In 2009, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett got tired of the stalemate and asked for help from Congress and President Obama in resolving this issue. The result was that they passed a law stating that the City of Milwaukee would get 60% of the money and the County would get the other 40%.
Barrett chose that the city's share would go to beginning a streetcar route with the plan of giving the city a true intermodal system of mass transit. As you can imagine, given the Republican's irrational hatred of anything to do with rails and job creation, were outraged at this idea and have been fighting it ever since.
The main antagonists are, unsurprisingly, the Bradley Foundation and the Koch Brothers. In the past number of years, they have sent in their pawns to try to interfere with the progression of the streetcar, trying to derail it at every bend.
First they sent in Brett Healy, the head troll at the propagandist group MacIver Institute, who filed a petition complaining that his power bill could go up because of the work the utilities would have to put in moving some wires around.
When that didn't work, they sent in the ethically challenged Alderman Bob Donovan and the thugs at the ironically-named Citizens for Responsible Government, who thought they would collect so many signatures on anti-streetcar petitions that they would just have to stop it dead in its tracks. That idea flopped as well.
A couple months later, they teamed up Donovan the Daft with Americans for Poverty to try it again. But since they couldn't get enough boots on the ground, they decided to go for - brace yourselves - a website where they would collect signatures from all over the area. And even then, they failed again.
Now the corporate special interests are at it again with yet a new approach. They simply force the city to their will, much like they are trying to force the county to their will. State Representative Dale Kooyenga is planning on introducing a bill that will force the cost on the taxpayers. The corporate special interests figure that this will stop the program.
figure that if they cannot get the public opinion on their side, they figure that they will
Our young friend on his Soapbox does a damn fine job of laying out all the problems with this maneuver, including the fact that the claim that buses are inherently better than a streetcar is false. He is especially on the mark when he writes:
This is what scares me about this legislative session... it's not so much what Governor Walker introduces, it's the precedent that can, and slowly is being set by the legislature. I cannot accept the State of Wisconsin dictating to the City of Milwaukee or the County of Milwaukee, or any other municipality, how they should handle their affairs. It is wrong on many, many levels.There are a couple of things though that I would point out.
One is this line from Kooyenga's press release:
"The streetcar may be used by 1% of the Milwaukee area residents, but will be paid for by 100% of the residents in the Milwaukee area. It is my intent to ensure we are not wasting local, state and federal taxpayer’s money on 19th century infrastructure," said Rep. Kooyenga.What an odd thing to say for a man who voted consistently to have 100% of Wisconsin taxpayers pony up to further enrich the 1%, whether they were from Wisconsin or not. It was this type of oligarchy that gave rise to the unions at about the same time that the first street cars were introduced.
Then there is the press release from Donovan, where he's just giddy with the news that the project could be stopped:
If approved, this means city taxpayers and certain downtown businesses alone would shoulder the burden of these as yet unknown costs, which are believed to be approximately $70 million. I simply cannot fathom members of the Common Council allowing the project to move forward under that cost scenario, so Rep. Kooyenga’s legislation would effectively be the final stake in the heart of the streetcar project.
I want to publicly thank Rep. Kooyenga for his legislation. Not only is he giving me an early birthday present, but he’s also exercising the common sense that I wish more of our local public officials would tap into more often.So Donovan thinks that not creating jobs and lifting up the local economy is like a birthday present? I'd hate to see what he wants for Christmas.
What this is really about is that the corporate special interests don't want to see that money go to something that might actually benefit the people. They would rather see that money go unused until such time that they can figure out a way to manipulate the system so that that money ends up in their coffers - preferably without having to give up anything in return for it.