Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Streetcar Full Of Desire

More than twenty years ago, the federal government had tagged $91.5 million to be used for transit in the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.  But the county and city could not agree on how that money should be used and it sat languishing for some eighteen years.

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.


  1. I can’t believe how aggressive the right-wing uber-lords fight public transportation. The United States of America cannot move forward until the billionaires are put in their place and realize they do not own our country.

  2. And one other misconception needs to be cleared up here. NOT ONE DIME of the streetcar construction comes from state tax dollars, it's all federal. And NOT ONE DIME to operate the streetcar would necessarily come from the state, as the "light rail" tier if state funding currently has no money in it, and this crew certainly doesn't seem inclined to do anything about.

    Donovan can do his typical idiotic grandstanding on it, but why the hell does suburb-boy Kooyenga care what the City of Milwaukee wants to do on this project. Brookfield types like him aren't paying for it.

    1. Who will pay the increased cost in utilities from moving all the lines?

    2. If you're worried about your bills going up, then what you really need to do is figure out a way to stop Walker from selling off the state utilities to the Koch brothers.

  3. That $91 million for that stupid streetcar is driving you lefties crazy.

    The stupidity of the streetcar will die from its own weight. It's easy if you assess the utility rate payers; more difficult is $80 million if the taxpayers have to pick up the costs. Barrett himself will kill it.

    Why don't you left wing idiots, owned by the union goons, give up then buy a couple busses decorated as streetcars from 1805?

    1. Oh my, you're so upset you got your talking points all mixed up!

    2. Street cars from the 19th century -- 1805 or even later, like this one from 1870 -- would expressly NOT be allowed by the Road Builders and Oil Companies that run the Republican Party.

      Take a look at the picture. This thing runs on renewable energy:

  4. The Republicans may as well just call it a "scorched earth" policy for the City of Milwaukee.

    Talgo high-speed rail manufacturing jobs were an easy call for them to sacrifice, because they were going to be in the near north side.

    Now along with this much smaller rail project, -- potentially impacting many, many more Milwaukeeans -- the Wanker's new budget calls for removing funds for public buses (the Milwaukee County Transit System) from the Transportation budget. So that the road builders and their assorted toadies in construction and other parts of that industry get to keep that whole slice of the state budget pie for themselves. Without sharing even a crumb with people in the city of Milwaukee who may have jobs but no car, and no way to get to those jobs without public transportation funding. (The thinking being, 'well, if the jobs move farther west that'll give employers a better pool of applicants, anyway.)

    If you know anyone who rides the bus to work regularly, please have them download and fill out this pdf: