Streams

 

 

Tom Barrett

It's A Free Blog

Opinion: How Should Progressives Handle Wisconsin Loss? Take Cues from GOP

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Even when they lose a race, conservatives get right back to promoting the ideas their losing candidate ran on. Progressives should do the same post-Wisconsin.

Read More

Comments [1]

It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Was the Wisconsin Recall Election a Bellwether for the Nation?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

In Wisconsin, it was a race for the left and right corners of the political spectrum. Will the rest of the country follow suit?

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Will Walker Walk, or Get Railroaded Out of Madison?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ran against trains, and won. Will it work again? Photo by WisPolitics.com

Next Tuesday’s gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin means everything to the prospect of improved train service in that state. But local rail advocates are still unsure whether the passenger rail issue will hurt or help embattled Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is in a tight race against challenger Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee.

“I think we’ve taken it from a big negative for us to about a break-even,” said Brett Hulsey, a Democratic state assemblyman from the west side of Madison who is an outspoken supporter of both Barrett and better trains. “That’s progress. But Walker has TV ads now beating up Barrett for a $100 million dollar streetcar project in Milwaukee. Apparently this is still polling well for Walker.”

In the fall of 2010, when Walker ran for the statehouse, he made an issue of the Madison-to-Milwaukee high-speed rail project, which had received $810 million in federal funding, saying “I’d rather take that money and fix Wisconsin’s crumbling roads and bridges.” Walker also set up a website, NoTrain.Com.

The money wasn’t, in fact, fungible, and soon after he was elected, Walker returned it to the federal government, which redistributed it to other states, including California and Illinois.  Other Republican governors,  Rick Scott of Florida and John Kasich of Ohio, followed suit.

As it turned out, stopping the “Boondoggle train to Madison” was a political winner.

“Transportation choice advocates and Democrats, didn’t do a good job leading up to the last election, in explaining the benefits,” Hulsey admits. “We thought we had a done deal. And we should have done a better job making it part of the political discourse.”

Barrett, for his part, is trying to do just that, drawing a straight line between transportation improvements and the state’s hunger for jobs with visits to the. He recently visited a Talgo factory that has been making new train cars for the existing Hiawatha line. Funding for that too is in jeopardy, even though the cars are 99 percent complete.

Talgo is no passive prop. The company hasn’t been at all shy about their feelings for Walker’s leadership. Their Twitter feed has been quite sharp, and the company’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development, Nora Friend, recently complained bluntly to Milwaukee’s WUWM radio. that the Walker Administration’s apparent intention to breach a maintenance contract would mean Talgo would have to close its current facility and lay off skilled workers.

“We find ourselves in this situation,” she said, “because of the blunder of returning $810 million dollars. The cost of that permanent maintenance facility was included in those finds that Wisconsin competed to get. We don’t want to have to litigate our contract. What we want is very simple. we want the state of wisconsin to do what it preaches, that it is open for business.”

Hulsey points to a report that Walker has actually given away $1.3 Billion in federal money, and thinks the public is starting to understand the Democrat’s view of the matter. “We have educated the public that of the 35,000 jobs that we lost last year, 5,500 of those jobs would have been people upgrading our train tracks, direct and indirect jobs.”

Hulsey likes to encourage train supporters in states such as Illinois to send letters to Walker thanking him for the re-appropriated funds and resulting jobs.

“Those jobs and the benefits of those jobs would have far exceeded any operating costs to maintain rail service to Madison," said Nora Friend.

Walker’s straightforward position, like that of Florida Governor Rick Scott, is that, given the economic climate and mounting deficits, federal and state governments cannot afford to risk millions and billions of dollars on rail systems they see as speculative and likely to require years of subsidy. Whether voters agree with this, or the argument that government is in a unique position to create desperately needed jobs and new infrastructure critical to economic development, won’t be clear until election day, if then.

But Hulsey counters Walkers claims with a classic Democratic argument. “The fact that this is happening in battleground states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida is not an accident,” he told me. “This is part of the Republican do-nothing strategy to try to make President Obama look as bad as possible. Hurting workers to hurt Obama is the overall strategy.”

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.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Transit and Transportation at Stake in Several Key Races

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) We've been closely watching the intersection of transportation and politics on this site.  Here are a few races where transportation may affect the outcome, or where the outcome may affect transportation.

The race: Maryland Governor -- Repub. Bob Ehrlich,  Dem. Martin O’Malley

What's at stake: It's a race of rail vs bus. The two candidates each support extending some form of public transit to the area of Maryland in the Washington D.C. suburbs. O'Malley wants the proposed Purple Line while Erlich prefers a bus plan. Maryland is a deep blue state, so Ehrlich's chances aren't great. But O'Malley isn't hugely popular and this is not a good year for Democrats nationwide, so an upset is always possible and the Purple Line hangs in the balance. (Read more.)

The race: 8th Congressional District, Minnesota -- Incumbent Dem. Jim Oberstar, Chair of House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Repub. Chip Cravaack

What's at stake: Congressional control. Oberstar is currently the Chair of the Congressional transportation committee. He's in charge of the purse strings on countless transportation and infrastructure projects around the nation. He's called for a massive transportation funding package that would be less likely to pass without a champion at the helm of transportation committee. Even if Oberstar holds on in this tighter-than-expected race, he may lose his chairmanship if Republicans take control of the House.   The ranking member of the House Transportation Committee is Republican John Mica of Florida, who, like Oberstar, has been a champion of increased transportation funding and high speed rail.  In fact, Mica and Oberstar have joined to assail the Obama administration for not making transportation spending a higher priority.

"I view this as the most critical jobs bill before Congress ... we're going to do it together, one way or another, come hell or high water," Mica said in 2009 of the transportation bill.  But it's unclear how Mica would hew to this agenda with a much more conservative, less spending-friendly congress. (Read more from MPR)

The race: Ohio Governor -- Incumbent Dem. Ted Strickland, Repub. John Kasich

What's at stake: High speed rail spending. Kasich has proposed repurposing the

Read More

Comment