Some thoughts on the O’Donnell Park tragedy

No doubt you’ve heard by now of the terrible tragedy at Milwaukee’s O’Donnell Park near Milwaukee’s lakefront, where one person was killed and two others were injured when a decorative concrete panel fell from O’Donnell Park’s parking garage on Thursday afternoon.

As reported by WTMJ’s I-Team, last December Milwaukee County Department of Public Works inspectors conducted an audit of County facilities and found that the O’Donnell Park parking structure needed nearly $600,000 in maintenance and repairs – maintenance and repairs which were deferred due to cost. Among the issues cited as needing attention were problems with the systems that prevent stress cracks and keep pipes from freezing, as well as cracked concrete walls, cracks to the garage super-structure, rusting metalwork, water damage, and missing tiles. While WTMJ’s I-Team notes repairs to the O’Donnell Park parking structure were deferred due to their cost, Milwaukee County Executive (and Republican gubernatorial hopeful) Scott Walker said yesterday nearly all flaws identified by inspectors in the O’Donnell Park parking ramp had been corrected.

No matter whether the maintenance at the O’Donnell Park parking structure had been deferred or completed, it will be interesting to see if and how Walker’s opponents in the gubernatorial race – Mark Neumann and Tom Barrett – approach this, not to mention how Walker’s campaign will address the issue, which could linger for the duration of the gubernatorial election.

Read more on this tragedy at Haas 414, Playground Politics, and Watchdog Milwaukee.

38 comments to Some thoughts on the O’Donnell Park tragedy

  • squidknuckle

    Yeah, it should be really interesting. Because for the month or so he’s been raising taxes and spending a ton of money. Now they are going to go after him for cutting taxes and not spending money. You know, just like this blog has done:

    http://bloggingblue.com/2009/07/16/stay-classy-scott-walker/

    http://bloggingblue.com/2010/06/21/scott-walker-bad-for-wisconsin/

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    • Ed Heinzelman

      You seem a bit confused. Just because county property taxes have gone up doesn’t mean the money was spent on maintenance of any one specific item on the county’s list of properties.

      So far there no proof that deferred maintenance on O’Donnell park and it’s parking structure had anything to do with this accident. But that doesn’t mean the county can continue to defer maintenance on anything and everything and continue to think nothing will happen.

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  • Jeremy Saperstein

    I find it remarkable that, after so quickly being able to blame the US45 bridge problems on Barrett, Scott Walker didn’t also have the facts & figures about the O’Donnell maintenance (or lack thereof) immediately at his fingertips.

    Kind of gives you insight into his priorities.

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  • Kent

    We should blame this on the Mayor of Milwaukee? Or do we need to blame anyone? If they thought the structure was unsound then the city should have closed it. If they did not have the money then they should tighten their belts and come up with the money without raising taxes. Our government is too big, too many inefficient, over paid workers. That will be changing. If you work for the government I think now is the time to look for alternative work.

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    • Ed Heinzelman

      I hardly think you can say Milwaukee County gov’t has too many workers. At this point they barely have enough workers to get the current work load handled. And how many have been outsourced in the past two years?

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    • Kent, I’m not sure the City of Milwaukee could step in and shut down a County facility.

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      • Kent

        Zach,

        You think that if the Mayor announced that his structure was unsound and dangerous that the county would then allow people to use it? Just because it needs repair does mean we need to spend money on that issue at this point. If the county has over extended itself then the building should have been condemned until it could be fixed with the money they have now.

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  • Kent

    Ed,

    If the County has too much work and not enough workers then the real issue is why? See the government has taken on too much. We need to start cutting governments role in our lives drastically. The American people are fed up with the incompetence of the government. We are sick of seeing high unemployment and layoffs in the private sector only to see the government unions give themselves pay increases. Things are about to turn around!

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    • The real issue why the County has too much work and not enough workers can be traced to Scott Walker laying folks off. If I recall correctly, didn’t Walker lay off a good number of the County’s inspectors, who happen to be the same folks who inspect the County’s buildings.

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    • Frankly, you are wrong, Kent. You claim “the government has taken on too much.” In fact, the current county administration, under Scott Walker, has made it impossible for the county to perform the maintenance that could have saved the young man’s life. Your characterization of this as an “overreach” is especially crude when we recall that a person has died because of this deliberate misadministration of government. Your call to reel in government does nothing to solve the actual problems we face, and it certainly cannot bring the young man back to this world. Your crudity in beating the dead horse of “small (or no) government” is lost when you fail to acknowledge that a child has died because of your narrow-minded view.

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      • Ed Heinzelman

        I’ll agree that the county isn’t keeping up with infrastructure maintenance in the current environment.

