Great news – the Assembly is scheduled to consider transit legislation (AB 282) this Tuesday, April 20. The question is, do we have the votes to pass this legislation and adequately fund transit in southeastern Wisconsin, enable the KRM commuter rail to move forward, give property owners tax relief and save MCTS from an impending funding crisis?
If you have yet to make a call, or it has been a while since you’ve asked your Assembly Representative’s support of transit legislation to provide adequate funding for bus transit in southeastern Wisconsin- this may be your last chance. Call them NOW and tell them to support transit legislation by voting to pass legislation this Tuesday.
The following legislators need to hear from constituents:
- Representative Cullen – 888-534-0013
- Representative Staskunas – 888-534-0015
- Representative Krusick – 608-2661733
To find out who your representative is visit: http://waml.legis.state.wi.us/
By Peggy Schulz
Posted: April 13, 2010
State Reps. Tony Staskunas and David Cullen and Sen. Jim Sullivan were at the West Allis Library on April 12 to hear the views of their constituents and others on a bill that would give Milwaukee County the authority to establish a Regional Transit Authority. The RTA would be funded through a 0.5% sales tax.
If this RTA legislation does not pass out of the Assembly and Senate before the current legislative session ends April 22, the Milwaukee County Transit System faces at least a 30% cut in service for 2011.
At the listening session, there was lots of discussion, a bit of raised voices and the expected “no new taxes” demands. In other words, there was more than enough frustration to go around, from all sides of the debate.
But in my view, one woman at the library summed up the situation perfectly when she described MCTS as a lifeline.
My trip to and from the listening session might serve as a good illustration of just how important our bus system is to the entire community.
I rode to the meeting on two buses, south on Water and S. 1st streets and then west on Mitchell and Burnham streets, ending up on National Ave. On the way there, people were going to and from work, as well as students with school books in hand. It’s likely at least some of the people were going on to visit patients at West Allis Memorial Hospital or to other businesses in West Allis.
Earlier in the day, surely, there would have been hospital workers and people going to appointments at the clinics inside the hospital.
Coming back east, there were plenty of shoppers laden down with bags of groceries and other items from the various shops along National and even on Greenfield Ave. near 70th St.
In ways too numerous to list here, our bus system truly is a lifeline. Not just for those who choose to use it, or even for those who have no other choice due to age or disabilities, but for every single citizen in Milwaukee County – and beyond.
Transit supporters have been citing statistics until we’re blue in the face:
• Over the past decade, 40,000 jobs in Milwaukee County have become unreachable by public transportation.
• 140,000 or more rides are taken per day on MCTS, roughly half of which are workers going to jobs.
• A much less sanguine factoid: As fares have risen and routes have been cut, the usage of the system has gone down.
I’ve been unemployed since last June. It’s depressing to read one after another classified ad proclaiming the position advertised is “not on a busline.”
I’ve written for this publication several times over the years about the absolute necessity of Milwaukee County having an affordable, efficient, convenient bus system. My writings might have been seen as ravings, I suppose, in the opinion of the “let them buy cars,” Marie Antoinette-like people.
But now, I’m begging you: Contact your state senator and representative today. Let them know that unless they pass the RTA legislation, Milwaukee could lose one of its most important lifelines – the truly public transportation system that is the Milwaukee County Transit System.
Call (800) 362-9472 or visit www.legis.wisconsin.gov and click on “Who represents me?” to find out the names and contact information for your state senator and representative.
Please, don’t force me to move to Chicago! Make those calls today. Thank you.
“Mrs. Taxpayer” in West Allis calls on Cullen, Staskunas and Sullivan to support Transit Bill
A West Allis resident who introduced herself “You can call me Mrs. Taxpayer” firmly told a listening session in a packed West Allis Library meeting room April 12 that a half cent sales tax to fund the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) is an investment well worth paying. State representatives Tony Staskunas and David Cullen, with senator Jim Sullivan, listened for nearly two hours as a standing room only crowd overwhelmingly backed Assembly Bill 282, punctuated by a handful of negative comments and some pointed questions about exactly what is in the bill. The meeting was moderated by Ruth Snedic from the League of Women Voters, who kept everyone to a strict two minute time limit.
A West Allis property owner, who has seen apartments vacated by tenants after bus service was cut in her area, called the repeated route and schedule reductions “unacceptable” to loud general applause, adding that many working mothers are unable to get home between jobs to prepare meals for their children. She was followed by a senior citizen who lost her car to a hit-and-run accident, only to find that taking the bus required unpredictable waits of twenty to forty minutes to take a five minute ride, urging the attentive legislators “Fix it gentlemen, half a percent isn’t much.”
