Jeramey Jannene

Walker Administration Defends Vote Against RTA

By - Jan 5th, 2009 04:49 pm
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The Milwaukee County Board Task Force on the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority Recommendations, chaired by Supervisor Patricia Jursik, met for the first time on Monday December 29th, 2008.  Other members of the task force present at the meeting included Supervisor Chris Larson, Supervisor Johnny Thomas (who arrived late), Thomas Kujawa (formerly of MCTS), and Lloyd Grant (attending on behalf of Ms. Anita Gulotta-Connelly).  The goal of the task force is to present recommendations to the Transportation Committee, which will then be presented to the full Milwaukee County Board on February 5th, 2009.

George Torres was called on to explain his vote against the recommendations of the RTA, and almost immediately went on the defensive for his boss, County Executive Scott Walker.  Torres was called because he is Scott Walker’s representative on the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority.

Torres appeared to have every excuse for why he voted no, most of which appeared to be solved by the inclusion of a local management committee (included in the recommendations that were passed 6-1 by the RTA).  He expressed concerns that the state would dictate what happened with the RTA, that the RTA would be the sole recipient of revenue from the sales tax, and that subcontracting was worded to occur with current transit operators, not potential future operators.  Torres also aired concerns that the appropriation of funds was too focused on the KRM.

Thomas Kujawa asked Torres what the County Executive wanted as a funding source, to which Torres primary response was the diversion of gas tax money.  This follows a typical Scott Walker model of avoiding a tax increase to fund anything, and simply stealing money from another pot.

A refreshing critique came in the meeting when Supervisor Larson took issue with the comments he was hearing from Mr. Torres and the fact that Scott Walker had paid for ads against the successful 1% sales tax referendum.  He also took issue with Torres saying that only 3 out of the 18 communities in Milwaukee County had passed it, noting that Torres failed to mention that those that didn’t failed by the slimmest of margins.

Kujawa at one point exclaimed the “RTA isn’t brain surgery, are we going to solve the problem or not?”  Throughout the meeting he clearly displayed displeasure with the responses Mr. Torres was giving.

It’s worth noting that a handful of supervisors not on the task force were in attendance at the meeting, including Supervisors Weishan, Lipscomb, and Borkowski.

Supervisor Jursik ran through a list of individuals that will be invited to the next task force meeting.  They include the following:

  • Chairman Holloway
  • Chairman Mayo
  • Julia Taylor
  • Kerry Thomas
  • A member of the Cudahy Chamber of Commerce
  • Alderman Witkowski
  • Ken Yunker
  • Samual Jenson (Transit Riders union)
  • Matt Nelson (Transit Riders union)
  • Richard Riley (ATU)
  • Supervisor Broderick
  • Pete Bietzel/Tim Sheehy
  • Rob Henken
  • Sharon Robinson
  • Bill Sell
  • Mayors McCue, Zepeke, Ricahrds, Bolender

Towards the end of the meeting Supervisor Jursik explained that the goal of the task force would be to develop a consensus statement to take back to the Transportation Committee and ultimately the County Board.  It will be interesting to see what the task force comes up with.  I would expect it to be pro-RTA with some potentially legitimate concerns included because of the involvement of both Supervisor Larson and Supervisor Jursik, who both showed a genuine interest in progress at the last Transportation Commitee meeting.

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One thought on “Walker Administration Defends Vote Against RTA”

  1. Paul Theis says:

    Why aren’t we looking to Chicago to supply at least some of the funding for KRM? I believe their transit authority is in the middle of spending a pool of federal funds designated for transit improvements and updates. I don’t know if KRM would qualify, but shouldn’t we find out?

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