Thursday, May 9, 2013

On Transit, Walker's Talk Radio Approach Sets Milwaukee Back 50 Years

Gov. Walker and state Republican legislative leaders who have a made a career out of sticking it to Milwaukee  have figured out a way to deny the city a streetcar line, the Journal Sentinel is reporting.

Republicans on the Legislature's budget committee intend to approve a measure Thursday that would bar utility ratepayers from having to bear any costs for a proposed streetcar in Milwaukee - a provision that likely would kill the project.
And Walker is willing to demagogue and mislead his core suburban, talk-radio driven audience to get his way:
"I'd spend my time and resources on economic development projects that put people to work instead of a streetcar that will affect a handful of people on the upper east side of Milwaukee," Walker said then.
Just as Walker obeyed city-fearing, suburban-focused talk radio and denied the two largest state cities a federally-funded Amtrak line - - and the state a spot in a regional rail network connecting cities with major university and research center employers - - Walker continues to marginalize Milwaukee over the street car plan.

It's the city he learned to hate when he had to come into to work as County Executive in its downtown  everyday - - and wants to keep it its urban job poll hemmed inside, and access in and out congested with endless freeway work, and the city wedded to an antiquated, cash-starved  (by Walker's budgets) and-shrinking bus transit system.

This is what the talkers and their suburban base want: a stultified city with no new fuel-efficient, clean-burning, greener and hipper transit alternatives.

The Walkerites talk a good game about attracting and nurturing entrepreneurship, and stimulating business creation, and accelerating corporate recruiting, but many younger creative people who might come to Milwaukee would be leaving modern cities where local rail and good train connections in-and-outbound are routine.

If the answer to "where's the train?" and "where is the light rail stop" is "nowhere," and expect fewer relocations, and fewer enthusiastic reviews about the lifestyle here via social media, too.

Walker & Co. are drunk with state power, and their drink of choice is $4/gal. gasoline.


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

The reality is that Madison and Milwaukee are the economic engine of Wisconsin's economy; these policies have the effect of strangling economic development throughout the state. It's structural part of their failure to provide the job growth they promised.

They either willfully ignore that relationship, indicating that they lied about nearly all their statements about economic renovation, or they are ignorant about theses relationships, indicating that they are incapable of performing their duties.

I confess there is a third alternative: that Walker and his cronies are fully aware of all of this, and don't give a shit. But they couldn't be that petulant and egregiously shortsighted, could they?

enoughalready said...

I don't think the Journal Sentinel has done a very good job of covering transit developments in other cities, which means many of our fellow citizens here in SE Wisconsin lack the necessary context in which to view local transit plans.

Anonymous said...

"I confess there is a third alternative: that Walker and his cronies are fully aware of all of this, and don't give a shit. But they couldn't be that petulant and egregiously shortsighted, could they?"

You give them too much credit.

Reagan's Discple said...

Wait, Wouldn't setting us back 50 years actually GIVE us rail?

"Wisconsin Forward" was not meant to be a slogan to take us back to the 1900s and train travel.

Betsey said...

@er at 10:18 pm

Excellent point!

My friends in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle and D.C. couldn't agree more. And they're not "young" professionals any longer. They made career and life choices 20 and 30 years ago to locate in modern, forward-thinking cities for the public transportation systems and vibrant urban environments -- concepts that Milwaukee and Wisconsin seemed not to have thought of then, and now, have considered and rejected in favor of clinging to the 1950s and '60s, when everything was "Happy Days."

Even stodgy old St Louis is looking brighter and spunkier these days, thanks to its cross-country and intra-urban rail connections.

When I moved to Milw from the Twin Cities 30 years ago, I felt I'd stepped back in time by decades. The Cities were overrun with fern bars--remember them?--and Milwaukee's blue-collar and ethnic charm seemed at first an improvement, but in the first couple of months of my residency, the James Schomperlein police beating occurred, along with new findings revealed in the Daniel Bell case, and some unfortunate (and unarmed) black youth was shot to death--again, Milwaukee police--in his mother's front yard. I wondered where in the heck I had landed.

