by County Supervisor John Weishan calling for Scott Walker to relieve Mr. Dennik of his duties as economic development director. This complaint centered around a $3,082,775 budget deficit in community development programs. The Economic and Community Development Division and Dennik as its leader, were responsible for the administration and coordination of those programs. Weishan pointed out that this failure “has great ramifications, not only for the community development programs, but also the 2008 County budget.” (BizTimes.com, “County economic director should be fired,” 3/30/2007)
Dennik’s apparent defense to the $3 million deficit in his division was summed up by his own comments saying, “Since 2004, I’m the fourth director. Since I’ve been in this job in May 2005, I’ve gone from an accountant to a fiscal analyst to a budget person.” (Daily Reporter, “Milwaukee County economic development division has $3 million deficit,” 3/30/2007)
An audit that was ordered by the County Board’s Committee on Finance and Audit, found that this incident was “not the first time in recent years that the Division has reported problems with fiscal management. A deficit of approximately $775,000 was also reported at year-end 2004. This amount was later revised to $531,000.” According to the audit, there were three general areas that caused the recurrence of deficits within the Division. These included the following:
- Limitations in both budgeting and fiscal monitoring procedures that were being used.
- Specific problems related to the recording of carryovers from previous years.
- Decisions about the number and nature of fiscal staff assigned to the Division.
One of the major suggestions in the audit was for the Division to have its own accountant. This need was certainly reflected in the fact that a full $1.55 million of the $3million deficit was due to budgeting and other fiscal errors. (Milwaukee County Inter Office Memo from the Director of Audits, “Department of Administrative Services – Economic and Community Development Division 2006 Deficit,” 5/1/2007)
Milwaukee-7 Regional Economic Development Group
Barrett is an original co-founder and is the current co-chair of M7; Walker derided the efforts as putting lipstick on a pig. (Which the MJS rightly opined at the time: “It is exceedingly unhelpful when one of the alleged leaders of a promising effort to market the region’s positives begins working at cross-purposes with the group so publicly, so early.” MJS, 10/7/05)
G.E. Medical center
“The county executive was never at the table negotiating this,” she (former Wauwatosa Theresa M. Estness) said, adding “There was never anyone from the county involved when we were negotiating with GE.”
“It has nothing to do with county government,” (aviation consultant Michael Boyd, of Boyd Group International Boyd) said. “It has to do with airline economics.”