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Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009

Issue of the Week: Demonizing Day Care Providers

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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The Journal Sentinel did an investigative series on day care providers, which is good, but the paper’s sensationalized coverage was disgraceful. If there is fraud, it should be prosecuted, but the vast majority of the cases being labeled as fraud simply appear to be reporting errors. It is similar to the person who puts a number on the wrong line of a 1040 income tax form. It is not fraud; it is a reporting error.

Reasonable legislation was drafted and passed that would have dealt with any kind of intentional fraud, but Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the word “intentional” out of the legislation. Thanks to Doyle’s selective veto, the state can now suspend payments to any day care provider if it “reasonably suspects” that a person has violated the program’s rules. The state doesn’t need to prove its accusations or even find that the provider had “intentionally” committed fraud. The state just needs to suspect it. And the day care providers aren’t given a chance to defend themselves until months after their payments have been suspended.

If there were any accusations of children being abused, which there were not, then perhaps that would have provided a rationale for immediately suspending centers and asking questions later.

 Rational and fair-minded people must get past the hype and the headlines, take a closer look at what’s happening to these small businesses—many of them run by African-American women in the central city—and ask themselves how they would feel if their revenue was cut off by the state because unelected state bureaucrats decided that they “suspect” some kind of fraud was being committed. Do we really want to live in a society like that? For example, the Department of Justice raided at least one day care provider who had spoken to the press while she was in the process of appealing her case. This is not the way the American system works. It appears to be harassment and intimidation, pure and simple, a warning to other providers that they shouldn’t defend themselves.

Mr. Doyle, this is still America and people are innocent until proven guilty. Why is “due process,” one of the foundations of the American criminal justice system, ignored when it comes to small-scale day care centers?

Again, the Shepherd certainly condemns those who intentionally defraud the state. But we also condemn this Soviet-like witch hunt that doesn’t belong in the America that we learned about in our high-school civic classes.

Hero of the Week

Sean Keane

Milwaukee lost a true hero last week with the unexpected death of Sean Keane. In addition to being a highly respected orthopedic surgeon, Keane worked on a number of political and social justice issues in Milwaukee and throughout the world. Among his many projects, Keane created a working partnership with doctors in Nicaragua more than 20 years ago. Each year he would organize teams of doctors from various medical fields from Wisconsin and across the United States to visit Nicaragua for a week or two, at their own expense, to participate in medical rounds, perform surgeries and teach young medical students. Keane also made arrangements to bring many of Nicaragua’s orthopedic surgeons to Milwaukee for additional training and would send them back with literally tons of donated medical equipment. It is inspiring to see one person have such a large, positive impact—not only on his community, but on so many people throughout the world.

Sean Keane will be greatly missed.

Jerk of the Week

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker

Scott Walker’s double-talk would be comical if it weren’t so predictable. Looks like the Republican gubernatorial candidate and occasional Milwaukee County executive has so bungled his budget vetoes that he has mandated four floating furlough days in 2010 for deputy sheriffs at the same time he is campaigning on not furloughing those same deputies—and bashing possible opponent Tom Barrett for assigning two furlough days to police officers. Walker claims that he had intended to exempt the deputies from the floater days, but County Board Chair Lee Holloway says Walker’s veto message makes it “clear” that he had intended to furlough the deputies. “It also makes me and many of my colleagues wonder which other budget vetoes or amendments you may not have completely understood,” Holloway scolded in a stern letter to Walker. “If it’s not that, then you are intentionally trying to have it both ways.”

Event of the Week

Benefit Concert for Youthaiti

With the holidays upon us, a time when people feel the desire to give to those less fortunate, there is a Milwaukee organization working with the truly needy: people in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti. The organization, Youthaiti, works to develop Haitian youths and help the country build a sustainable future. On Saturday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. a benefit concert takes place at the 19th Street Coffee House (19th Street just south of Wisconsin Avenue), featuring the wonderful music of Harvey Taylor, Holly Haebig, Jahmes Finlayson and KT Rusch.

All contributions are gratefully accepted and tax deductible. You can also donate online at www.youthaiti.org.