Very little has changed in the last three decades. We still don't have the makings of a modern city while "leadership" seems determined to carry us backwards into the '50s and '60s from which Milwaukee never emerged. It's not just in Milwaukee: the supposed business hub of Waukesha County is the whitest, least innovative, least creative place in the upper midwest. Laverne and Shirley gave up their brewery jobs and moved to the suburbs. Now the kids are grown and they're growing old in place--"Don't change a thing!"
To wit: the City of Waukesha's 19th century pipes and pumps solution to its 21st century water problem.

Although there's plenty of blame to go around, and the JS is more than culpable, what about Tim Sheehy and the Metropolitan Assn of Commerce? Milwaukee business leaders? Wisconsin Mfgrs and Commerce? They continue to support existing business lines and models exclusively, while equally determined to keep out the young strangers: wind turbine energies, high speed rail, green technologies and other businesses that require innovation and creativity.** For them, the future looks like. . . bring back mining!

**And then bemoan the "brain-drain" out of UW! The real brain-drain in Wisconsin exists not of young, UW-educated minds
choosing to move elsewhere, but the brain-dead business and elected "leadership" that moves across Wisconsin like zombies stumbling toward their next meal of dead flesh, with nothing on their minds but one thought: . . . m u s t . . . e a t . . ., nevermind that the sustenance they seek has been sucked dry by the previous plague of zombies. The Wisconsin Business Zombie Monolith? the Zombilith?

BTW: In a recent trip to St Paul, my friend and I visited the newly refurbished St Paul train station--wonderful architecture, wonderfully restored with all the modern conveniences. It contains a huge, sunny public space, meeting rooms for business folk on their way between here and there, an upscale restaurant, a ballroom that can be rented for weddings, fundraisers and parties. The next light rail line has a stop right in front of Union Station so that one can take light rail to the station, thereby connecting oneself with the rest of the country. Restaurants, shops, office spaces, hotels and condos have sprung up all around the station, as well as a fantastic farmers market with roof. Ridership of the existing light rail line has already exceeded expectations for ridership and income, despite protestations of gloom and doom by Minnesota Republicans.

Telemaque said...

"Wait, Wouldn't setting us back 50 years actually GIVE us rail?"

No, if you wanted to go back 50 years, you would buy back the streetcars the country HAD 50 years ago. Those same streetcars are mostly still operational, and still in use in some cities around the world.

Betsey said...

Telemaque: I can't tell if you were responding to my comment or not, but my point was that Milwaukee and SE Wis never LEFT the 50s so there is little to go back to. Neither high-speed rail nor light rail have much to do with the street car systems that provided the bulk of public transportation in most US cities. It''s a good thing to recycle old street cars whenever possible--for antique charm or re-using them as gas-powered buses, but the most of the systems were electric, and the streetcars themselves can't operate independent of the system without refurbishing with a new power source. I can't think of any city that's returned to the electric system.

So . . . returning to a past of streetcars is impossible for Milwaukee on 2 fronts: 1) the streetcars and systems themselves and 2) the 50s, 60s (and now 40s) mindset that Milwaukee never left.

Anonymous said...

Milwaukee is not in the 50s, it's in the 2010s but just so economically anemic there is no need for transit. Where are the traffic jams and lack of parking spaces? Like it or not, rail isn't going to convert Milwaukee into a major city.

Anonymous said...

Milwaukee is not in the 50s, it's in the 2010s but just so economically anemic there is no need for transit.
Where are the traffic jams and lack of parking spaces?

Milwaukee is already more densely populated than many cities with far better transit, and a significant part of the population does not own cars.

You're right that rail won't convert MKE into a major city, that is, if it isn't built. The rail links around New York have given a major boost to the economies in CT, RI, MA and PA, where many businesses set up specifically because their executives can hop on the Acela to New York for meetings. MKE is the right distance to Chicago for that. Unfortunately, MKE is surrounded by people who are so intent on spiting the city that they will willingly spite the whole state.