        But at this point there is NO reason to believe that this tragedy was the direct result of deferred maintenance nor neglect on the part of the county. Until all of the facts are in we should reserve judgement on the cause.

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    • Ed Heinzelman

      When you get tired of repeating talking points, would you please enlighten us on what county programs should be trimmed? Exactly which county employees we can do without? Where you see excess county government involvement?

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    • Ed Heinzelman

      BTW: I believe the county government over the past few months has improved employment in the private sector. Those mean over paid under employed court house guards and prisoner transporters have been outsourced.

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  • Kent

    Mr Haas,

    Please don’t try and use emotion in your reasoning. The fact is the government failed to protect the public. They could have closed the facility if they thought it was unsafe. So your precious government is actually responsible for this persons death, not Scott Walker. See just another example of incompetence at work with in our government and progressive trying to make excuses for it.

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    • Kent, you’re right; Milwaukee County government (which is led by Scott Walker) could have protected the public by closing their facility but they failed, and as a result someone’s dead.

      Though I will say I love how you try to blame “government” while in the next few sentences saying Scott Walker’s blameless, as if there was nothing he could have done as the leader of Milwaukee County’s government. If you’re going to blame government, then make sure you hold Scott Walker accountable as well, since the buck should ultimately stop with him.

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    • Ed Heinzelman

      Did the wind just change direction and I didn’t notice?

      Didn’t you just tell me earlier this morning that President Obama is responsible for the BP oil spill because it happened on his watch? But an accident at a county owned and operated facility isn’t County Executive Walker’s fault even though it happened on HIS watch? A facility which is actually a direct responsibility for the County Exec to oversee and maintain? Really?

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      • Kent

        Ed,

        Fine with me, you blame Mr Walker for that accident then we both can blame our so called president for the an absolute inept and disgraceful response to the worse environmental disaster in our countries history.

        Now, how about the winds of change now.

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        • Ed Heinzelman

          And as I said earlier, what part of President Bush AND President Obama didn’t you understand.

          And I like how we are supposed to accept the free market as being the way to go and get government out of our lives until…whoops…something goes wrong.

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          • Kent

            ED,

            What part of “BUSH IS NO LONGER THE PRESIDENT” do you not understand. No one will take you seriously unless you quit blaming Bush for everything Obama skrews up.

            I don’t think you get my point about big government. It is the progressives that think the government can solve everything. No matter who the leaders is, conservatives think government is mostly a failure and should function only to protect us. I have no doubt that the private sector can solve the oil spill if government would get out of the way. But as you have seen they are too busy making sure enough life jackets are on oil skimmers before letting them go to work.

            The point is government failed, in both the oil spill and the Milwaukee issue. No one believes that government can fix this oil spill. It will be the private sector with the innovations that are needed. If government can fix it than why are we 60+ days with almost no government responce?

            This is going to be such a fun November!

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            • Ed Heinzelman

              And Bill Clinton is no longer President either but you laid some of these issues on his plate today too.

              And no, private enterprise ain’t gonna fix it until they choke on it.

              And I don’t recall ever saying gov’t can fix the oil spill and as a matter of fact they can’t. They might have been able to mitigate it and even prevent it if the regulators would actually have regulated.

              Neither the govt (feds, state, local) nor BP (or any of the other major oil companies or they would have helped out by now) have a clue how to fix this.

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            • LeoDa Lion

              Well, it’s 2013- and you not lose every bit of your argument- you also lost the 2012 election.(It also seems you will lose many more to come). It’s nice to compare notes over the last few years as to your projections and the reality which has shown up. Halliburton just pleaded guilty in a Federal Probe, to destroying evidence regarding both Halliburton and BP being FULLY aware for 2 months prior to the Deepwater Horizon- that they had screwed up the well casing process- resulting in the Macondo Well blowout/explosion.

              You wanted to blame that on President Obama…didn’t you?

              Suck on that, jackass.

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        • ZhugeLiang

          “so-called” President, you say.

          Are you a birther?

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    • Mr. Kent, you’ve at once said that the county government failed to protect the public, but absolved the county government’s leader from any and all responsibility for this failure. And no, sir, you do not get to tell me that emotion cannot come into this debate. Unless you’re Mr. Spock, you have emotions. Especially when a person has died as a result. By your line of thought, you can talk down to us and try to make us feel like rabble, but we cannot use emotional statements. Your approach is unacceptable, and I reject it.

