Occupy Spans America: Milwaukee Protesters Closed Down North Avenue

Just a snippet from an excellent longer post by Dominique Paul Noth, Editor of Milwaukee’s Labor Press

“…in Milwaukee, several hundred protesters shook off the cold at Carver Park and then marched to the North Avenue span over I-43 (one of the few bridges being targeted where city workers had been engaged all day in doing repairs). As these protesters chanted and even sat down in the street, dozens of police squads and even Chief Flynn watched without interfering for 90 minutes, a demonstration of control and cool that a lot of New Yorkers must now envy.
Union workers sport signs at Carer Park before joining the march to the North Ave. bridge.

This protest participants were strongly African Americans and Latinos, the local communities that have suffered most deeply from entrenched unemployment and income disparity here. But diversity in demographics and motives are often quite prevalent at these protests, notable in Wisconsin where Recalls, Occupy, union rallies and other activities are actually working together with Gov. Walker as the primary target.

All this is a strong reminder that something quite different is going on in America that can no longer be dismissed by conservatives as job avoiders and closet anarchists…..”

Read the rest of Dominique’s piece at Bloomberg blew it as Occupy spans America
Posted November 18. 2011

According to WSJ 4 arrests were made, and “With temperatures dipping into the low 30s, demonstrators began setting up at least five tents, passing out hand warmers and providing hot chocolate. Some said they’d stay as long as necessary, but about an hour into the protest, with icy winds picking up, their numbers began to dwindle.”

Pic this milwaukee bridge is occupied! #n17 #bridges #wiunion on Twitpic
Photo from last nt. from WiscJobsNow

Occupy Milwaukee
Occupy Milwaukee photo dated October 15 by wrokic

IMG_7680
Occupy Milwaukee photo taken November 2nd. Photo by keegstra

Walker’s own Wauwatosa Neighbors Welcome a Recall Kickoff Rally Tuesday Nov 15th

This gets more beautiful the more I learn about it.  Not only is there a march to sign Walker’s recall papers on Tuesday in Wauwatosa near Walker’s home,  Walker’s own neighbors are volunteering their yards for the purpose. Enough people are coming that buses will be running for about 4 hours!

Copied directly from the facebook event:

“We Are Milwaukee, an alliance of community-based organizations, unions, faith communities, and local leaders, will kick off our work on the Walker recall on November 15th with a rally and march.

We are gathering at the practice field by Juneau High School for a brief program before marching over 4 blocks to Walker’s neighborhood. There, we will line up to sign recall petitions and sign up to play a role on the campaign. Actually, we’ll be signing petitions in the front yard of Walker’s own neighbors who have volunteered their space to help us start off the recall right. Also, we will provide training to activists and opportunities to activate right away.

Park on the streets around Juneau High School or at State Fair Park, from which buses will run from 3:45 PM to 7:00 PM”

Parking site:
Juneau High School Practice Field
6415 W. Mount Vernon
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

MAP to parking site:

Here’s the facebook event where you can indicate you are ATTENDING! 

19 arrested in Milwaukee at Senator Ron Johnson’s Office. Now they hope for a meeting in Oshkosh.

I was late to learn about 19 people arrested in Milwaukee when they tried to get an audience with Senator Ron Johnson to learn why he’d voted “No” on President Obama’s American Jobs Act. But maybe I am early to learn about the next step? There’s the hope of a meeting with Ron Johnson at his Oshkosh office tomorrow, October 14. At least 4 people will drive up to see him.

I called both Johnson’s Oshkosh office and a press representative for Senator Johnson to confirm this meeting. I was told they’d get back to me.

I went ahead and recorded a conversation with Randy Bryce to learn about the circumstances of the arrests. Randy is the man who organized the visit to Johnson’s office and protest.

Randy said that Johnson’s chief of staff was aware of the protesters coming and drove down from Oshkosh the night before. He agreed to meet with 5 of the protesters. Randy did not think that was fair.

“I want to talk to Ron Johnson. I want him to look me in the eye because I have to look at my family in the eye and tell them ‘no I don’t have a job again’ today. If he would’ve passed the jobs act, that’s jobs. Especially in my line of work [iron worker] I would have even been happy if he said …’Senator Johnson will agree to meet with you on Friday’. That would’ve been OK with me..but he’s been impossible to find throughout the state ..he’s announced you can meet with staff members. .. Every one of us has a different story why we are upset with his decision to vote the way he did. So I felt that it was unfair for 5 of us to speak for the other 15.”

