Posts Tagged ‘Tammy Baldwin’

Federal Highwaymen Paving Our Democracy Asunder

Friday, July 19th, 2013

I recently received this notice regarding, in their words:

…the metropolitan transportation planning process carried out by the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), Metro Transit, and local units of government in the Madison metropolitan area….

The full notice was even more gobbledygookey cryptic; even a transportation geek like me had a hard time deciphering it. Specifically, they never cited what laws they were referring to.

Flying blind, I submitted comment anyway. You’ll find it below.

I went to the meeting.

There was only one other citizen there. (He had little to say other than moaning about the counter-flow bike lanes displacing parking spaces on campus.) It was a pitiful showing, but I think more indicative of the cryptic public notice than apathy on the part of citizens.

Federal policies are shaping our communities for decades to come. The question is, shaping those communities for whom? The Feds sent a phalanx of gray, middle aged, male bureaucrats. That’s whom. City/MPO did the same. (The lone woman bureaucrat present had nothing to say, so I assume she was on board with the highways.) It was all about building more, bigger highways for, by and of the dozen or so middle aged, white males present. Indeed, it was a cast worthy of the Soviet nomenklatura.

Oh sure, there was a crumb or two here & there to ameliorate a few of the many barriers to biking and walking presented by their megalomaniacal highways. And Bus Rapid Transit is but a pipe dream at the scale they are “planning.” They have no intention of funding it (thus the quotes). The crumbs and the fantastical are out there for window dressing only. Bait. Honeytraps. The stuff of Stockholm Syndrome. If we’re nice to our captors, embrace their manly highways, maybe, just maybe they’ll give us another bike path!

None of the MPO board members were there (except ex officio member, Madison Metro GM Chuck Kamp, who had to be there for job purposes related to the public notice).

Happy reading!

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Madison Area MPO Comment

07/17/2013

by Michael D. Barrett

I have observed and participated in transportation and land use planning issues in Madison and Dane County for almost 25 years. I am trained as an urban geographer.

Here’s what I think of Federal funding priorities as planned by our MPO and prioritized by USDOT: It stinks. It’s all about highways. And your highways are nothing more than the new Jim Crow with a concrete face. It’s the epitome of Reverse Robin Hood, stealing from cities to promote rich suburbs. It’s about gated communities, but instead of gates you use concrete expanses to wall off the people you deem as undesirable – the carless, the aged, the young, the poor, people who are not white. Yes, I’m calling you racist. I’m calling you age-ist. I’m calling you classist. In other words you build landscapes for well-wheeled middle aged white men. Everyone else be damned. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Your Federal policies militate against our community’s expressed political will. Over and over again the people of Dane County, Madison and surrounding  communities have elected stellar individuals who want to do the right thing. Witness electoral revolutions with the election of unabashed enviros like Kathleen Falk and Dave Cieslewicz and the very conservation-oriented council and board. In every League of Women Voters questionnaire for elected office virtually every candidate espouses transit, biking and walking over highways. Falk and Cieslewicz had made careers of fighting your highways. Plan after plan for this region, down to the neighborhood level, emphasizes community over cars, a clean environment over sprawl; inclusivity over segregation. The people’s voice is unequivocal: we want clean air, clean water, inclusivity, social justice and a land use/transportation paradigm that supports those goals. Furthermore, our elected officials explicitly ran on platforms promoting community cohesiveness, across race and class lines. Instead, your policies forced our elected leaders into making bad decisions that ultimately got them thrown out of office or blocked from higher office.

In other words your policies are overtly political. They militate against the will of the people.

Your federal highway funds proved to be a gusher, an endless source of cash, while you people constricted funds for transit, bicycling and walking. Everything our elected representatives stood for, your policies militated against.  Your policies backed Falk into a corner on the very unpopular US Highway 12 expansion. Her political base never forgot that, and she paid dearly for it. Without her most ardent supporters, she didn’t stand a chance for higher political office.  Similarly your policies forced road expansion onto us even under the leadership of the most ardent, pro-urban environmentalist ever to lead a city. Your easy highway money and shrinking transit money proved to be an embarrassment that alienated his base. Mayor Dave became Mayor Pave. When federal funds were used to jack up highway spending by 558% over the course of his tenure – 558%!!!!! – while slashing federal support for clean, city-supporting modes, the environmentalist mayor’s political base evaporated.

See this graph of the Madison City Budget? Now look at the top line. The one going straight up is paving, increasing at 558% during Cieslewicz’s tenure. The other lines are social services and parks: Flatlined during the same period. Now look at the debt that has been racked up to service your over-sized roads. Your highways are crushing our city’s budgets.

Your policies are overtly political.

Those elected representatives represented the will of the people. By embarrassing them with these anti-community funding priorities, you negated the will of the people.

You are a politically vindictive organization.

I oppose your anti-democratic policies. I oppose your racism. Your Neo-Jim Crow. Your social-exclusion-by-highway. Get out of our community, leave us alone. Return our taxes free of all strings and get out of the way while we build a sustainable city. We want a city that requires no war for our mobility. We want a city that protects our climate as we get around. We want a city that is protective of children’s lungs. We want a city that promotes healthy, active, neighborhood-friendly ways of getting around.  We want a city that is inclusive and for all people, not just the well-wheeled. We will no longer serve as suburbanites’ doormats.

I notice the MPO board is not present. Had they been here, I would have told them:

As for you people on the MPO, get a spine. Stand up to these highwaymen. Start thinking creatively. Stop blasting ugliness through our neighborhoods. Start joining with the people in building *community* not commuter sprawlways.

Everything about this organization has militated against the expressed will of the people. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I oppose you because you have incompetently executed the will of the people.

I recommend that this body be decertified from receiving federal funds.

The siting of this meeting at this isolated location speaks volumes as to whom the MPO wants to hear from. Bus service is scant at best. Parking is ample. We are located adjacent to a giant highway. It’s a long way to walk anywhere from here. So the assumption must be that only car drivers’ views are wanted.

Regarding your introductory remarks: You speak of congestion as if it were the root of all evil. I disagree: Congestion is good for cities. It is the sign of a healthy city. It is a sign that people want to be there. Slow car traffic is the best friend of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users.

[I also entered into the record a copy of the latest (2012) League of Women Voters questionnaire of Dane County Supervisor Candidates (showing their support for transit, walking, biking); a copy of the budget graphs in the article linked above; a copy of a 2011~ 1000 Friends of WI newsletter article showing how much money Wisconsinites spend on roads out of their property and income taxes (i.e. only about 50% of the total road budget is paid for by gas taxes and other car user fees; in other words, socialism for cars; rapacious capitalism for the rest of us).]

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US 51/WIS 19 camera image.

Sen. Mark Miller’s (D-Monona) $40,000,000.00 gift to the Seven. Thousand. Very. Republican. Villagers. of DeForest.

Keep in mind that the USDOT policies I cite here should not be taken as letting the likes of Falk or Cieslewicz or other locals off the hook. Ultimately, though the concrete dope was free, they injected the needle into the arm of the body politic of their own free will. Furthermore, USDOT’s pro-highway/anti-community policies are the products of pavement-friendly votes by other good liberals/progressives such as US Rep. Mark Pocan, US Senator Russ Feingold (ret) and US Senator Tammy Baldwin. Liberals on the state level have similarly taken the needle and the candy. From 2008-2010 Dane County Democrats – State Rep Mark Pocan, State Senator Mark Miller and Governor Jim Doyle –  held total power over the finances of state government as co-chairs of the all-powerful Joint Finance Committee and as the state’s chief executive (respectively). Truly, they were the patrons to the highwaymen clients in the nomenklatura of the Soviet Socialist Party of Pavers. Much like their Republican counterparts, they prioritized paving over people. Indeed, the pavers are of one party regardless of whether an R or D follows their name. I hold Mark Miller in particular contempt given his $40,000,000 (and counting) pork project more than doubling the size of US Highway 51 to serve the seven thousand Very. Special. Villagers. of. DeForest. while slashing state and federal investment in transit for 225,000 not-so-special Madison citizens.

Consider asking your alder why they continue to fund paving at the expense of people. Then ask your county board supervisor. Then ask your state rep. Then your US rep. Then ask your US Senator why she thinks more concrete is healthy. Always, always question. Then denounce. Because they just don’t get it. Because they are loyal party apparatchiks.

Why Mark Pocan Fails…

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

…To interest me….In the least:

From 2008 til 2010, he had it all. The Democrats owned the Governor’s Mansion, the Senate and the Assembly. He was the leader in the Assembly. As such, he co-chaired the all-powerful Joint Finance Committee. He was one of the three most powerful people in the state.

Did he advance education? Nope. Nixed funding for 4-year old kindergarten.

Did he fight for the environment? Nope. Nixed the Clean Energy Jobs Act (an excellent, all-encompassing plan; our one hope to launch a clean energy, hyper-energy efficient economy…).

Did he advance Bicycling? Nope. Slashed funding back to below early ’90s levels.

Did he advance walking? Nope. Ditto.

Did he advance transit? Nope. Ditto. Oh, no, wait. He slashed state support for transit to below levels established by Republican Tommy Thompson.

