Wisconsinites already know too, too much about this story. It’s not a fun video to watch. Seeing Keith Olbermann laughing about our Tea Party Governor-Elect Scott Walker confirms that I live in a laughingstock red state.
He shows footage of Ohio Governor-Elect Kasich boldy fabricating, saying the train in Ohio would run at 39 mph. Olbermann mentions that Ohio’s outgoing Governor Ted Strickland begged Kasich to reconsider. He marvels that Walker said his decision to reject the train was a “win” done because the “right kind of jobs” would not be created, because they would be created under a “subsidy”.
Olbermann talks with Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post A roughly paraphrased conversation follows:
Olbermann:We really have a couple of governors who have cut off their noses to spite their faces?
Robinson: [Laughter] It’s amazing, but we keep on saying elections have consequences… There is an active discussion – a lot of voices are saying fiscal restraint is one thing, but hey we have this here, we have a Spanish company- Talgo – set up here to build these train cars in Wisconsin, then Walker kills the train, so they say if there’s no rail here, we’re not staying here. How can that be good for the state?
Olbermann: The Koch Brothers-funded Cato institute weighed in to say that:
“The federal government is like a crack dealer, and he’s giving states a free hit of crack to get them hooked and then of course, in the long run, the cost of the crack gets worse. In the long run, you are going to wind up losing out.”
– Daniel Mitchell, Senior Fellow, CATO Institute
Olbermann: Would the Eisenhower Interstate system have been developed if we had this mindset?
Robinson: Anybody who has ever travelled abroad knows that the American infrastructure is way behind everybody in rail. Go to China, France… The idea that we could ever do something as grand and as productive as the interstate highway system now with these Tea Party governors seems so grand. Like a fairy tale.
High-speed rail money “taken”? Removed as an act of “political retribution”? Some say tomato and others, tomaaato. I offer one more verb: “yanked”. Progressives, it is a different day, same shit. Your opposition makes things up. Thusly, why not “yanked”? And yanked by a man showing some spine. My tweet last Friday:
Let’s recap quickly: Mr. Walker campaigned trash-talking the high-speed rail project. He rolled out of bed every day muttering “boondoggle”. And he believed – or lied – that he was an alchemist who could turn a federal grant for a train into 1 for roads.
Showing diplomatic flare, Walker gave the I-kill-trains press conference 1 day after election. Moderates figured out this guy is 100% bat-smack f’real (I guess that’s what Doyle saw, too) and a “Save the Train” movement kicked up.
In November, Madison’s Mayor Dave waited for Mr. Walker’s schedule to open up. Seeing Mr. Walker too busy to call back, by December 7th, Mayor Dave got in front of his own cameras to tell Walker to serve the entire state, not just talk radio buddies. Over 650 people stopped by, too! [Not all but most showing support for the train.] We also saw the biz community shuffle forward and everrrr so slowly break out into a full run to catch that train money. But too late. Trains run on time[federal grants have deadlines.] During this time, Walker stuck to his talking point: The train is dead.
That $810 million in recovery money was getting dusty while people need jobs. Why not give people the gift of jobs somewhere else in America? Maybe somewhere where they’ll just use it for its intended purpose without argument!
Thus the money was prudently “yanked” by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
And as for Republican voters in Wisconsin? You’ve been bamboozled by Walker. And sadly, the whole population got screwed.
Just this morning I learned that Gary Grunau was pulling together Milwaukee businesses to fight for Wisconsin’s train by December 15th. I thought, “About time!”
Apparently “about time” was not in time. Today first an AP leak came out and then the formal announcement: Wisconsin’s and Ohio’s combined 1.2 billion dollars in high-speed rail money would be doled out to 13 states.
A tiny bit of good news: the federal government is not demanding that Wisconsin pay back the money used to plan this project. However, Wisconsin was also to get money to upgrade rail that currently slows down freight to 10 miles per hour between Milwaukee to Madison. And previously we had $82 million in the project to upgrade the Hiawatha line Chicago to Milwaukee. Now we are left with a sliver of that sum: $2 million.