One man even said half a percent is too little, and urged legislators to increase the tax to a full percent. Others, who rely primarily on their own cars to get around, affirmed that a good bus system is important, and that they wouldn’t mind paying an extra half-penny per dollar. A Vietnam Veteran from Cudahy announced his support; voters who arrived in wheel chairs were concerned that if MCTS shuts down or is sharply cut back, paratransit services to residents with disabilities will also be eliminated in large areas of the county. One man even pointed out the importance of the bus system in keeping drunk drivers off the road in “brew city.”
Supporters of the current transit bill, and citizens expressing doubt, found common ground, insisting that the legislature has a duty to find an acceptable solution. On the currently legislative calendar, if AB 282 is not passed by both assembly and senate before April 22, it could be dead until next year at the earliest. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 shop steward James Macon urged that legislators have no excuse not to stick around until the job is done, after its taken so long to come up with a plan. An angry constituent of Rep. Staskunas, who is doubtful about the proposed Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee rail system, but said after the meeting he’s open to seeing what happens if new funding for the Milwaukee County Transit System is approved, also said instead of passing the current bill or none at all, the legislature should stay in session all summer if necessary to do the job right.
Even vociferous opponents of the half-percent sales tax urged transit supporters to vote out current incumbents and elect legislators who would support transit properly – suggesting that funds which should have supported public transit had been diverted to other priorities. One Wauwatosa resident threatened that if the sales tax went up half a percent, she would drive to Brookfield to do all her shopping, but offered no calculation of the amount she would spend on gas doing so. Other residents countered that property taxes are a much greater consideration when families and businesses are choosing where to locate, and AB 282 will take MCTS off the property tax levy permanently.
Wauwatosa Alderman Dennis McBride, who introduced himself as an original U-Bus rider when he attended UW-Milwaukee, amused the west side crowd with an account of a constituent who had heard “some guy on talk radio named Mark” excoriating McBride’s longstanding support of public transit. When McBride called “Mark” (Belling – a notorious enemy of the Milwaukee bus system), the talk show host’s staff first said their boss was “talking about Alderman McBride,” then when McBride identified himself, announced that Belling had moved on to another subject. While attentive citizens murmured about Belling’s apparent cowardice, McBride added that the resident who called him said “I don’t ride buses,” to which he replied that if the 150,000 people who ride the bus were all driving cars, it would add a great deal of gridlock to the woman’s own use of her car.
But, he added, talk to the legislators present about it – an alderman can’t pass a state law, whereas those who can, “are probably afraid that some guy named Mark” is going to say nasty things about them if they vote for AB 282. Legislators want to know that constituents will stand by them next November if they do vote to pass AB 282 into law. McBride also complimented West Allis on the redevelopment of the 70th Street corridor, insisting that it couldn’t be maintained without good transit connections.
While support for transit from the executives of several large businesses was presented at the meeting, as it has been on many previous occasions, this did not make an overwhelmingly positive impression. After Barb Ulichney, speaking on behalf of Roundy’s supermarket CEO Robert Mariano, pointed out that MCTS is in danger of imminent bankruptcy without a new dedicated funding source, she drew sustained applause asking “What does that say about us as a community?” However, among the small handful of people opposing AB 282 – all of whom seemed unlikely to vote for any incumbent in November for any reason – were some who asked “If Chairman Bob is so concerned about public transit, why doesn’t he pay for it?”
The evident needs of many working families in Staskunas, Cullen and Sullivan’s districts clearly carried more weight, although in conversations after the meeting, some hope was expressed that the value of public transit to business and job development would secure Republican support. The most optimistic even speculated that the CEO’s might neutralize the long-standing opposition of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.
Transit supporters will be making phone calls and hitting the streets Saturday April 17 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm, urging Milwaukee County citizens to express support for AB 282 to their assembly representatives and state senators. Volunteers are meeting at offices of the Amalgamated Transit Union, 834 N. 26th Street, between Wisconsin Avenue and Wells Street. Local 998′s legislative director, Penny Sikora, reported overwhelmingly positive responses Saturday April 10 in Rep. Mark Honadel’s district in South Milwaukee, simply talking to people out walking their dogs or gathering for barbecues, who said they would call Honadel to urge him to vote in favor.