He sat on his hands.

What did he do with all that money he nixed out of good, people-supporting jobs & services? He accelerated wasteful highway expansions across the state, including the hyper-wasteful US Highway 51 expansion between De Forest and Madison (a route already served by the 8-lane Interstate 90/94/39), the Verona Road interchange, Interstate 94 between Cottage Grove and Madison, and the County Highways S & M (Mineral Pt. Rd & CTH M) intersection. All of these expansions support landscapes of Republicanism and militate against access to good jobs for the poor and working class. Contrary to his claims, Mark Pocan is no friend of the working class.

Let’s face it, we keep advancing lame Democrats like Mark Pocan, who fill the coffers of dirty energy and dirty transportation companies, and then wonder how it is that the Republicans keep beating us in the cash race.

Mark, buddy, I’ve got news for you, it is because you gave them the money!

I’m not exactly thrilled about his opponent Kelda Helen Roys either. I don’t think she exactly gets the money game either. I will cut her some slack about the 2008-2010 time period since she was just a rookie backbencher then. But she should have been raising holy hell about all the subsidies that Pocan & Co. were giving out to the grey economy companies. This past weekend on the Ride the Drive (ok, major plus that she set up campaign operations at that event!), I brought up to her that Tammy Baldwin had been doing the same thing for years, supporting the pavers and polluters (Kipp’s festering filth, anyone? The giant highways she supports now and supported all the way back to her days on the county board?), and that I didn’t want a clone of her in there, she fell silent. No one wants to say anything bad about St. Tammy. After all, Roys seems to be promoting the same old grey stuff Tammy so loves. From Roys’s website: “I support robust transportation investments to build our infrastructure in roads, rail, air, and waterways.” More expansion of the same crap that got us into this hot mess. (Then somewhere way on down there sits bicycling and walking; clearly afterthoughts.)

At the 350.org candidate forum, I felt that the best, most thoughtful candidate performance was by Matt Silverman. As a veteran–an officer who led troops in battle in Iraq–he was the only candidate there who explained–straight up–the ugly connection between our fossil fuel addiction and war. I applaud such honesty. Neither Roys nor Pocan could muster up that courage. I was just sorry to see him cling to the belief that there could be any compromise with Republicans. He made such compromise a highlight of his talk at the forum, and, from his website: “I know that the only way forward is meaningful compromise and cooperation between Democrats and Republicans.” Dude, those days died at the dawn of the Reagan era. I mean, Democrats are so afraid of their own shadows that they can’t even come up with a program within their own caucus–even when they have it all! (I’m talking about, for example, the healthcare debacle which resulted in the adoption of the righ-wing Heritage Foundation’s plan from the early 90s late 80s–and this came out of a congress with a strong Dem majority in both houses and a Dem-owned the presidency!)

Dems need to get their own house in order first.

Why do Democrats insist on being so absolutely gutless? They need to learn that Americans want their leaders to have guts; to be leaders. Pocan and Roys have not shown me that.

I need to see leadership dedicated to defunding the corporate enterprises that would grind us into dust.

Update 08/15/2012: Looks like he-who-sat-on-his-hands won. And decisively. I’m beginning to wonder whether this district, so full of high-IQ types as it is, is really so smart after all. Maybe it is just the reflexive gutlessness, not the brainpower….

 

Irresponsible Medicine

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Are they insane? Have our elected leaders never heard of evidence-based medicine? What kills me is that our congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin, makes universal health care her signature issue, but we never, ever hear her resolving to create a medical system that emphasizes health. It is always about more medicine at all costs. Let’s face it folks, more medicine is bad. Less medicine is good. What we need is a federal spending paradigm that emphasizes health over health care. That starts with creating healthy, active, community environments and continues with a medical system that is less hubristic and positively non-heroic.

Universality of medical coverage is certainly a necessity, but it must be done right.

In the first instance, active community environments, doing it right means winding down spending on unhealthy infrastructure such as paving and power plants, and instead focusing on creating healthy, people & community oriented places. Less pavement, more green. Less distance, more convivial interactivity. In short: healthy communities, not sprawl. (Unfortunately, on this front, all we got with the “recovery” money — when Democrats were fully in control — was just more money for more sprawl-inducing highways; crumbs for anything healthy.)

In the second instance, it means looking at health systems which de-emphasize medicine and emphasize healthy living. It also means judiciously applying medicine only where the evidence merits the application of medicine. The fee-for-service model is harmful, at best; deadly in all too many instances. Gawande’s thesis rings true for my spouse who has practiced in for-profit, non-profit and government medical systems; the amount of waste that goes into uncoordinated wheel-spinning on the for-profit side is unconscionable. In a fully-accountable medical system (typically government-run), you have much more of a focus on the patient, with positive outcomes. Profit should not have an overriding role in medicine. Or at a minimum, profit should only derive from population-wide improvements in outcomes.

