Welcome to Walker’s reform school
Wisconsin elected a “reformer”. A man who looks to the far future rather then just the next election. Some states elect leaders with college educations and a varied resume of experience across a spectrum of disciplines. Not Wisconsin. They elected a governor with no college diploma, and whose experience was limited to political maneuvering. It was to be a “learn on the job” administration, because people liked the way he sounded and believed in what he said. Walker was a “reformer” and Wisconsin became his “reform school”.
A major reform of Walker was to abolish and transform a major department of government – the Wisconsin Department of Commerce:
1955 Wisconsin Department of Commerce is created
The Department of Commerce was administered by the Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce, who was appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Wisconsin State Senate.
The department traced its roots to the Division of Industrial Development within the Office of the Governor, as established by the Wisconsin Legislature in 1955.
The the entire Department of Commerce, that functioned without major problems for 35 years, was dismantled, “reformed”, and restructured by Gov. Scott Walker in February 2011. Commerce was replaced with the new and streamlined Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), and branded as a public-private agency, to boost job growth. This was the flag ship of “Walker Reform” boasting an $83 million budget. The regulatory, big government, impediments of the Commerce Department would be striped to make room for the Neoconservative efficiency of WEDC – the flagship of the new Walker reform to allow for the lofty goal of creating jobs, jobs, jobs. Thus the Department of Commerce was “reformed” and WEDC was to be the engine that would drive the creation of 250,000 jobs by the end of his term, as Walker promised in his campaign.
So, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) was created in February of 2011 by the state GOP controlled Legislature and Walker. Five months later, on July 1st – the flagship of reform took over the economic development functions of the old and antiquated Department of Commerce.
The initial Promise? “WEDC will create 50,000 jobs by June 2012”
The Old Commerce Department was abolished in favor of WEDC with a single purpose – (Please mark this well) Walker’s spokesman Cullen Werwie told how the Governor was working closely with the WEDC and was getting regular updates from chief executive officer, Paul Jadin, and it would retain or create 50,000 jobs by June 2012.
Another “Walker reform” was afoot and speeches were made, ribbons were cut, and the new bigger and better, neoconservative job machine was primed and polished for jobs, jobs, jobs!
And all was well….for a few months. But who would guess how soon the WEDC would become a major black eye for Walker?
The July 18 2012 Shake up – WEDC Bidding suspended!
Before a year had passed, Gov. Scott Walker was shaking up the leadership of the state’s flagship jobs agency. You see, there was a problem. The bidding process was mishandled. Skyward, an information technology company of Stevens Point, was offered a sweetened deal. The company was promised tax credits, on the backside of a contract, if it won a bid. This “mistake” gave the appearance of favoritism to Skyward, the company bidding to create a student-information system for Wisconsin.
Because of the lack of communication, regulation, and oversight that plagued the old Commerce Department, the Walker Administration discovered a bigger and better impediment of its own – the competitive bidding process had to be suspended and restarted. So much for Neocon streamlining.
The Walker Fix
The Governor brought to bear the experience and savvy of a man who ran a successful campaign that got him elected as governor, and quickly turned attention to the WEDC problem. What was needed was a man he could trust, someone from his inner circle. Just as he had looked to Tim Russel as his front man when he was Milwaukee County Executive, he demonstrated his administrative skill by appointing his deputy chief of staff, Ryan Murray, to take the role of Chief Operating Officer of WEDC with a slight bump in salary. He would bring down – $105,000 a year.
The Walker staff “shift and shuffle”
One of the qualities of a strong leader is the ability to appoint sound and consistent people to administrate an agenda. Well, mark it up to learning on the job in Wisconsin’s reform school, but Scott Walker has altered his administrative staff so many times that a diagram of his shift and shuffle of appointments would look like the diagram of complex protein on steroids. Mark it up to leaning on the job. Anyway, here is what happened in the WEDC after the bidding debacle:
Ryan Murray, who was Walker’s deputy chief of staff, became the chief operating officer of WEDC, while Mike Klonsinski ($109,500 a year) who was the chief operating officer (WEDC) moved to the role of chief financial officer (WEDC). Eric Shroeder who was the chief financial officer but was replaced by Klonsinski. Shroeder would jump ship, hit the road, walk the plank. Got that?
This crazy shift and shuffle is not an occasional anomaly with Walker, it goes on and on, and dates back to his days as Milwaukee Chief Executive – you know, the days of Tim Russell, Kelley Rindfleisch, and the other indicted Walker subjugates? Anyway, suffice it to say WEDC has a new chief executive officer, Ryan Murray. Let’s look at what he has to say.
Ryan Murray….Mark ME
At this point – July 2012 – the WEDC is summarized:
At this time, under the most reliable measure, Wisconsin’s WEDC created 19,551 jobs overall in 2011, lagging behind the nation and the 33,660 jobs that were created in 2010.
Murray makes things “clear”
1 – Murray made clear that the Walker administration would not be repeating the maneuver because it had the appearance of violating the competitive bid.
