The echo chamber, including, but not limited to, Charlie Sykes, Preview McIlheran, Kevin Fischer, Patrick Dorwin, Owen Robinson, and Cindy Kilkenny (who had to go and make it personal), all chipped in declaring that this put to rest the stories that the parks were a shambles. Walker couldn't resist saying so himself either.
Appropriately enough, Parks Director described it as the "parks equivalent of an Academy Awards." I say that she described it accurately, since there seems to be some kind of story line going on. But this is a very poorly written story, full of holes in the plot.
The first point is really a minor one, but the easiest to point out. Walker and Black both say this is in high praise of the park workers. That is swell. But if the park workers are so darn good (which, of course, they are), why does Walker keep trying to lay them off each year?
But now the story gets a little more complex.
Some eighteen months ago, Gretchen Schuldt and Brew City Brawler, here, here and here, gave us picture proof that the parks were not in very good shape. Last summer, Gretchen showed us that the parks not only hadn't improved, and that Walker had proposed to slash maintenance funding by some 72%, which belies the claim by whoever filled out the application for the award.
Something just wasn't adding up, and it was about to get weirder.
In the article on JSOnline, they quote County Board Supervisor as stating that there was still a $276 million dollar backlog in repairs due. With all due respect, I would suggest that the good Supervisor check his numbers again.
Just last July, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story telling us how Milwaukee County was lagging behind the rest of the nation in parks spending, and boy, did it show. Just a week later, the paper ran another story telling us that 32 park bathrooms received a D grade and 11 of them failed outright. It was so bad that to fix the 11 failing bathrooms, it would cost the County $862,000. However, the 2009 budget didn't include nearly enough money to cover either of these totals. This, of course, doesn't mention that Walker now wants to cut the budget by another 6% for the rest of the year.
There is no way that all of these repairs were done in nine months with insufficient funds.
But we're not done yet. This mystery is about to turn into a murder mystery. Besides the obvious disconnect from reality in thinking that the park fairies came and fixed everything, something was not adding up. There seemed to be three different story lines.
We have the JSOnline article (which I expect to appear in tomorrow morning's paper) and we have the press release from Walker. These two don't seem to fit together too well, but not enough to raise any eyebrows. But there is a third story.
Thanks to Owen Robinson's unique blogging style, in which he links to the story and then copies and pastes a paragraph or three, we see this:
Now that just doesn't fit either of the other two. Well, Lady Luck was smiling on me while I was getting all the different sites up. While combing through MJS's archives, I noticed that this story was originally done this morning, by a different reporter altogether:
Judges have named the Milwaukee County Parks Department a finalist in a competition for the best managed park program in the nation.
The county parks system is one of the top four contenders for the 2009 National Gold Medal for Excellence in the Park and Recreation Management Program. Leaders from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and the National Recreation and Park Association choose the top candidates each year based on a review of their master plans and a 12-minute video featuring the department’s programs.
I then went back and reread Owen's post, and things became clearer. This award isn't about having the best parks. It is about the "best managed" parks which was being decided by a 12-minute video and a "master plan."
In other words, they can take some footage of the beach from last summer, the Domes, a couple of golf courses and put it in a video. Then they can come up with the whatever wish list they want to have and submit that with the video. It doesn't meant that the plan has to be actually implemented or even be that it be even close to being realistic.
And those are the kinds of things that Walker is very, very good at.
It still doesn't explain why the paper decided to kill the first story. Maybe they are planning on a sequel.
But I wish Mr. Walker all the best in this contest. If he wins, there is a good chance he could parlay that into another victory in 2010. No, not the gubernatorial election. I still don't think he will even make it to the primary election. The victory I was referring to happens in Burlington.