For others, our Red State Gov-Elect’s stubborn position yields riches. Ray LaHood, our nation’s DOT Secretary, said on his blog, “Because Wisconsin and Ohio are not moving forward on high-speed rail projects, more money is available for other states…” While the governors of California, New York, and Illinois were most publicly clamoring for Wisconsin’s rail money, demand for it came from all quarters:
“For that first $8 billion investment, we received more than $55 billion in requests. We were similarly oversubscribed for the second round of awards–we received $8.8 billion worth of requests for only $2.4 billion in available funding.”
Ironically, just as Wisconsin has come to a halt on its passenger rail plans, Minnesota is otherwise perfectly poised to move forward. Their new pro-high-speed rail Governor-Elect Dayton just won by 9,000 votes in a recount. Minnesota DOT officials informed about 650 people in a packed ballroom Tuesday night in Madison that the intercity passenger rail plans favor connection of the largest population centers. But now that Wisconsin is out of the picture, will Minnesota and DOT push for a passenger line to run from Chicago to Dubuque and then North to Minneapolis – right around Wisconsin?
A sensible answer might be: “No. Minnesota and the federal government will wait until a more transit-friendly governor is elected in Wisconsin”. But in these times, it might make a perfect statement and a taunt for generations to install millions of dollars of business and infrastructure just out of reach but always within view of the Wisconsin border.
Political impact in 2012 to Obama is a positive, not a negative according to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “You can ask governors-elect whether they decided not to put people in their own state to work just because Barack Obama proposed it as a project,” he said. “My hunch is that there are people sitting around their kitchen tables in Ohio and Wisconsin who are wondering why they’re not at work because [of] a partisan political food-fight by a governor-elect.”
At last night’s Madison high-speed rail open house I sat in the front row elbow-to-elbow with 650 people in a packed ballroom where people stood against the walls 5 deep.
Officials and consultants from Minnesota’s Department of Transportation came to offer technical answers about their study of possible routes passenger rail could take between Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The audience came to ask questions but also to vent.
Before their time in the ballroom, Mayor Dave of Madison and a cadre of leaders spoke to the press. The crowd laughed and cheered when Mayor Dave said that Governor-elect Scott Walker needs to be a governor for the entire state and not just for some talk radio hosts in Milwaukee and Madison.
Scott Walker – who still maintains the train is “dead” – did not appear, and no representative came to stand-in for the Governor-Elect. This was made clear when a man from the audience asked, “Is the Governor-Elect here or his representative?” The crowd waited, looked around, and then sent up a laugh and muttered en masse after it became clear the answer was “no”.
The moment that made the air sizzle came when a man stepped up to the microphone and said “How are we gonna pay for this? Are we gonna just go printing money? Will we have monopoly money?” A booming voice yelled from my right, “The highways do not pay for themselves!!” The man two seats to the left of me visibly jerked in his seat and yelled and a chorus of yelled insults and rebuttals followed while boos erupted behind us. The yelling was quickly equaled by people shushing and murmurring things like “settle down” as the speaker walked across the room in front of me.
One audience member asked, “What if the project is scrapped. How long until this comes back to us?”. This led to numerous snorts and huffing noises from people around me and one woman muttered “Then we’re screwed”. The official answer, I believe, was 5 years.
Another man from the audience said,”It seems to me you should add an all-Illinois route. Could this plan be realized purely through an all-Illinois route?” Response: We were selected to study a Milwaukee to Minneapolis route. About half of the audience’s questions were answered with a similar statement.
An owner of several retail stores in Madison said, “I support the train, airporats and roads. …I ask those that have raised the question, ‘How do we pay for this?’ – Would we save money if we did not build the airport? Would we save money if we did not build the roads to Madison? There is a season for everything. We just got through a political campaign season.This is now the season to govern. Take “liberal” or “democrat” out of this. Take “pro-business” out. Make the best decision for the economy, for Wisconsin. Please.” Applause followed.
Some in the audience gave their own comments on the rail financial picture. Ed Kuharski noted that railroads pay taxes to the local village, town, or county that they run through while airports and highways have no corollary tax contribution to make. A woman [who I found out later was a tea party activist] got up to say that we could not afford the train on top of Wisconsin’s deficit.