More here:

And here is a video of the arrested being walked out:

A little personal note: Though I’ve never met Randy I feel I know him through social media. He’s been an avid facebook voice from early in the protests. His posts have been political and sometimes angry, but usually funny or upbeat and always determined. Special thanks to Randy for keeping the flame through it all. Also since he’s an iron worker, I’d like to note iron workers were a constant presence in the Madison protests and they always toted flags – the stars and stripes as well as union flags. I loved that. Thanks, iron workers.

The writer noise of rain was at the protest yesterday and he interviewed Todd Sprewer:

“I was upset that Johnson didn’t support this jobs act.. I have a van and needed to pick up some people because my friend’s truck was in the shop… I came down to carry a picket sign because this is ridiculous… we need jobs! I’m not part of an organization, but I’ve become active in this struggle. This was my first time witnessing civil disobedience first hand and it is a real different feeling than just carrying a sign!”

Read more of noise of rain’s post at 19 Arrested In Milwaukee: Where Are Those Jobs, Senator Johnson?


Image courtesy of Wisconsin Jobs Now

Obama talks bridges and jobs. Walker? Same old same old. Lies.


Obama will deliver a jobs speech tomorrow from a rundown bridge in Ohio while people rally in support of him in Milwaukee. Meanwhile Walker will just lie in LaCrosse.

According to the La Crosse County Democratic Party, “Scott Walker will be at Main Street Ingredients tomorrow the 22nd at 12:45pm to promote his failed WalkerNomics. The
address is 2340 Enterprise Lane, La Crosse Wisconsin[MAP]. Please meet us at 12:15 to rally outside for good jobs. We will have signs for you to wave.”

I’m getting the feeling that some of those signs will mention this here lie from Walker:

“Nearly one-in-five of the jobs listed on a state website touted by Gov. Scott Walker as a resource for unemployed Wisconsin residents are actually located in neighboring states, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. More than 32,000 job openings were posted on the Job Center, but about 18 percent of them were in Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan. It was unclear how many of those roughly 6,000 jobs could be filled through telecommuting, though many appeared to require on-site work.” – source postcrescent and hat tip to Democurmudgeon

And from Obama….
If you think what President Obama has to say about jobs holds more water than Walker (yeah I know – Walker is setting the bar pretty low) there’s an event in support of Obama’s Jobs Act 9/22 tomorrow on the North Avenue bridge at noon where it crosses over I-43 in Milwaukee.

From facebook: “Meet us at the McDonalds located at 920 W. North Ave, Milwaukee. at 10:45am We will walk to the North Avenue – Hwy. 43 overpass. We will have signs and banners available.”

Meanwhile President Obama will stand on the Brent Spence Bridge near Cincinnati, Ohio. Stephen Koff of Plain Dealer says in this nice summary the only thing Dems and the GOP can agree on in Obama’s plan is that the Brent Spence Bridge needs to be replaced. (the plan also is supposed to pay for school repairs, money for teachers and cops, tax cuts for businesses and individuals)

It’s a symbolic location: in the territory of Republican U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Jean Schmidt, not to mention the hometown of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. This is even in the district of the man in orange, John Boehner. The locals really want it to be fixed and have wanted that for a while. Stands to reason: it carries twice the capacity it was designed for, it is deemed unsafe, “4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product every year and a rehabilitation project would bring tens of thousands of jobs. ..the cost of the needed overhaul has been estimated at $2.4 billion, and funding commitments are still lacking after years of discussion”.-from thetrucker

But it looks like America’s mayors are on board. And Krugman says Obama’s plan does not suck too bad [not in those exact words].

You can read it in full HERE.

[So far I can’t find out exactly when Obama is delivering his speech. Let me know if you find that.]

Paul Ryan Luncheon Arrests and Protest

Photo above from Wisconsin Jobs Now.

These are videos of people getting kicked out of Paul Ryan’s Rotary luncheon for asking questions. After they paid $15.00 to get in. I’m seeing multiple reports that 5 were kicked out while 3 were arrested.

While they were inside, a rally took place outside.

From Greendale Patch: “Outside, the protests and counter-protests were spirited but peaceful, with police from West Allis,Greenfield, Hales Corners and Franklin, as well as Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies.

“We’ve tried to get a chance to talk to Paul,” said one man who had been at the luncheon but withheld his name. “We’ve asked for many opportunities to meet with him at a public forum and his office has refused.”