If US senatorial candidate Rep. Baldwin wishes to impress her constituents in this district & state — a leader in the most cost-effective health care delivery in the country (examples of excellent health care at reasonable costs exist right here in Wisconsin; see p. 7 of the Gawande article above) and active community environments (Madison routinely ranks high on every measure of biking & walking) — she should make patient-centered, evidence-based medical delivery and active community environments the center-piece of her campaign. She could begin a Ryan-style campaign that delivers both cost savings and quality improvement to Medicare & Medicaid now. It is time to call the Republicans on their savage cost-cutting. The thing is, if Democrats were in the least bit savvy, they could show that better health can be delivered at lower costs. So far, I haven’t seen that.

Unfortunately, in the world of Democratic politicians, an ounce of prevention means less government spending — anathema to them, even when less is more.

Update 1: Death Panels & Rationing & Bears! Oh My! Here is a very, very powerful series of views on how we could “cut” Medicare/aid while improving health. There are over a trillion (with a ‘T’) $$ in savings from very low-hanging medical fruit here. Easy fixes. No deathpanels required. Heck, no exercise, no diet change even! And none of it is new. I’ve heard some variation of virtually all of these solutions from several friends/family members who are involved in the medical system in one fashion or another over the course of decades. And still, our good liberal politicians resist good sense. That the troglodyte right blocks out the truth doesn’t even need to be stated. But when the people who claim to be smart liberals block out good information, we are in trouble…..From January 2008 to January 2011 they had it all….And squandered it.

 

A Pillar of Progressive Prairie Populism*

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I’ve been railing mightily against the weak-kneed progressives & liberals around here. They, of course, have every excuse in the world as to why they must be ineffective:

Jed Sanborn might yell at me!

I’m in a minority!

The excuses are legion. But my disagreement with the weak-kneed on the council boils down to this: I disagree that being in a minority fatalistically mandates ineffectiveness. (As for their fear of the Dad Figure on the council, that’s something that could only be resolved in years of therapy sessions; i.e., beyond the scope of this blog.)

Perhaps they need a role model. I’d suggest they look no further than Elizabeth Warren. She’s standing up to the banks while getting virtually no political support from any quarter. While Obama again seems to be cowering in a corner on the issue of financial reform, Warren takes the fight to those cantankerous old banksters. Congress is full of bought-off weasels (both parties). Oh, and yes, St. Tammy continues to cave to the banks as well (She voted to allow them to loot the treasury in the last days of the Bush Administration, no restrictions, no conditions, no strings attached; and more recently, she has been in cahoots with the Office of the Comptroller of Currency in letting banks defraud their customers. I’ve got a letter dated December 29, 2009, in response to a complaint in which she approves of a bank’s fraudulent actions, in a case very similar to the cases reported in the NYT article above.)

Contrast that limp response with Warren’s approach: She just keeps hammering away. She’s taking the case public in every venue that will accept her (for starters, here, here). And she is relentless. Exudes the most righteous moral indignation (and rightfully so!). Promotes hard hitting, tight regulation. Is merciless toward the banksters.

To hear her talk on TV, or to read her quotes or her own op-ed pieces is an intense experience.

And to hear this straight talking Oklahoman — raised a Methodist to boot!** — and a Harvard professor, pulling no punches & taking it straight to the banksters, sounds a whole heck of a lot like the prairie populists railing against the banks of the 1890s! It just doesn’t get any better than this….

From Fighting Bob to Light-em Up Liz!

I think we’ve found the Fighting Bob LaFollette of our time! For this is a woman with fight. Fire. And I support her and her views on our financial system. Strongly.

Madison’s electeds at all levels should start taking notes. And following suit.

Tammy, are you listening? Time to screw up some courage and get tough on the banks!

Once in a while a new public figure emerges and astounds. Elizabeth Warren is Exhibit A.

*Forgive the bad alliteration — it just worked too well!

**Full disclosure: My mom is from OK and a Methodist, to boot!

Jesus Chills with the Moneychangers

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Greenwald eviscerates — quite rightly  & righteously — Jesus H. Obama over His sleazy, Big Pharma-, Big Insurance-friendly health care bill.

My congresswoman? AWOL. She should be scaling the capitol building with a megaphone and shouting rude things about this corporatist president. This is, after all, her signature issue.

Liberals one & all: Where’s your Jesus now?