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The Takeaway

Ballpark Figures: Milwaukee's Sausage Racers

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

All week we're celebrating baseball's unsung heroes. Here, Michael Dillon tells us why he decided to stage a giant costumed sausage race at the home of the Milwaukee Brewers.

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WNYC News

Analysis: Archbishop Dolan's Deposition

Thursday, February 21, 2013

For three hours on Wednesday, New York's Archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, sat before lawyers and answered questions about the 575 people who claim they were molested by priests in Milwaukee. Dolan led that archdiocese for seven years, prior to coming to New York in 2009. Attorneys for the victims claim Dolan was part of a long standing practice in Milwaukee of shielding church finances and subverting justice.

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Radiolab

Dave Foley, of Kids in the Hall fame, joins us in the Midwest!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We adored Kids in the Hall, so we're kind of freaking out a little that Dave Foley's teaming up with us for our live shows in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison this weekend (9/28, 9/28, & 9/30)! Grab your tickets now.

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Transportation Nation

Analysis: Picking Ryan Means Picking Fight on Transportation

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

 

Congressman Paul Ryan speaks at a Romney Rally in Manassas, Virginia, Sunday. (Photo by Flickr user monkeyz_uncle)

“Sharp” is a word you may have heard a lot these past few days. It’s a favorite descriptor for Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Congressman who became Mitt Romney’s running mate as of Saturday morning. Sharp, say friends and foes alike, are Ryan’s appearance, his mind, his criticisms of President Barack Obama, the spending reductions he favors—and now, somewhat suddenly, the contrast between the policies embodied by the presumptive Republican challengers and those of the incumbent Democrats. It is a perceived sharpness that itself stands in contrast, of course, to Mitt Romney’s pre-Ryan candidacy, which many commentators found too muddled and many conservatives found too moderate.

Take transportation, for instance. Romney, as this blog observed, spoke and behaved as a metro-friendly moderate when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s transportation budgets were modally balanced, with an emphasis on fixing what already existed, and he worked hard to create a new state agency to encourage smart growth development and sustainability. A candidate who still believed in those principles might not have many sharp things to say about transportation in a debate with President Barack Obama.

The Obama Administration subscribes to the belief, by no means exclusive to liberals, that infrastructure spending is crucial to creating jobs and keeping America competitive. Judging from Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint, the newly tapped V.P. candidate takes issue not with just the dollar figures required to test Obama's idea, but the philosophy itself.

As high-speed rail advocates and transit-friendly bloggers are already aware, Ryan will bring plenty of sharp contrast to the presidential campaign. Yonah Freemark of Transport Politic put it neatly:

“Mr. Ryan voted against every piece of transportation legislation proposed by Democrats when they controlled the lower chamber between 2007 and early 2010, with the exception of a bill subsidizing the automobile industry to the tune of $14 billion in loans in December 2008. This record included a vote against moving $8 billion into the highway trust fund in July 2008 (the overall vote was 387 to 37), a bill that was necessary to keep transportation funding at existing levels of investment. Meanwhile, he voted for a failed amendment that would have significantly cut back funding for Amtrak and voted against a widely popular bill that would expand grants for public transportation projects. He did vote in favor of the most recent transportation bill extension.”

These votes of Ryan's weren’t a matter of toeing the party line, either. Republican House Transportation Chairman John Mica, for instance, took the other side on every one of these votes except the failed amendment cutting funding for Amtrak.

But no budget hawk is perfect. Ryan did show a certain weakness for transportation dollars back when George W. Bush was President. In July of 2005, he joined the 412-8 majority in voting for the infamously pork-laden, “bridge-to-nowhere”-building reauthorization bill SAFETEA-LU. And then he sent out a press release listing all of the earmarks he had won for his district, including $7.2 million for the widening of I-94 between the Illinois state line and Milwaukee, $3.2 million for a bypass around Burlington, and $2.4 million for work on I-43 in Rock County. Small authorizations were also secured for preliminary engineering work on the Kenosha streetcar expansion project and Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail. Ryan’s press release boasted that the state of Wisconsin was still a donee state, getting back $1.06 for every federal tax dollar, up from $1.02 the previous authorization. But “there’s no gas tax increase, and it draws on the Highway Trust Fund – not general revenues – for transportation spending, and it’s fair for Wisconsin gas tax payers.”

Five years later, as we know, it became unfashionable, gauche even, to be seen indulging in earmarks and other federal largess. In November 2010, that Tea Party autumn, Republican Scott Walker won the governorship of Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin after a campaign that made a major issue of the Milwaukee-to-Madison high speed rail “boondoggle.” In a television commercial, Walker said he’d rather use the $810 million to fix Wisconsin’s roads and bridges. But the money wasn’t fungible. As Walker and Florida Governor Rick Scott soon had to admit, turning down the money only meant re-gifting it to high speed rail projects in other, bluer, more grateful states.

Paul Ryan tried to change that. Just a few days after Walker’s election, he and two fellow Wisconsin Republicans co-sponsored legislation in the House to order returned high-speed rail money deposited into the general fund for the purposes of deficit reduction. The bill would have changed the political dynamic of federal high-speed rail funding had it passed, placing new pressure on any governor who accepted those grants. For whatever reason, the bill never left committee.

When Ryan became Chairman of the House Budget Committee, in 2011, he put forth a 2012 budget that, reflecting Ryan’s commitment not to raise the gas tax or draw from the general fund, reduced transportation spending from its 2011 level of $95 billion gradually down to $66 billion in 2015. That was at a time when the Obama Administration was proposing a six-year infrastructure outlay of $476 billion “to modernize the country’s transportation infrastructure, and pave the way for long-term economic growth.”

