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