“All these conservatives that are our representatives are supporting corporate interests,” said Steven Sweet of Bay View. “It’s the same mantra over and over again, but how else can I put it. They’re cutting programs and not asking anyone else to share the sacrifice.”

Supporters, many from outside the immediate area, also came out.

“I really support Paul Ryan and I support what he stands for. I believe that you can’t take from Peter to pay Paul and this country has been doing it for how many years,” said Ginny Holton from Brown Deer. “We have to stop the spending that’s going on. We need a strong, moral government that has some integrity, one that follows the constitution. … we just need a different direction, and I do think Paul Ryan is man of integrity.”

“We’re here just to support Paul,” said Gary from Burlington.  “We had heard they were bussing people in from Racine, and we wanted to take up a call to action.””


Kelly Gallaher has a few more luncheon arrest videos at her YouTube channel

On the Neo-Nazi rally and the West Allis State Fair mobs

photo from Erik K. of facebook

What the rally amounted to in numbers: about 25 Neo-Nazis in a “In Defense of White America” rally, approximately 300 police in riot gear with armored vehicles at the ready, and anywhere from “several hundred” to 2,000 counter-protesters. The white power group selected West Allis after it was the site of a black youth mob attack on white Wisconsin State Fair attendees on August 4 when 7 officers were hurt, 24 youth were arrested and 11 fair-goers were injured.

According to MJS, “Several people in the crowd wore yellow T-shirts identifying themselves as ACLU legal observers. Some of the slogans on signs in the crowd included “More jobs, less hate” and “Stop Nazi hate.”

Speakers led the protesters in chants, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Nazi hate has got to go,” and the singing of “Kumbaya.””

Photo of counter-protesters from Erik K.

(For the record, this blogger hates the song “Kumbaya” ever since she first heard it in Catholic grade school).

@lexsupraregem said that students reciting the pledge of allegiance were the most inspiring thing he heard in the counter rally: “Students keep shouting “one nation under god with library and justice FOR ALL.” He later explained that “library” was a typo caused by him trying to juggle both an umbrella and a phone in the rain.

Jenna known as @batmanWI on twitter said there was a scuffle of some sort in the heart of the counter-protest but it didn’t amount to any violence:

“Some nazis are in the crowd with the counter-protestors. A bit of a confrontation going on now. #wiunion #fucknazis”
“Riot cops pushing us back from nazis that are in our crowd. #wiunion #fucknazis”

This note from @batmanWI boiled my blood for a few minutes, as I contemplated how rigorously cops usually enforce Wisconsin’s law against alcohol in open containers:
“Nazis are drinking beer on the street while the riot cops are yelling at us and pushing us back”

Jenna Sachs of Fox 6 in Milwaukee, or jcsachs on twitter, sent the message “Nazi rallier just told me “We need 50 Adolf Hitlers, one for every state.” That fellow must have missed the memo from headquarters. The National Socialist Movement of Wisconsin is supposed to come off as a “white civil rights group”.

From Mount Pleasant Patch: a self-named “white civil rights group” is planning a protest in West Allis for Sept. 3 to call attention to what they say is unfair application of state hate crime laws…”Only protected groups and minorities can be considered victims of hate crimes,” said Harriet in the report. “Well, that kind of leaves us white folks standing out with nobody looking out for us.”

Contrary to what the Neo-Nazi says, at least 1 of the young people who attacked white Wisconsin State Fair attendees might be penalized under hate crime laws.

When in custody the youth told West Allis police that ‘white people were attacked because they were “easy targets” and he “was going along with the crowd”‘. When I read that I thought: Doesn’t sound hate-filled, sounds lazy and stupidly running with the pack.

But technically, if he pre-selected by race, the label fits. And others are definitely fine with it. From CSMonitor: “Attacking anyone based on their ethnicity or color means a racial hate crime should be an additional” charge, said Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines, who is black, two days after the attacks.” and “Police in West Allis, Wis., say some attacks by black teenagers on white people outside the gates of the Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 4 were racially motivated and should be prosecuted as hate crimes”. At present in Wisconsin, according to CSMonitor, most hate crime prosecutions are not against whites: “Of a total of 36 race-related hate crime prosecutions in Wisconsin in 2009, 27 of the alleged crimes were anti-black, two were anti-white, and the remainder were against other ethncities or nationalities, according to the most recent statistics from the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance.”

For the record, State Fair police told TMJ4 that the crimes were not racially motivated according to an August 5th report.

