Ongoing revelations about the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation are a double concern: they’re stories of statewide malfeasance, and those revelations beg the question of how local officials in Whitewater are managing their own pools of public money.
First, the latest stories (it’s a steady stream) of state-level error, waste, and negligence:
Madison— Failing to run adequate checks, Wisconsin’s flagship jobs agency gave two awards worth more than $1.2 million to a financially troubled De Pere businessman who had not disclosed his problems to the state, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review has found.
Despite those omissions in 2011 and 2012, Gov. Scott Walker’s administration kept working with Ron Van Den Heuvel and his clean energy company, Green Box, into 2014, state records show.
There is no record of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. notifying the city of De Pere about the company’s money troubles even though Green Box was working with the city in an unsuccessful attempt to get tax-exempt bonds — in part to repay the state’s soured loan.
It’s the second case disclosed in recent weeks in which WEDC failed to catch omissions by businesses about their troubled finances and then continued to work with them….
Yet make no mistake – even after being thrust into the spotlight WEDC is pressing on in issuing unmonitored awards. Just this past Monday [7.20.15] – four days ago – Walker took a break from his campaign to drop in on the agency’s quarterly board meeting. While that $500,000 loan [for William Minahan] was on the public agenda and one board member openly wondered why there hadn’t been “a giant red flag to cease and desist all activities,” the agency’s staff quietly presented a different proposal: to cut the number of tax credits [that] the agency audits from a required 100% (which it has never managed to comply with), to just 25%.
Second, inevitable concerns arise about local distributions after a stream of state-level reports: should a reasonable man or woman believe without careful inquiry & verification that state officials have managed these kinds of public funds poorly but that local officials (the CDA, Tech Park Board, etc.) have performed better?
Put another way: Does anyone think that state officials are less competent and diligent than their local counterparts?
I don’t know.
At the very least, Whitewater – her city government, her Community Development Authority, all with pools of taxpayer money to dole to so-called startups, etc. – the officials responsible owe as much of an accounting of actual performance as any state official.
In a well-ordered community, these local distributions would be periodically and independently audited.
Libertarians (and others of different views) know well that any number of special interests – business, labor, political – will seek to ensconce themselves into government positions, directing government work to their own selfish ends.
One would prefer a community requiring no political concerns. A serene place like that would perhaps be a world only of cat videos and puzzles; we do not live in such a place.
Grants and loans of public money to white-collar firms, an addiction to tax incremental financing, sketchy claims of job creation, expensive buildings at public expense, public men who present themselves as development gurus, the selling of public property to business interests too cheaply – this gutter economics infects the CDA and other public agencies in Whitewater.
In a city with so many who are poor, these distributions to white-collar professionals have been utterly ineffectual for the many, and useful only to a few (for their immediate gain or in scrapbook headlines).
In any event, no one owes these few their claims on faith alone; they’ve wasted too much already in this city.
Perhaps it is enough – Dieu aidant – that some are naturally inclined to review, first from curiosity and thereafter in root-and-branch scrutiny.