Keith Olbermann says Scott Walker cut off his nose to spite his face: Wisconsin high-speed rail rejection

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.

 

Millions yanked away from a Wisconsin fool by a man with a spine: Ray LaHood

Image from lupinoduck of flickr

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:

@bluecheddar1 Note to the Obama Administration: pay attention to the spine implant over at the DOT @RayLaHood http://ow.ly/3mQmt #hsr

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.

You may recall that unemployment in America is close to 9.8% officially, 17% unofficially.

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.

[Don’t like my verbs? Comment. ]

Clock runs out on Wisconsin high-speed rail money.

[When done reading, stop here & joing today’s open rant]

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.

More:

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.”

Ohio’s current governor Ted Strickland says “Today is one of the saddest days during my four years as governor,”

Steve Vance shows how 1.2 billion will be distributed to 13 states.

Looking back a bit:

The relocation of Madison station to downtown from airport actually increased projected ridership by about 30%.

Here’s that Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article that buried the November 20th news about 6 statewide “Save the Train” rallies below a sea of numbers [something I found galling].

650 people pack Madison high-speed rail open house hosted by Minnesota DOT

Students from UW Milwaukee

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.

MN DOT estimates 650 people attended

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.

Most of the audience wore these stickers

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.

Grab bag of blogging, Dec 1: High-speed rail | Republican recipes | NYTimes studies Palin | Die already, DADT | Melee at Isthmus

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’s next? Wisconsin high-speed rail updates November 24

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:

  1. Eau Claire City Council sent its own pro-rail message to Walker.
  2. Appleton public library is hosting a pro-train forum scheduled for December 2nd.

Plus these Wisconsin and Minnesota DOT “open houses” could easilyl turn into rallies for rail. Some of the linked dates take you to a Save the Train facebook events page:

November 29 in St. Paul, MN,

November 30 La Crosse

December 1 Eau Claire

December 2 Fond du Lac

December 6 in Rochester, MN

December 7 Madison

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: shevegasWisconsin Senator Petri flopped so hard on High Speed Rail he had to hurt something http://is.gd/hHLF0

Summing up the Watertown Save the Train Rally

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.

Watertown native Matt Dannenberg of Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters spoke up as well as a volunteer from Sierra Club who said business owners and Wisconsin citizens need to be the strongest forces in the Save the Train movement.

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.

Downtown Watertown, Wisconsin

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

I’d suggest

(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

Editorial email address at Wisconsin State Journal: wsjopine@madison.com

Editorial email at Milwaukee J. Sentinel: jsedit@journalsentinel.com

Also-It helps to be ready with the facts. Here’s my myth-bustinig article

6 rallies in Wisconsin for high speed rail [AKA intercity rail]

It’s a pretty amazing day. Six rallies in Wisconsin to support the Wisconsin passenger rail project that Scott Walker wants to reject. They are in Madison, Milwaukee, La Crosse, Watertown, Oshkosh, and Eau Claire and all at NOON. I’ll be going to Watertown, where there is/was a station for the planned route and Mayor Ron Krueger is speaking. More info is HERE on facebook or at the Sierra Club website.

Before I go – I’ll look at answering the anti-rail “choo choo” crowd’s jeers, I mean, “questions”.

Speed?: Illuminating radio personality Vicki McKenna said the service would go at “cow speed” in a recent tweet.  Facts: The train will operate at 79 mph initially when installed in 2013. By December 2015, speeds increase – 90‐110 mph between Milwaukee‐Watertown and 110 mph between Watertown‐Madison.

True “high speed” is about 150 mph. In a national master plan, a high speed rail runs Chicago to Minneapolis in the future –  building off of this line.

Too expensive to maintain? Scott Walker, Governor as of January 3rd, 2011, says that the train will be a wasteful “boondoggle” and too expensive to maintain.