Milwaukee is America’s most segregated city as measured by census data and Salon.com. It’s the nation’s 4th poorest city. I had to ask: do these facts have any bearing on this mob of black kids attacking white people at the Wisconsin State Fair? I’ll let you tell me.

I saw that some news reports call these mobs “flash mobs” which I don’t like to see because flash mobs have been groups of people who use twitter and facebook to get together for peaceful political or musical actions. The state fair attack was called “wilding” by one of my tumblr friends, which urban dictionary calls “a slang term that refers to the practice of marauding in bands to terroize strangers and to swagger and bully”. Wilding groups have been “black youth mobs” such as the ones popping up in Philadelphia . Youth mobs have attacked in Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Chicago, and other big cities in the U.S. as well as in Canada such as this episode in Ottawa.

After I found this next Chicago tidbit, I do have to wonder if the problem isn’t exactly brand new, but that it’s shifted to hurting the people that the police and the media listen to and that it has intensified with kids using social media to quickly organize:
Chicago Sun-Times reporter Frank Main says “it’s not unusual for groups to beat people up in poorer parts of Chicago. When the violence spilled into the affluent parts of town, Main said, “The concern was that it would drive away conventions and … tourists who are visiting during the warm months.”

A brief survey of the web tells me you don’t have to be a Neo-Nazi to be saying some nutty things about race and these sort of attacks. Just a few: Obama civilian police force, a “race war, and Obama youth mob.

They can call it what they want – it’s a free country – but if the conversation inflames yet more racial hatred, I think it’s wrong.

Leaders pull people out of a negative spiral, not push them further into it. I like the call for unity across peoples and communities I found in MICAH’s call for a “Walk of Faith”:
“There are pressing issues in our community, but we cannot allow them to lead to greater polarization, or messages of fear and hate. It is more important than ever that we come together as a people, across lines of race, religion, and class, to join together in a united front to block the tyranny and divisive rhetoric that seeks to poison the thought of our population.

We stand together in search for solutions to the increasingly difficult circumstances in Milwaukee. We hold all people accountable for their role in those solutions. Black, White, Latino, urban and suburban people will all stand together so we can build a strong,
unified Milwaukee. We call local elected officials, community organizations, residents, communities of faith, and all who are committed to the spirit of community to join with us in the Walk of Faith.”

At the end of the day, the challenge for us progressives unaccustomed to talking about race is can we get out of our comfort zone and do it all the time? Or will we only do it when the Nazis come to town?

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
photo credit – jcsachs of twitter


photo credit – obrienfreelance of twitter


A Neo-Nazi who doesn’t want his photo taken
photo credit – obrienfreelance of twitter

A favorite tweet of the day from Milele A. Coggs @alderwomancoggs
“… The answer to free speech (ie. Today’sNeo-Nazi Rally) is more free speech (ie the anti-rally @ Red Arrow Park)” – Emilio, ACLU

Coverage of Wisconsin Save the Train rallies for high-speed rail: Madison, Milwaukee, Watertown, Eau Claire, Oshkosh, La Crosse

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.”

Madison Rally Image from @onewisconsinnow


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

Video report from ABC’s Channel 27 WKOW.com. Good, good coverage.

NBC 15 got Mark Pocan’s great job stirring up the crowd. Perish the thought that Illinois might get Wisconsin’s rail $!

Channel3000 site-Excellent article chock-a-block with quotes.

Good collection of images at Forward Lookout and on flickr.com.

Image from Badger Herald, a UW-Madison student newspaper

UW student paper, Badger Herald’s good article, and finally, here is the meager stub of an article pushed out of Wisconsin State Journal.

 

 

 

 

MILWAUKEE 200-300 rallied


Owly Images
Milwaukee Rally Image from @CreativeCooler

TMJ4 reported from Milwaukee live. Nice job Jay Olstad.

The Daily Reporter in Milwaukee has been knocking out a great collection of articles on this passenger rail project .

Paltry effort from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  But there are 127 comments HERE.

LA CROSSE 50 -75 rallied

Here’s a fave picture from Robert Freedland’s scrapbook of La Crosse photos:

Good job, La Crosse WXOW19.

OSHKOSH 50-100 rallied

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.

Northwestern.com’s article.

WATERTOWN: 100-125 rallied

Apparently I am the only person who blogged/wrote about Watertown? 125 people. Great crowd. Go HERE.

EAU CLAIRE: 100 rallied

Eau Claire’s main paper has a paywall now. Only a couple free paragraphs on their rally

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.

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.