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  • Urban Pioneer

    I wonder how much Artistic expression was mandated by Government Order was required when this Parking ramp was built. If the money spent on Govt. mandated “Art”, had been instead put into structural uses would this “accident” have happened. I agree it’s too soon to say exactly what happened here. But it’s not too soon to ask questions about Govt. spending in one direction where it could effect safety. Now how much money has Milwaukee County spent on the Fish hatchery over the past 20-30 + years? And would that money have been more wisely spent on fundamental needs of The County’s required functions. Kent is correct in that Govt. at all level are too big. The time has come to shrink our reliance on Govt. solutions. Walker’s role in reducing County employee has been a strike in the correct direction. Why does the County own/ operate a parking ramp in the City of Milwaukee? If this is a necessary Ramp..A private Company should build, profit and maintain it at market rates. If then this accident happens the insurance co. or the company can be held responsible instead of County Govt. and it’s citizenry. If the ramp isn’t needed the county should’ve torn it down.

    Ask your self WHY IS the County Govt. running Golf courses?
    Golf is nice..but there are plenty of courses to play. Put the land up for sale and let a private company take over before some one is hit by an errant golf ball and dies leaving the County folks on the hook for that death as well. If the Land can’t find a buyer, then close the course! Golf should not be a function of Government!

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    • Ed Heinzelman

      It’s parking for county park land…nearly every county park has a parking lot for it’s patrons. Golf courses aren’t a county function? Providing green spaces and recreational opportunities isn’t a govt function? Parks don’t cut it for you?

      Again we keep getting replies about how we need small govt…and finally we should close county golf courses and a parking structure. But just once would someone tell me what functions of county government are important to maintain and fund?

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      • Urban Pioneer

        Sure Ed,

        County Govt’s. principle responsibility is to secure the Courts, Sherriff’s Dept, and the County Jail system. Everything else is extra. The Park lands could be ceded to the city’s, town’s and villages, within the County boundaries. The case of Golf courses sold to private investors..and the moneys collected can be used to satisfy old debt, and/or to satisfy, or perhaps even by down the pension obligations from the greed years under Tom Ament. The Fish Hatchery should be closed or sold off. each of these changes, while drastic, would save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars early , on and Millions in savings going forward.

        Note I am not calling for eliminating Parks, Golf courses or even the fish hatchery.. merely re-directing them to more appropriate control. This is just one County. Racine County has eliminated 32% of it’s work force in just the past 5-6 years. The amount of long term cost and obligations is greatly diminished. If we did this in every county across the State we could save Billions in very little time. Add to that City, and State Govt. reverting to it’s core responsibilities, and we could find ourselves able to operate on a budget closer to Arizona ($20 Billion a year), vs. nearly 40 Billion. Further smarter spending in Education with the introduction of Vouchers to other communities would further drive down short term and long term obligations. All while doing ever better jobs of providing the core responsibilities REQUIRED, and removing from the Govt. control the Wishful things that keep a few more people employed at tremendous cost to present and future taxpayers.

        MIAMI DADE merged several years ago, and saved one entire level of Govt cost obligation.

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        • Ed Heinzelman

          Vouchers didn’t drive down the cost of education in the City of Milwaukee…but I am glad you brought up Miami Dade. Why don’t we merge all of the county public schools into one system instead of duplicating central offices in each and every municipality in the county.

          btw: many of the county parks were city parks until it became apparent that having the county own and run them made them more efficient with only one park office to run them.

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          • Urban Pioneer

            “Vouchers didn’t drive down the cost of education in the City of Milwaukee”.

            Of course it did! The vouchers are lower cost per pupil. The education staffs at the voucher schools are less expensive, and are not under the thumb of the Unions or the School boards. The savings could be greater if more autonomy were permitted. I have lot’s of cost saving ideas for our school systems. But I’m good with expansion of Voucher schools as the next big thing.

            Your city to County remark..could be just as effective if switched back to the Cities. Privatizing most of the workers or even using Jail inmates to preform basic cleaning, mowing, and care of the parks would be a savings to the Milw. County and city taxpayers. As for merging of school? The “Unified ” Systems in the state are a disaster. The Cities always suffer and the collar communities always get worse educations than they otherwise would. The cycle get’s worse every year! Vouchers is a way to get those in “unified” systems into better schools.

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            • Ed Heinzelman

              No they didn’t and I have the tax bills to prove it.

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              • Urban Pioneer

                Ed, Could we please see the Tax bill for 2009 that would reflect the Education cost for the City of Milw Schools had we NOT put vouchers in place? No it’s OK, I’ll wait while you look for it……still waiting……. Can’t find it? Of course you can’t find it, because they wouldn’t print 2. Especially if the second one would show the extra 20-30 or 40% additional per household cost of not using vouchers, for the private schools. I know the Teacher’s union talking points wouldn’t mention the dollars savings either. They would rather focus on screaming for more money, while turning out lower quality work year after year.