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“It is important that our community know the potential risk of decreased county-wide access to transportation. “If MCTS has to make cuts, all services are on the table. This would include festival services to Wisconsin State Fair, Summerfest, Ethnic Festivals, Freeway Flyer service and potentially entire regular routes,” said MCTS. “If funding does not come through, we are looking at millions of dollars of cuts over the next year. After cutting service for the last eight years, there is no overlap in service anymore.” Unfortunately, without dedicated funding for transit, more transit services will be cut, fares will continue to increase, and 100,000 jobs will have become inaccessible by 2011.”
To read the entire letter please visit the Milwaukee Courier.
“Republican legislators who support business growth need to pay attention to what business leaders are saying about transit in southeastern Wisconsin. And Democratic legislators who support jobs for families in their districts need to pay attention to what union leaders and those families are saying about the issue.”
To read the entire editorial please visit the Journal Sentinel.
|Urban Economic Development Association of WI (UEDA)
2212 N Martin Luther King Jr Drive
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53212
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To read the release visit Wispolitics.com
If we massively subsidize roads made of concrete and asphalt for people who drive cars and trucks, there’s nothing wrong with a comparable subsidy for roads made of steel rails for people who ride trains.
To read the entire opinion piece, visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In today’s Racine Journal Times:
As business leaders, we place high value on fiscal responsibility and return on investment. If we didn’t believe so strongly in the value of transit, the potential for economic development and our ability to leverage a minimal local investment to maximize the amount of federal dollars invested in our region, we would not be advocating so strongly for an investment in our local transit systems and the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail. This is a wise investment in the long-term future and economic health of our region and state.
As employers of more than 11,000 working men and women in Racine, we believe it is imperative that our state Legislature work to stimulate economic development and new jobs in Racine. To do this, we must pass legislation allowing for a strong, regional approach to public transit in southeastern Wisconsin and the KRM commuter rail project to move forward.
In this difficult economic time — with unemployment at unacceptably high levels — now is the time to act on opportunities that serve to strengthen the economy. Public transit has proven time and time again, as experienced in metropolitan areas across the nation, that it can revitalize communities, enhance economic development and, most importantly, serve to create new jobs and connect workers to existing jobs.
With the KRM, we have an opportunity to create more than 5,000 jobs immediately through initial development of the rail line and business expansions that have been directly tied to this transit expansion. According to recent environmental impact studies and community impact studies completed by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the KRM will support and assist in providing 71,000 jobs through transit-oriented development, connecting Racine workers to nearly 1 million jobs within the Chicago to Milwaukee corridor. Train stations, including one here in Racine, will encourage economic development to the tune of an estimated $7.8 billion increase in real estate values and a $750 million increase in retail sales, not to mention dramatically increased property values in the corridor from Milwaukee to Kenosha.
As transit and train debates continue in Wisconsin, members of all political persuasions have agreed: It makes sense to draw more connections to the greater Chicago area, and the time to do it is now, when jobs and economic development are more critical than ever.
To us, as employers and business leaders in this region, the benefits are crystal clear. Public transportation, both bus and rail, is good for our workers and our companies. Businesses near public transportation have better employee reliability and less absenteeism and turnover. They have a larger labor pool, and a higher quality of life for their employees, as access to transit options enhances personal economic opportunities.
There is no more time for debate, the need is urgent. This is a call to action for our representatives. We need your leadership on this most urgent issue. We must seize this job-creating opportunity and pass legislation to adequately support and bring about a regional, multimodal transit infrastructure encompassing both bus and rail transit. In Racine, we cannot afford to miss out on this opportunity.
Dick Hansen, President and CEO, Johnson Financial Group
Jeff Neubauer, President, Kranz Inc.
Jerry Franke, President, WISPARK LLC
Ed Lonergan, President and CEO, Diversey Inc.
Dave Perkins, President and CEO, Racine Federated Inc.
Dottie Metz, President, McDonald’s Restaurant
Dave Eberle, President, Norco Mfg.
Al Ruud, Chairman and CEO, Ruud Lighting Inc.
Mike Batten, Chairman and CEO, Twin Disc Inc.
Tom Burke, President and CEO, Modine Mfg. Co.
Jim Walker, Vice President, Case IH North America/CNH
Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO, SC Johnson
Jerry Ryder, President, InSinkErator
Jim Eastman, President, Merchants Moving & Storage Co.