Wednesday, May 23, 2012
"Dear Scott Walker..."
To help counteract this, I'm starting Dear Scott Walker, and urging everyone to take to their blogs, their Twitters, their Tumblrs, and more, to write a letter to Scott Walker and tell him just how his year in office has affected them.
And don't just post them: Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and Tweet links to them to @scottkwalker : those are his campaign addresses, so taxpayers won't pay to review them and he'll have something to do with his money besides pay criminal defense attorneys.
Dear Scott Walker,
When you first were elected, in November 2010, I was a consumer litigator who had recently decided to run for circuit court judge. I watched nervously between your election and your swearing-in as you outlined your plans for the state. Just 56 hours into your official term, you had created a redundant "commission" designed to root out "fraud," with some of your soon-to-be-public goals already laid out in your command that the commission go after government workers getting paid overtime. That commitment to avoiding government waste didn't include limiting frivolous expenditures on experts from Michigan coming to light the Capitol dome to promote the Packers. But it did help you convince the legislature to make itself largely irrelevant by voting to give you oversight over all administrative rules.
Despite the average salary of government workers in Wisconsin being under $50,000 (while your salary, with state-provided SUV and benefits topped $161,000), and faced with protests over that, you decided to post armed guards at the doors to the Capitol I used to walk through on my way to the Dane County Courthouse.
That's all the public stuff, of course. That all affected me, both directly -- I couldn't walk through the Capitol anymore, for a while-- and indirectly. But there was more to come.
Your changes, via Act 10, to how public employees are compensated led me to question whether becoming a circuit court judge was a viable option for me, given that I couldn't be sure whether additional cuts were coming. My candidacy for judge was made even more questionable given your and your administration's attitudes towards health insurance, made clear with the appointment of Secretary of Death Dennis Smith, who demonstrated an open hostility towards health care and families with special needs. With two young boys receiving 20 hours a week of insurance-covered therapy for their autism, I simply could not risk changing jobs and insurance carriers, and had to withdraw from the campaign.
While I went on working as a consumer litigator, I saw numerous circuit court judges resign or retire abruptly from their positions, including longtime judges in Dane County, Green Lake County, Richland County, and others. It's possible that some of these were planned retirements, and it's possible that some had nothing to do with you and Act 10, but in 14 years of practicing law I never saw such a large number of departures from the bench. This has led to a great deal of uncertainty in many areas of practice, as reserve judges sit temporarily on some cases and, as in Dane County, your appointed judge in one branch served for only a few months before being defeated for election. I have cases pending in that branch, and those clients have now have four different judges ruling on their cases in less than one year.
At home, my children suffered from continued overturning of therapists. One special-ed teacher saw her pay cut with the commencement of Act 10 and had to put her house up for sale. While she managed to not let it distract her from helping my children, it was distressing to see such a dedicated professional -- someone who works 8-10 hours per day, even in the summer, with special needs children -- have to give up her home just to keep her important job. Other therapists worked two jobs so that they could make ends meet, spending 8 hours a day working with children, including ours, and then working other jobs at night and on the weekends. Most of the therapists do not have health insurance provided by their employer, and your Attorney General openly fought imposition of the Affordable Care Act while your administration seemingly rebuffed every opportunity and returned every dollar it could to avoid helping people get health care and health insurance.
While they worried about getting paid and paying their insurance, our family had to worry that you would repeal laws that allowed for the children to get therapy. In the past, our health insurance provided six hours of in-home therapy... per year. We would have had to cover the cost of the remaining 1,034 hours each boy needs out of our own pocket. I already pay, through my law firm and my own contributions, nearly $1600 per month for health insurance coverage, and could not have afforded the $100,000 per year it costs to provide the therapy our youngest need.
That therapy was provided, instead, by our insurance company's payments, after the law was passed under former Governor Jim Doyle. The increase in therapy has allowed our boys, now nearly 6 years old, to progress from being non-verbal, sheltered little children to being fully engaged in the classroom and in public. They can talk to us and interact with people and are learning, all thanks to the passage of that law requiring our insurer to provide coverage for in-home therapy.
But once you took office, not a single day went by that I didn't worry that you would manage to get that law repealed, and I still worry -- because if you take that law away, you will take away my boys' chance at a life they would not otherwise have had.
And you have been repealing laws left and right -- protections for tenants in foreclosure: gone -- so people call me and report that they have been named as defendants in lawsuits against their landlords and they must incur attorney's fees to clear their name and their credit records. Laws protecting leases entered into before foreclosure: gone, so tenants must worry that the bank won't let them stay there.
Then you tried to limit people's access to lawyers like me, lawyers who defend people from wrongful foreclosures and who try to keep landlords from stealing security deposits and who sue companies that wreck people's cars due to faulty mechanical work and who defend homeowners from companies that charge them $34,000 to repair fire damage and leave a hole in the side of the house, you tried to keep people from being able to hire lawyers by trying to limit fees we could charge, doing so solely to please big business contributors of yours. That hasn't worked -- I'm still working and still representing the little people -- but you've made it harder for them to realize it's okay to call me.
And to top it all off, you and your cronies took money that was supposed to go to homeowners who were wrongfully foreclosed and used it to balance your budget -- a budget that allowed you to buy iPads for your pals but wouldn't let you help people who'd been kicked out of their houses.
Your first year has been a nightmare for me, for my family, and for my clients. I'm tired of worrying about what you'll do next. I can't find it in me to believe that you actually think what you've done and what you're planning to do are actually for the good of the State of Wisconsin, where I've lived all my life. I want you out of office, and I will do whatever I legally can to see that happen.