I turn to James Rowen’s blog “The Political Environment” and a piece called “Did WISDOT analyse the costs and benefits of the Madison-Milwaukee Rail Line – and its termination?” He reminds us that 100% of the construction – or $810 million – comes from the federal stimulus plan. And, 90% of the yearly maintenance is covered by the federal gov’t as well. Leaving us with $750,000 to cover. This figure, I recall, is 0.03% of our yearly DOT budget.

On paying for that $750,000- Rowen says, it’s covered. And I agree: “The train was to produce more than 4,700 construction jobs through 2013 and create at least 55 full-time operator and other jobs just in this Wisconsin piece of a Midwestern network,  – – so my question is, did the state figure out what the projected state income tax payments would be on worker and contractor salaries, for example, and also the projected sales taxes on materials purchased for the line’s construction?”

If we build it, will they come?: You’ll see this comment from critics-“Nobody will ride the train” There’s statistical analysis done by DOT using the same models they use for any traffic that show 300,000 people will ride the train per year Milwaukee to Madison, and of course more when it goes to Minneapolis[Note-A commenter left a note that explains why 300,000 is a very conservative number]. But I know a lot of people can’t trust stats. Robbie Webber does a nice write up on that in her rail myth-busting piece. Just an excerpt:

I think the naysayers would be very surprised how many people commute between Madison and Milwaukee every day for work. Or somewhere in between like Watertown or Delafield. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to who either do this commute themselves, or work with someone that does the commute. Why do these people live so far away? Some are part of a couple where one person works in Milwaukee, and the other in Madison. Some changed jobs and don’t want to uproot the family. Some love living in the country, and a long commute is the price they pay. Some are at temporary positions and see no reason to move for a job that may be over in a year or so….The three things that will convince people to not drive (for certain trips) are: time, money, and a pleasant experience. For some people one of these is more important than others. Some people will do anything to save a few bucks, even if it means getting there slower or in a less convenient way. For other people, they don’t care how much it costs, as long as it is fast. Still others just hate fighting traffic, and will do almost anything to not have to drive at certain times or to certain places. .. Being able to get an hour’s work done instead of being stressed out is a big incentive for many people.

Can you turn that $ into road $? Scott Walker ran on the campaign promise that he would first kill the train, and 2nd, turn that $ into money for “crumbling roads and bridges”. In this DOT financial planning document, you will see read that the money is for intercity passenger rail only. Also, if deadlines are missed, the money goes to other eligible projects in a similar class. Ignoring this, Walker persisted, and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood reasserted that the money is for high speed rail. And other states wait in line for it eagerly. Governors in the states of California, New York, Illinois, Florida, and North Carolina have all communicated some or a lot of willingness to take that $810 million off of Wisconsin’s hands.

Lastly, a myth-buster article I have shared widely is Opponents spew myths about high-speed rail by Mike Schafer from BizTimes.com.

6 rallies in Wisconsin for high speed rail [AKA intercity rail]

It’s a pretty amazing day. Six rallies in Wisconsin to support the Wisconsin passenger rail project that Scott Walker wants to reject. They are in Madison, Milwaukee, La Crosse, Watertown, Oshkosh, and Eau Claire and all at NOON. I’ll be going to Watertown, where there is/was a station for the planned route and Mayor Ron Krueger is speaking. More info is HERE on facebook or at the Sierra Club website.

Before I go – I’ll look at answering the anti-rail “choo choo” crowd’s jeers, I mean, “questions”.

Speed?: Illuminating radio personality Vicki McKenna said the service would go at “cow speed” in a recent tweet.  Facts: The train will operate at 79 mph initially when installed in 2013. By December 2015, speeds increase – 90‐110 mph between Milwaukee‐Watertown and 110 mph between Watertown‐Madison.

True “high speed” is about 150 mph. In a national master plan, a high speed rail runs Chicago to Minneapolis in the future –  building off of this line.

Too expensive to maintain? Scott Walker, Governor as of January 3rd, 2011, says that the train will be a wasteful “boondoggle” and too expensive to maintain.