One man said, ” Did the I-90 highway go through the same amount of scrutiny that this rail project did?”
Another got up to point out that the University of Kansas has done much research to establish that use of freight rail reduces wear and tear on highways.
Two comments that drew great laughter and applause: “Let me put it this way – if I’m going to buy a dress for 900$ and somebody is going to give me $600 for that dress why would you turn that down?” and from another woman, “I’m 72 – how much longer do you want me on the road?”
Badger Herald‘s video does a good job of capturing the event’s mood while its article goes into the methodology of the DOT study and next steps for the process.
What’s up with Wisconsin’s rail?: This haunts me. Madison’s Mayor and Common Council President Mark Clear have told the city’s Economic Development Committee to keep its mouth shut and let the mayor diplomatically broach the subject of high-speed rail with Gov-Elect Scott Walker. And by “diplomatically broach” I mean wait around for Scott Walker to meet with him. I agree with Julie Stone who says: “I think we’re losing a battle of publicity, not politics.”
And what are those Republicans cooking up?: Jack Craver of Isthmus lists 8 actions Wisconsin Republicans will likely implement with their total control. None of which looks capable of creating 250,000 jobs. Representative Jon Richards of Milwaukee went on Public Radio and pledged to keep Republicans to their knitting: ““It’s been a little troubling to hear that one of the first things they’re doing is trying to derail the high speed train project that’s expected to create 5,000 jobs in Wisconsin. That also should be part of the agenda to make sure that project is on track so we keep those jobs in Wisconsin.”
Repubs are surely coming in demanding photo I.D. voter registration requirements. I fear eventually they will turn their attentions to the Pro-Life Wisconsin agenda: opposing abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk, halting embryonic stem cell research, and opposing any artificial birth control.
Palin still here?: New York Times figured out Palin just won’t die or go away, so they did an exhaustive 7 pager on her. We learn that Palin is too secretive and controlling for her own good, she’s an organism hated as much by the Republicans as by me, and she’s rented office space in Iowa — prepping for primary action in 2012.
Cut the DADT crap already: President Obama calls on Senate to act ASAP and repeal “Don’t ask don’t tell” so he can sign it into law. From the study: “We have a gay guy. He’s big, he’s mean and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay,”-quoted member of special operations force.
Gentlemen, start your melee!: Bill Leuders, Dave Blaska, and Jack Craver had a spirited discussion at David Blaska is not telling the truth. I see even Emily Mills popped in! Afterward, I hope they had a beer together.
What next? Good question. Wisconsin had 7 pro-rail rallies Saturday and a Talgo vigil in Milwaukee last night. Meanwhile our Governor-Elect Walker has not budged. Here are 2 actions that take it local:
Eau Claire City Council sent its own pro-rail message to Walker.
A case of the “shoulds”: Emily Mill shakes her finger at the factioned and fractured Left. She says don’t boo at moderates who want to help and get your focus on.
Who will ride this train? People that already ride the Hiawatha from Chicago to Milwaukee, for one. That line has had an increase in ridership of 49 percent in the past 5 years.
Can you hear that whistle blow? Three radio rail conversations, here. Robbie Webber was guest on the Monday November 21 edition of Pubic Affair plus, the chief organizer of the statewide rallies, Sierra Club’s Shahla Werner, is on that evening’s In Our Backyard. Both shows are archived with WORT-FM. And West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition clued me in on a 1 hour WWIB broadcast held November 19th – directly linked at their blog.
Does this have legs? CNN Money says a Florida Democrat is “sponsoring a Holocaust Accountability and Corporate Responsibility Act that would prevent companies from bidding on high speed rail contracts if they participated in the Holocaust and haven’t resolved claims brought by victims and their families”. Which would include a couple of high speed rail companies.
And a sweet tweet: shevegas: Wisconsin Senator Petri flopped so hard on High Speed Rail he had to hurt something http://is.gd/hHLF0
My collection of coverage of Saturday November 20th’s statewide rallies to Save the Train. My rally attendance numbers are from articles, tweets, and blog posts. Let me know if you find an article/blog post/video/photo album to add. These rallies were sponsored by Sierra Club.