2 – Murray pointed out that the problem was one of communication. Information had not been shared with the Governor and thus the potential problem with the bidding offer had been missed. That would change.
3 – Murray said he would help to ensure better lines of communication between the WEDC, other agencies and the governor’s office.
4 – Murray said the agency would be executing a marketing plan for the state’s businesses as well as seeking to implement the recommendations of a recent state audit that found the state’s many other economic development programs in separate agencies still do not coordinate well with each other and with the WEDC.
Walker shakes up staff at jobs agency
And speeches were made, ribbons were cut, and the new bigger and better, neoconservative job machine was primed and polished for jobs, jobs, jobs! And all was well….for a few months. But who would guess how soon the WEDC would become an even bigger and blacker eye for Walker?
September 26, 2012- WEDC Oversteps Authority
The old Commerce Department, with all of its regulations, secured loans agreements from the Federal Government. Walker simply transferred them to the “streamlined” WEDC even though the oversight of the the disbursal of loans was so lax that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) threatened to cancel them.
The WEDC Walker took the responsibility for some $80 million in loans and grants from the Department of Commerce and turned it over to WEDC, which answers directly to the Governor’s office with little legislative oversight.
Here is another pattern of the Walker Administration which might be stated as: “Reformers make the rules, they don’t follow them.”
Even his Secretary Mike Huebsch said he was frustrated with his boss, so much so that he threatened to resign if the issues with HUD were not addressed. Huebsch had wanted to resolve the outstanding issues with HUD – initially raised more than a year ago:
“I should have brought this to the board earlier and it was my mistake not to do that. . . . I thought it was premature but it clearly wasn’t,” Huebsch told the board in a telephone conference Thursday. “I will certainly err on the side of providing greater information in the future.”Huebsch threatens to resign
Wisconsin’s reform school governor is well known for his “divide and conquer” methods to curtail collective bargaining rights, was he now applying this technique to the operation of WEDC?
We need to wait only one month before the rule “reformers don’t need to follow the rules” comes back to bite Walker’s WEDC, when it will be forced to admit that it’s regulations and oversight is far, far, too loose.
October 19, 2012 – Lost 9 Million Dollars?
Just three months after all the communication and oversight problems had been fixed by his trustworthy appointee Ryan Murray, Gov. Scott Walker called for “dramatic moves”. In the wake of revelations that his flagship jobs agency had lost track of $9 million in past due loans with due dates going back more than a year, the reformer did another shift and shuffle of staff.
Chief Financial Officer of WEDC Mike Klonsinski ($109,500 a year) would follow his predecessor Eric Shroeder. Klonsinski jumps ship, hits the road, walks the plank. Do you begin to sense a pattern here?
The Neoconservative anti regulation, streamlined department fails again. Some $69 million in loans — including $9 million in past-due loans — were missed, because no one was assigned to oversee them when the agency was created in 2011! Now, that is what I call a reform! Who needs all the red tape of checking up on accounts receivable? All this just months after Murray said he would help to ensure better lines of communication between the WEDC, other agencies and the governor’s office?
The newly-uncovered loans to 99 businesses, which are past due by 30 days or more, amount to 16 percent of the state agency’s total loan portfolio of $51 million in loans, WEDC chief operating officer Ryan Murray admitted.
Department of Commerce would have done it better
The Neoconservative streamlining of the WEDC does not work, Murray suggested:
“It’s pretty clear that the Department of Commerce had this function — they had staff that handled this — and it’s clear for the last year that WEDC hasn’t,” Murray said. “I think the important thing is clearly we dropped the ball — the staff here did — but while the system collecting loans didn’t work, the system for catching this did.”
Suffle and shift – Shuffle and shift
Soon after the discovery, board members, including Walker, discussed the overdue loans, the HUD situation, and vote on whether to transfer authority to Murray in the interim as a search is conducted for a new CEO.
Ok, so Murray who was chief operating officer of WEDC, will move to Klonsinski’s post of chief financial officer, while a new interim chief executive, Reed Hall, former executive director of the Marshfield Clinic will be installed. Got that?
By the way Reed Hall, became the permanent chief operating officer of WEDC yesterday – Wednesday July 30.
And speeches were made, ribbons were cut, and the new bigger and better, neoconservative job machine was primed and polished for jobs, jobs, jobs! And all was well….for a few months. But who can guess how soon the WEDC might become the biggest and blackest eye for Walker?
What of it?
Daily news stories flash through the media, blogs, face book, and twitter. The progression of problems with WEDC encompass the time line of Walker’s first day in office through yesterday. The attempt is to show some patterns over a longer period than a day, week, or month. What is most striking to me, are all those who have hit the water in the wake of Walker’s passage – all of those who were once trusted associates and are now convicted as felons or tossed overboard because of this action or that. Through all this only one person, one common denominator stands in an obvious and prime position.
Are we to believe the fault remains with those cast aside? Experience and history tell us this cannot be true, and it is time to follow the three fingers pointed back at the one who points.