Congratulations to Monona for becoming, Monday night, at least the 45th community in Dane County to actually care what their voters think about shouldering a $250 million commuter train/bus system. (It's becoming difficult to keep track, so to speak.)
Those are locally elected decision-makers in 45 communities independently responding to the demands of their electorate that the people should be heard whenever a new tax is created. The RTA would increase sales taxes to 6 percent from the current 5.5% to produce $42 million a year. That is called growing the government.
Madison and Fitchburg are the holdouts in the middle of the donut hole. We've got you surrounded. Come out with your hands up. Or at least, get them out of our pockets.
Call it a populist push back against the arrogance of the progressive elite.
The Kathleen, Scottie McD, and Little Jim E. Doyle did their best to insulate the Regional Transit Authority from the people. They separated the decision-making from the elected regional government -- the Dane County Board -- to create an unelected RTA board whose nine members are appointed by seven different appointing authorities. Then they made certain there would be no binding referendum. After the County Board's majority liberals voted down Bill Clausius' countywide advisory referendum, local officials took matters into their own hands.
A leader of the RTA referendum movement, Mike Thomsen, asks: "The county executive ... in an interview ... said the referendum effort we're conducting is irrelevant. That's interesting since at the McFarland town board meeting she had two RTA members in attendance to testify against the referendum. It still passed 4-3. Irrelevant?"
Same thing in Monona, where RTA chairman Dick Wagner (an honorable man) tried to convince the city otherwise.
Grass roots democracy is breaking out all over, my liberal friends. (For you ARE my friends.) Remember what that felt like?
The powers that be in downtown Madison are holed up in denial while the citizenry ignites their torches. The vote is meaningless, they tell us. Wait until the "real plan" comes along. Except that they've been talking about this for years through The Kathleen's Vision 2020 Plan. People are knowledgeable.
Now hear this: the November 2 RTA referendum IS the vote. There will not be another. Do you understand what else occurs on November 2? That's right. We're going to elect a new governor and a new legislature. They are going to see the results and act accordingly. Scott Walker told me he is very attuned to the November 2 referenda in Dane County. What the legislature and governor hath creatith, they can uncreatith.
The corollary is that voting No on the RTA referendum in your community suggests voting No to, say, re-elect State Sen. Jon Erpenbach You No voters on the RTA will want to vote FOR Kurt Schlicht.
Blaska's Bottom Line: Commuter rail proponents, if you have a case to make, make it now or forever hold your peace.
Is this a snow job?
The Madison Common Council on its agenda Tuesday night will consider a cleverly worded change to the definition of a sidewalk that would make adjacent property owners responsible for clearing bus stops in the winter. It's Item # 77 on the agenda, sponsored by District 11 Ald. Chris Schmidt. Here is the drafter's analysis:
This ordinance creates new Subsection 10.28(4) of the Madison General Ordinances to expand the definition of "sidewalk" to include concrete pads that serve as bus stops, as well as a five foot wide path from the sidewalk to the pad and to the nearest lane of travel in the street. By expanding this definition, this ordinance will require adjacent property owners to remove all snow and ice from concrete bus stops and make a path, at least five feet wide and to the ground, from the sidewalk through the concrete pad and to the nearest lane of travel in the street. This will include a continuing obligation to remove all snow or ice that continues to accumulate in the street between the nearest lane of travel and the bus stop. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the bus stops are accessible to persons with disabilities during the winter.
Former Ald. Dorothy Borchardt asks Blaska's Blog, "What are the priorities of our current Mayor and City Council? They are adding more debt to cover the cost of a rail station, Central Park and a year round market when they clearly don't have enough money in the operating budget to pay for existing basic services!
"Clearing bus stops for users is a basic city service and should NOT be pushed off to the property owners."
Blaska's Bottom Line: At the very least, deduct $500 from the property tax bill of property owners adjacent to these bus stops as compensation for their troubles.
'It is time the taxpayers had their say'
Joe Campana should have been elected to the Dane County Board. He ran in the mid-1990s from the northeast side of Madison. He was one of the brightest candidates I've seen. Joe neatly demolishes Marc Eisen's apologia in the September 9 Isthmus.
Eisen contends the current push for a referendum on the November 2010 election ballot to decide the one-half percent sales tax increase for commuter rail is premature. He claims it is premature because he and commuter rail proponents say there is no plan on which to base a referendum.
There is no plan after 10 years of Transport 2020 planning at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers? An August 2001 article from my far Eastside neighborhood association newsletter discusses a presentation by Transport 2020 Project Manager, Dave Trowbridge to our neighborhood about the rail transit plan. Trowbridge presented a detailed vision nine years ago. Eisen's opinion sheds doubt on whether Trowbridge and the Commission make any progress on rail planning during the last decade. Go ahead and Google "Transport 2020, rail, Madison, WI" and you will find over 500 results for that search. The argument that there is no plan is far from the truth. It time that taxpayers have a say.
Blaska's Bottom Line: The downtown Madison "we're the experts" brain trust played fast and loose with the people and now they are getting their comeuppance.