MADISON: I’ve heard these numbers: 300, 500, and 1,000 “My brother is a cop in Madison He said there were 1000 people present.”
Republican Bob Lien got some booing but got through to the crowd in Madison, WI “…he and his company, which won a tentative work bid with the train, are in support of the stimulus project. The train issue, he said, has been manipulated unfairly by both sides, and though he would support using the federal money for roads and bridges, because that can’t happen, he supports the train.”-Isthmus
I’ve noticed a lot of TV stations don’t write much on their web sites – so when 1 does, I have to say “atta boy”. Channel 2 WBAY did excellent video + a good article. Executive Director of John Muir Chapter of Sierra Club Shahla Werner is quoted.
100 folks shivered in Eau Claire at their rally-here- some images and words from Uppity Wisconsin. By the way-consider that this was 1) opening day of deer season, 2) a friggin cold place at 25 degrees & windy, and 3) in the 1st half of the Badger football game. Impressive.
Wow. The Watertown Save the Train rally for high-speed rail. 125 people in the parking lot of a shuttered Pick N Save grocery store, us all shivering a little but at least under a sunny sky. No microphones or bullhorns. Just Mayor Ron Krueger – who everybody seems to really like, by the way – who talked about the lost economic value and connections to the world that losing the high speed rail means to Watertown. The crowd frequently interrupted to applaud him. He really did his homework on the value of the depot & projected tax revenue from it but my cold fingers just couldn’t keep up to record it. One factoid of his that I recall: the planned train depot could have meant $25 million dollars in business development for the Watertown region.
We were standing in that vast parking lot next to a river because it was the chosen location for Watertown’s high speed rail station.
Statements from the crowd:
“I am from Beaver Dam. This is not just a Watertown thing. This would benefit the entire region!”
“I’ve ridden on trains Talgo manufactured in Europe. They are a premier manufacturer of these trains. If we lose Talgo, we’ve lost a lot of potential for Wisconsin.”
“We need to support trains and freight. They are efficient. One gallon of diesel can carry a freight car 500 miles. [he really did say that]”
“This passenger rail is not just a piece. There is a network of rail that will cover the U.S.”
And several people mentioned that it makes sense to connect UW Madison – which they noted is a state “star” for education and research – by passenger rail to Milwaukee, Chicago, and the greater world.
After the mayor spoke, people asked questions “How much does it really cost to maintain this for the state?” “Won’t this help people when the oil prices rise?” The mayor answered very well in the case of economic development, I chimed in with some stats I remembered. Greg David spoke as well, as did the Jefferson County supervisor, Walt Christianson.
Greg David talked about environmental benefits of getting cars off of the road, and talked mostly about “peak oil”: the concept that oil is a finite resource and that we have reached that point where its increasing scarcity combined with our dependence upon it edges humanity ever closer to peril.
I asked Greg how many of the crowd were in his “green” group, Sustain Jefferson. About 12 was his reply. When I asked individuals how they found out about this rally, they almost universally replied, “the notice in the local paper”, the Watertown Daily Times.
Anne Johnson of the Jefferson County Democrats urged all to join in on a January 11th listening session. Anne made clear it is not a political meeting, but instead more of a meeting of minds to support the Jefferson County area and bring people together.
At the conclusion the crowd talked about what to do next. Answers included writing letters to Walker, making calls, banding together more, and writing letters to the editor. Several commented that the flow of money into the state from political groups was hard to beat, and I heard several complaining about the opening up of campaign spending by the “Citizens United” case.
The John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club organized Saturday’s 6 rallies which occurred in Madison, Milwaukee, Watertown, Oshkosh, Eau Claire, and La Crosse.
Sierra Club accepts online donations right HERE. All signs indicate that they did a great job – pulling rallies together, getting publicity, and uniting a wide grassroots base across the state.
To contact Governor-Elect Scott Walker, see his web site or write him an old-fashioned paper letter here:
Office of Governor-Elect Scott Walker
17 West Main Street, Suite 310
Madison WI 53703
(1) the paper letter and then (2) sending an editorial – a brief 1 or 2 paragraphs – to Wisconsin State Journal and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and (3) a call to Scott Walker’s office: 608-261-9200