C'mon ride the train, and ride it (Woo! Woo!)
My last post on the subject of governor-elect Walker's dogged insistence on killing the Madison to Milwaukee rail line seems to have touched a nerve in a lot of people. Since its publishing, I've received numerous messages from people expressing their own confusion and dismay over the decision. It seems, despite Walker's claim that "nobody" wants the train, plenty of somebody's are actually quite passionate about seeing it through.
A "Save the Train Wisconsin" Facebook page started around the time of the election has quickly swelled to more than 2,500 members (since last count). Word has it that Walker's transition phone line has been fairly swamped with calls in support of the rail line. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is a vocal supporter of the project, as are the mayors, community and business leaders in towns and cities all along the route.
According to a recent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it is the business community in Milwaukee -- Walker's backyard -- that is most skeptical of the line. Why? Call it a little of the old "I got mine" attitude. Milwaukee already has a line connecting it to Chicago and is promised further improvements to it even under Walker's administration.
It comes off as a big "screw you" to the rest of the state, specifically the slightly smaller -- but no less important -- commercial centers of Madison and La Crosse. Not to mention the other communities that would benefit from the extended rail line -- places like Watertown, where the mayor expects the property tax base to grow "by $20 million to $25 million because of development around a planned train station" -- that would benefit immensely from the increases access to and from larger metropolitan centers.
Again, the people who are most hell-bent on killing the line seem incredibly short-sighted. Quoted in the above linked article, incoming chairman of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce Jim Imhoff sums it up well: "To me it's like somebody giving you $500,000 for a new home and you complaining that you have to pay real estate taxes."
He's referring, of course, to the argument that the yearly operating costs associated with the new rail line would be too much for the state to bear, though the federal government already partially subsidizes the Milwaukee to Chicago line. So who's to say, with the right pressure applied, they wouldn't do something similar for the rest?
It's called good investment, though: Connecting various cities and towns throughout the state with each other and with other states can only be a good thing. With the nation needing to transition more toward sustainable mass-transit and away from inefficient, gas guzzling, single occupant vehicles, rail lines are going to become more and more essential for staying competitive.
As for the other reasons people have cited for the Madison to Milwaukee connection being unnecessary -- nobody will ride it, taking a car would cost less, driving would take less time -- I'd like to point you toward an excellent essay over at Front Porch Coffee Talk (from back in August, which I sadly missed until now) that thoroughly debunks all of 'em.
Walker may not even be in office quite yet but Wisconsinites should already be giving him a piece of our minds regarding his job-killing, short-sighted, pandering plan to stop the train.
You can sign a petition to that effect here, or call Walker's transitional phone line at (608)261-9200. Feel free to leave a message, as countless others have already done, on Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood's Facebook page. As always, too, be sure to educate yourself regarding the real facts of the project and speak up when you hear others spreading the usual false rhetoric. Speak up so that Walker and his allies can't ignore you and call you "nobody" anymore.
Ron Johnson's first big achievement...
...and he's not even in office yet! Our future senator recently graced the hallowed pages of Fail Blog for his inspired election night declaration that, "when you're in a hole, the first thing you've got to do is start digging."
Unfortunately, Johnson doesn't even get full credit for coming up with this little gem. The credit goes to Lloyd Christmas (from the movie Dumb and Dumber), apparently, as pointed out by Jud Lounsbury over at Uppity Wisconsin.
Johnson's in good company, but it doesn't exactly make me optimistic about the future of Wisconsin representation in the Senate.
Republicans have such great priorities! Like I said in my last post, it's not so much jobs and the economy that fuel their fires, but imagined fears about people getting' gay married and dark-skinned folks moving into their communities. Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Hartford), emboldened by the GOP takeover of state government, has made it his life's mission to copy Arizona's unconstitutional anti-immigration bill right here in Wisconsin:
People suspected of crimes in Wisconsin would have to prove they were legally in the United States or be turned over to federal immigration authorities under a bill that will be introduced next year in the newly Republican state Legislature.
"I want Wisconsin to be recognized as a state that will be on the side of Arizona," said bill author Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Hartford).
There are many fine things to see and do in Arizona -- the Grand Canyon, beautiful cities -- but I wouldn't count "imitating their crazy-pants immigration bill" among them.
Unfortunately, these are the kinds of distracting and harmful Republican stunts we have to look forward to over the next couple of years. Why focus on honest job creation, fostering community cooperation, and working for a better future for everyone when you can fear monger? Sure, it will give me plenty to write and rant about -- but I'd give up the Post in a heartbeat if it meant no more of this crap.