I turn to James Rowen’s blog “The Political Environment” and a piece called “Did WISDOT analyse the costs and benefits of the Madison-Milwaukee Rail Line – and its termination?” He reminds us that 100% of the construction – or $810 million – comes from the federal stimulus plan. And, 90% of the yearly maintenance is covered by the federal gov’t as well. Leaving us with $750,000 to cover. This figure, I recall, is 0.03% of our yearly DOT budget.

On paying for that $750,000- Rowen says, it’s covered. And I agree: “The train was to produce more than 4,700 construction jobs through 2013 and create at least 55 full-time operator and other jobs just in this Wisconsin piece of a Midwestern network,  – – so my question is, did the state figure out what the projected state income tax payments would be on worker and contractor salaries, for example, and also the projected sales taxes on materials purchased for the line’s construction?”

If we build it, will they come?: You’ll see this comment from critics-“Nobody will ride the train” There’s statistical analysis done by DOT using the same models they use for any traffic that show 300,000 people will ride the train per year Milwaukee to Madison, and of course more when it goes to Minneapolis[Note-A commenter left a note that explains why 300,000 is a very conservative number]. But I know a lot of people can’t trust stats. Robbie Webber does a nice write up on that in her rail myth-busting piece. Just an excerpt:

I think the naysayers would be very surprised how many people commute between Madison and Milwaukee every day for work. Or somewhere in between like Watertown or Delafield. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to who either do this commute themselves, or work with someone that does the commute. Why do these people live so far away? Some are part of a couple where one person works in Milwaukee, and the other in Madison. Some changed jobs and don’t want to uproot the family. Some love living in the country, and a long commute is the price they pay. Some are at temporary positions and see no reason to move for a job that may be over in a year or so….The three things that will convince people to not drive (for certain trips) are: time, money, and a pleasant experience. For some people one of these is more important than others. Some people will do anything to save a few bucks, even if it means getting there slower or in a less convenient way. For other people, they don’t care how much it costs, as long as it is fast. Still others just hate fighting traffic, and will do almost anything to not have to drive at certain times or to certain places. .. Being able to get an hour’s work done instead of being stressed out is a big incentive for many people.

Can you turn that $ into road $? Scott Walker ran on the campaign promise that he would first kill the train, and 2nd, turn that $ into money for “crumbling roads and bridges”. In this DOT financial planning document, you will see read that the money is for intercity passenger rail only. Also, if deadlines are missed, the money goes to other eligible projects in a similar class. Ignoring this, Walker persisted, and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood reasserted that the money is for high speed rail. And other states wait in line for it eagerly. Governors in the states of California, New York, Illinois, Florida, and North Carolina have all communicated some or a lot of willingness to take that $810 million off of Wisconsin’s hands.

Lastly, a myth-buster article I have shared widely is Opponents spew myths about high-speed rail by Mike Schafer from BizTimes.com.

Scott Walker and high speed rail: This is why Wisconsin can’t have nice things. Or jobs.

New Development immediately after I posted this: Sensenbrenner, Petri, and Ryan conduct worthless stunt: legislation to return $810 million in rail $

Walker needs to eat crow and support our high speed rail plan as originally crafted, and FAST. Or he’ll have to change his notrain.com site to nojobs.com.

Scott Walker, Gov-Elect, has consistently campaigned on killing high speed passenger rail & building roads with $810 in rail money. In fact, WI road builders made sure he kept to THEIR talking points with over $128,000 of campaign money.

Walker was so devoted to roads over rail, he stood on Madison’s square 1 day after he won the governor’s spot and renewed his vow to fight trains. Nevermind details. Which Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood reminded Walker of saying “none of those funds may be used for anything other than our high-speed rail program”. The plan for that rail system has been in the works since at least 1998 and will deliver 80% of the U.S. population from “downtown to downtown” within 25 years.