But there’s the rub. Chairman Ryan refutes that premise. In his budget, transportation spending is not economic investment. To quote the 2013 budget:

In the first two years of the Obama administration, funding for the Department of Transportation grew by 24 percent–and that doesn’t count the stimulus spike, which nearly doubled transportation spending in one year. The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending. Further, however worthy some highway projects might be, their capacity as job creators has been vastly oversold, as demonstrated by the extravagant but unfulfilled promises that accompanied the 2009 stimulus bill, particularly with regard to high-speed rail.

The document goes on to say that the country’s fiscal challenges make “long-term subsidization infeasible,” and that “high-speed rail and other new intercity rail projects should be pursued only if they can be established as self-supporting commercial services.” (It’s unclear whether Ryan believes that new highways should also be built as self-supporting commercial services. But he should give Rick Perry a call before saying so publicly.)

With Ryan now on the Republican ticket, one can see more clearly the (sharper) contours of the general election debate, and infrastructure spending might just have a starring role. It’s there in the debate over the federal budget, and the federal funding role. It’s at the crux of the hullabaloo over “You didn’t build that” (a government theory Elizabeth Warren articulated better). And it will be there when Paul Ryan debates Amtrak Joe.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Live Broadcasts

Milwaukee Symphony Performs Debussy and Chen

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tonight at 7:30 pm, the Milwaukee Symphony performs works by Debussy, Messiaen and Chen Qigang.

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Features

Milwaukee Public Schools Alumni and Homeless Community Gospel Choir Tours New York City

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Arlene Skwierawski, an indefatigable former nun from Milwaukee, and her former student, the country music singer K.C. William, fulfill a longtime dream this week: the co-directors of the Milwaukee Public Schools Alumni and Homeless Community Gospel Choir are touring their choir on the streets of New York. The choir, which has performed around the world, has been singing from Harlem to Ground Zero since its arrival in the city on Saturday.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Guerilla Urban Planner Plants R.I. Stop Signs, and Obama's Infrastructure Bank

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Obama administration's budget proposal (due out next week) will call for creation of a national infrastructure bank -- a system that could take some spending decisions out of Congress' hands, said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. (Wall Street Journal)

(photo by COCOEN via Flickr)

An anonymous guerrilla urban planner has planted nearly 600 "undocumented stop signs" in the town of Cranston, RI--and a special town government committee has elected to keep almost all of them in place. (BoingBoing)

Portfolio Magazine looks at how Democrats are pushing infrastructure and high speed rail, while  Republican are targeting transportation funding.  "Both sides should expect to get derailed." The Wall Street Journal has a similar view.

Two taxi medallions in New York City are being sold for a record $950,000 each. (NY Daily News)

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is trying to broker peace between Chicago's Mayor Daley and the CEOs of American and United Airlines, who are feuding over a proposed expansion of O'Hare Airport. (Chicago Sun-Times)

The Hill writes about Congressman John Mica. "Like President Obama, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman is a backer of high-speed rail. But House Republican leaders, to put it simply, are not as enamored of the idea."

Is there a chance the City of Milwaukee would be willing to share at least part of almost $55 million in federal transit funding – money currently designated for the planned Downtown Streetcar Circulator – with Milwaukee County to help fund its bus system?  That was an idea floated by the campaign of Chris Abele, a Milwaukee philanthropist and candidate for Milwaukee County executive, earlier this week. (Milwaukee Magazine)

Two bills intended to reduce distracted driving are heading to the Virginia House of Delegates. (WAMU)

And, just in time for Valentine's Day, a little transit romance. New Yorkers: have you ever had a missed connection on public transit? The NY Transit Museum is hosting a "love in transit party for all would-be romantics" on Valentine's Day.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following:

  • Should EV owners pay a gas tax anyway?
  • NJ Transit gets in the real-time transit info game
  • The Republican budget would slash transportation funding
  • A group of businesspeople and retired military leaders say the goal of the US's transportation policy should be to reduce oil consumption

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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The Takeaway

Obama Tries to Jump-Start Economy: Too Little, Too Late?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Standing before a crowd of union members and leaders at the Milwaukee Laborfest yesterday, President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass a $50 billion public works plan that would rebuild and modernize the country's transportation systems; it's a move designed to create jobs and help jump-start the economy.

The president's critics, particularly Republicans, are calling his actions too little, too late.

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Transportation Nation

Obama: Infrastructure, Transportation Equals Jobs

Monday, September 06, 2010

(Marketplace) We mark this holiday by noting that there are millions of people in this country who wish they were laboring. We have the highest unemployment rate for a Labor Day in almost 30 years. Labor Day 1982 saw a 10.1% jobless rate. Today, it's 9.6%.

President Obama was in Milwaukee today -- endorsing another $50 billion in government infrastructure projects.  It will all be paid for by ending a tax break for oil and gas companies, he said.  More from Marketplace's John Dimsdale.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: A Buick beats a BMW, returning rail money, Texas taxes for roads?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Big Three brands Lincoln-Mercury, Buick best European brands in consumer auto survey (Detroit Free Press)

In Wisconsin, GOP primary opponents agree that they'd halt high-speed rail.  One candidate says he'd return federal money.  (Milwaukee Public Radio)

New Haven-Springfield line gets $260 million in Connecticut; feds could add more (CT Post)

SF Bay Area , Pittsburgh among those facing public over transit cuts this week.

Siemens takes high-speed rail message directly to public at airports (Streets Blog)

Democratic candidate for governor in Texas says he won't rule out higher debt, taxes to bring new road projects.  (AP)

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