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.
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.