This is why LaHood has no shortage of other states asking him for WI rail dollars – to be used FOR PASSENGER RAIL. New York State and Illinois are just the noisiest contenders in a total of 132 who applied for the money.[Note-I’ve seen other authors take this # of applications much higher. Chasing down sources…]

And who gave that money? The Appropriations Committee NOT the Transportation Committee.

I’m going to guess that Walker assumed from day 1 that any reapproval for the rail $ would occur in the House Transportation committee, where Republican buddy John Mica is the new chair. Or did he think that because a lot of Republicans won on November 2nd, he could PRESTO FLIP-O turn rail into road?

I have the answer. He just doesn’t like to do homework & doesn’t assign it to anybody else either.

I present Exhibit A, B, and C. He wrote a letter to Gov Doyle saying Madison’s Charter street power plant should burn natural gas, without realizing that the plant is already designed to burn natural gas along with biomss. And second: a facebook prorail supporter called his office and found out that staff had no idea that the rail is planned to reach to Minnesota and beyond.

Walker is not smart enough to realize he should hire staff members smarter than he is. Should I even mention the budget plan he released in 58 point font? That I dub “C”.

But let’s pick up the pace here. We’ve got a deadline. And I am going to bet that the deadline to use the Wisconsin grant money was blown the moment that the site for the Madison rail station got changed.

Why? Because when you apply for a federal grant, you submit a plan, and then if you desire to change that plan, the part you want to change has to be approved by the body that gave you the money. Minor tweaks, could be approved by LaHood. But major? I”d guess it’s  the Appropriations Committee – currently chaired by Dave Obey who cares about Wisconsin. I’m looking at page 30 of this DOT document which shows the deadlines to be met. I see two December 31st deadlines that can’t be met.

Somebody, perhaps Scott Walker, must humbly ask for an extension fast…for the high speed rail project that fits into the existing national plan…or this money has to go to somebody else’s rail.

Well what if he doesn’t do that by January 1 and takes his chances with the new guys? Then Obey is out, and the new Repubs are in. He’ll be dealing with what is predicted to be a gridlocked Congress made more unpredictable by the addition of Tea Partiers who want government small enough to remind us of the 1800’s. And by the way the Senate is still majority Dems. And we still have Commander in Chief Barrack Obama.

Oh and the salivating states of Illinois and New York who WANT rail $  aren’t going to have a problem with noticing little details like grant money that by law is supposed to be returned to the passenger rail kitty when deadlines are missed.

Some take hope because Walker is talking about putting the rail dollars into existing rail that stretches between Chicago & Milwaukee and Milwaukee & Minneapolis, still leaving Madison off the rail path.

Things are changing quickly now. Wisconsin is reviewing his campaign funding from road companies, a facebook page of about 8,200 9,400 fans for Save the Train Wisconsin (as of November 22nd) that is still growing, his office phonelines have been jammed with callers telling him to save the train, and a billboard is between Milwaukee and Madison which says “Dear Scott Walker, thanks for the money & jobs! Love, Illinois”.

And rallies? Talgo held a rally for from 200-300 people. Sierra Club and others plan rallies in 7 statewide locations Saturday November 20th.

I think Walker’s slight cave-in to rail is giving an inch, when we need a mile – and a fast one.  And you know what? Again, there are details. The money is not for the Amtrak line or the Hiawatha. Keep your focus on high speed passenger rail from Milwaukee to Madison. The clock is running out on our state’s rail money.

More on John Mica…

As for the new chair of the Congressional Transporation Committee, John Mica of Florida it is true that he wants to review all high speed rail grants. Signs are out there to show that although he thinks the NorthEast is best suited for passenger rail, he is not a rail killer. He supports public private partnerships, otherwise known as “3Ps”. In fact, in 2008 he wrote legislation to authorize private sector participation in the development of high-speed rail for the first time – – which was completely ignored by the U.S. DOT., by the way.

