Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Bizarro Wisconsin, Trains Must Be Stopped - - With Their Jobs Potential, Too

Republicans in Wisconsin just killed a third proposed train system.

The latest victim - - a commuter rail line connecting Lake Michigan cities Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha - - that had business support, but which was opposed by GOP ideologues in the state legislature.

Earlier this year, newly-elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker killed a federally-funded Amtrak extension from Milwaukee-to-Madison - - a funds forfeiture that required the Legislature to find $31 million in state funds for related improvements on the same line from Milwaukee to the Illinois border.

And in 1997, Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, his legislative allies and the GOP-dominated Waukesha County government killed a light rail system contemplated for Milwaukee.

All of these projects would have employed train equipment makers, mechanics, and engineers. Thousands of workers would have been hired to clear right-of-way, upgrade or lay track, and businesses would have located, expanded and thrived, along with housing development, around stations and on the routes.

In a state with persistent unemployment, purportedly opened for business by Walker - - except for any job related to a train.

Rail on.

The Republican opposition is rooted in several cynical realities.

*  Obeisance to road-building, oil company, and service station industry donors and lobbies. enabling the spending of unquestioned billions in tax dollars on new highways..

*  A similar loyalty to talk radio . Conservative elected officials do not want to stand accused by the talkers of being soft on trains.

To the talkers, rail is a club - - a vehicle, if you will - - to gin up ratings and create angst among conservative, suburban listeners over the possibility that city dwellers might ride into the suburbs seeking work, housing, schooling or maybe worse.

The late George Watts, an outspoken opponent of light rail, some years ago famously warned suburbanites against "strangers" who could use light rail to come unwanted into their communities, threatening property and children.

Without good transit connections, it's easier to maintain the racial and economic apartheid staining Southeastern Wisconsin and keep the suburbs lily-white.

Just Google any of the Milwaukee-area suburbs' profiles for the black/white disparities.

Here's an applicable census website.


Brookfield, in Waukesha County but just outside Milwaukee County - - 0.8% Black, 94.2% white.

All of Washington County: Blacks, 0.9%, Whites 95.8%

Delafield, in Waukesha County - -  44 Blacks out of a total of 6,858 residents, or about six-tenths of 1%.

I'm sure Republican conservatives are plotting last-ditch efforts to stop the downtown Milwaukee streetcar plan that is just about ready to leave the station [Tuesday mid-day update: the plan was approved 10-5 by the Common Council] - - because in the right-wing talk radio world, a land-locked, lower-income and minority-majority city like Milwaukee must not have any success, so modern rail transit is not allowed a base from which to demonstrate its value.


Anonymous said...

Post well done.
This was laid out clearly and without hysteria. Personal belief and opinion were there, but they took a back seat while Readers were given a free ride on the Logic Train - final destination unavoidable.

Betsey said...

Yes, post is well done, Annie, as James' posts are, but James is never/has never been/will never be hysterical. Or perhaps you didn't mean to infer that?

James Rowen said...

I am appreciating the comments and the psychoanalysis. The sessions are perfectly priced.

Betsey said...

To James: The initial consultation is free, but after this, we start charging.

Ron R said...

These communities outside of MIlwaukee are sorry they don't have the minimun daily quota requirements that you are asking for.