                Besides Ed, nearly every posting I have read from is in support of increased Govt. and therefore increased taxes. I will say you are consistent. :^). I know we both want whats best for our citizens…i hope your seeing there is more than one way to get there.

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                • Ed Heinzelman

                  On more than one occasion on this board I have agreed with a poster that we want the same thing but differ on how to get there.

                  I am not in favor of big government but I am totally opposed to laissez faire (I am too tired to look up the correct spelling) government.

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                  • Kent

                    Ed,

                    I am sure you are a fine person and we should be able to debate openly without name calling. That is always easier said than done when we all are so passionate. Have a great night.

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                  • Urban Pioneer

                    “I am totally opposed to laissez faire (I am too tired to look up the correct spelling) government.” You spelled it correctly. but perhaps mis-identified it. LF is complete free market. If you are “Totally opposed”, you are by very definition thus in favor of “Big government”. There is no point where we can agree on that point. ONE is good for people, and thus the Govt. ; the other is bad for people, business and thus bad for Govt. A Govt. which has no one producing has no one to TAX. If the incentive, (which I previously mis-spelled),to gain wealth is taking away by a govt. you will get less “wealth” to tax.

                    Everytime the Govt. get’s on a kick about smoking , gambling, drinking, or driving without a seat belt…they always use a Tax, fine or penalty to “curb” the behavior, correct? So therefore if you want to ENCOURAGE a behavior the opposite MUST be true. So lowering of taxes, as proposed above..is not only laissez faire, but will actually grow the pile of money you wish to tax the Crap out of! Now we can perhaps continue the conversation into fines, penalties, licenses, Estate taxes, and even income taxes…all of those are Dis-incentives to produce wealth. Lets reduce the amount we tax on the one hand, and reduce the amount we spend on the other side. Business around the country and world will flock to ours Shores. (Superior, Michigan and the Mississipi). Even JFK agreed with me on this!

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  • MadCityMan

    Your philosophy of business solving the oil spill by having government get out of the way seems to forget one key bit of information – it was their stupidity, incompetence, cost cutting, lack of innovation and laziness that created the oil spill in the first place. If they had the degree of moxie and innovation that you attribute to them, they’d spend less time screwing consumers and regulators (literally and figuratively) and more time investing in the technology to guarantee safety of their operations and in alternatives with less risk of disaster. This won’t happen until the incentive systems are such that they are penalized and forced to clean up after their disasters. They have no idea how to clean up this mess or they would have already done so.

    A simple slap on the hand like the fine after BP’s Texas City oil disaster wasn’t enough to change their behavior and you can be sure that the same will be true after the Gulf Oil Spill. Until the company, its executives, employees and stockholders are directly impacted financially, legally and in other ways for their malfeasance; there will be no change in behavior or increased innovation by the company.

    You can be sure that if government got out of the way, BP and most transnational businesses would see this as their chance to do nothing and to saddle the idiots who allow them to continue their destructive actions with the costs of cleaning up after them. The analogy is the kid who is never made to put away his toys or clean up after himself. What does he do? He continues to create a mess that his parent(s) continue to clean up, while gleefully continuing his misbehavior for years to come.

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  • Kent

    Madcityman,

    You say that those big bad oil companies are “screwing” us. Tell me this, who makes more profit from a gallon of gas, BP or the federal government? The government and environmental morons like Gore caused this spill. Forcing BP and other oil companies to drill in 5k foot of water, forcing them to be 49 miles off the coast. Good job progressives, this is on your shoulders and will go down in history that way.

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  • Ed Heinzelman

    Ah, we forced them to drill 49 miles off the coast at a depth of a mile? Well we may have restricted access to other more desirable locations…but no one ever forced them to drill there. That was a decision they made on their own.

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  • Ed Heinzelman

    LF is complete free market. If you are “Totally opposed”, you are by very definition thus in favor of “Big government”.

    Uhmmm…no…there is a continuum here, not an either or.

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  • Urban Pioneer

    Oh Ed.. I won’t get into semantics.. But “Totally opposed” would be the absence of “freedom” of said commerce. But we both know what the point is.

    The real point is which system will create more wealth, profit, incentive, investment, jobs, innovations products etc.? The obvious answer is the more “freedom” to profit, the growth etc. you will accomplish. Thus the need for limited, less restrictive government, by fiat, regulations and taxation. Lift the bonds of slavery and the man will produce..because he gets satisfaction for his success. Add more ropes and chains and you limit and even infuriate, the productive business and will flow like water to where it is the least restricted.

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