If you work for the rail industry, you think 3Ps are a good ideabecause they could fund the estimated 300 billion dollars in U.S. passenger rail that it would take to get this all over America. But people who follow these things point to scuttled or failed plans inIndiana, Chicago, and other places and worry that they don’t get structured correctly, and that ensures failure for the project as a whole. But not before putting a lot of government money in the pockets of the many contractors that build the infrastructure.

So even if Mica did get a chance to “review” all rail plans, it would not necessarily mean they’d get morphed into roads. It could just mean they could be more profitable for the private industries that creates those systems, likely cutting out union labor, for one thing.

More on Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood…

Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is a moderate Republican who has his job in the cabinet thanks to President Obama. He’s not a Fox-brand Republican. LaHood started out his career as a middle school teacher, which means he really knows how to take a few punches without running home to mom and he knows how to handle people. Also,  he’s a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership a moderate group that abstained from the Gingrich “Contract with America” back in the day. I don’t think he walks on water. But he is a regular old politician who’s been around for a long time. And incidentally, he’s been playing nice with every quarter he can, including even Netroots bloggers, to accumulate rail fans and keep advancing what will be the passenger rail equivalent of the interstate highway system.

A note on Doyle…

As for our current governor Jim Doyle, he recently abdicated control of the rail project to Scott Walker – puzzling because he rushed to sign contracts for 300 million dollars in rail work the weekend BEFORE November 2nd. Doyle bluffed his way forward starting rail construction to see how the other side would react. Walker blustered back “no rail” stronger. Doyle likely halted at too many “what-if”s. What if the grant deadline didn’t get extended? What if the station negotiations in Madison dragged and dragged (likely, knowing Madison politics)? The Right could have time to gather steam, choke off money, and Wisconsin would have a train to nowhere.  That would be perfect for Scott Walker and friends to kick around.

Light reading…

An in case you want to dig into more predictions of the House and Senate actions in 2011, you may enjoy reviewing all 52 pages of THIS PDF from Alston & Bird LLP – the same folks that have Bob Dole on the payroll.

Doyle calls Walker’s bluff on high-speed rail.

Yesterday news got out that Governor Doyle hit the pause button on the high-speed rail project in Wisconsin.

I agree with Brew City Brawler. This amounts to Doyle calling Governor-Elect Scott Walker’s bluff. But the first person I saw to call this one was @maryb1161 of blog Mary’s World who tweeted at 10:07 last night:

I knew I loved Wisconsin Gov Doyle for a reason…Our new Gov. Walker ran on killing high speed rail between Mad. and Milwaukee. Doyle says “OK bitch!”

REMINDER: OH & WI Republican candidates for governor spots in the U.S. vowed to kill trains. I suspect such unanimity is no accident: I think they are working to make sure this piece of Obama’s recovery plan is a botched affair, either literally, or through spin.

SHARE FACTS not MYTHs:
As long as you’re thinking trains, it’s a good time to visit clean transit expert Robbie Webber’s post “Myths about Madison-Milwaukee Rail Service” and get your facts straight.

One myth I want to rant about: When people say nobody will ride it, I wanna go nuts. We got $800 million for this because we won a highly competitive grant for it. According to this Nov. 1 DOT newsletter, extending the Hiawatha line to Madison will increase ridership by 330,000 people. Were these #’s pulled out of thin air?

Answer: “This proven methodology issimilar to the process used for the past 40 years by state and metropolitan planning agencies to develop travel forecasts for highways and transit systems.The ridership numbers are considered conservative but reliable and are accepted by the FederalRailroad Administration.”

And who rides the Hiawatha now and who will ride the extended line?:  Business travelers• Students• Individuals with disabilities• Senior citizens who do not drive• Visitors and tourists• People attending events•

For the record, I will ride the train! I’d be more open to working in Milwaukee if I could work on my computer all the way there on a train. I have the good fortune to live quite close to the planned Madison station and I”ve been looking forward to not only getting out of here easier, but also to hanging out inside the downtown Madison station’s planned winter farm market space.

On a lighter note, but not saner, here’s a trainwreck of songs from Rally for Sanity: