Dave Reid

Milwaukee County Committee Fails to Reconsider RTA Vote

By - Dec 16th, 2008 10:50 am
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The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting of the Committee on Transportation, Public Works and Transit to further discuss the proposed RTA.  Supervisors Chris Larson and Pat Jursik hoped to put forward a positive response to the proposed RTA in place of the committee’s overtly negative response that came out of the last committee meeting.

Supervisor Jursik expressed her support for the KRM line and the RTA by stating “the south shore route is extremely important to my community.”  She also reiterated the importance of returning with a positive response asking if the committee would “reconsider the rather harsh tone that was taken towards the RTA.”

Speaking in opposition Supervisor Toni Clark at times tried to say she wasn’t against the RTA or the KRM but at other time said “I definitely don’t support the KRM in its current configuration” and added later that “I still don’t support us paying into the RTA.”  She also claimed that the proposed KRM line “doesn’t help the citizens of  Milwaukee very much,” because the KRM line didn’t go beyond the Intermodal Station.  Finally she had issues regarding the governance structure of the RTA, comparing it to SEWRPC.

Once again Supervisor Larson appeared to be transit and regionalism’s strongest champion on the committee.  He pointed out that if the county board doesn’t act now that Milwaukee County could lose out on million of dollars of federal funding in the upcoming stimulus package.  He also attempted to point out the overarching issue facing mass transit in the region when he said that “the idea of working together is somewhat foreign in this region.”  Possibly the most telling moment was when he explained that “Milwaukie is getting rail, unfortunately it is Milwaukie, Oregon,” he added that “we’re paying for rail, we’re just not getting any of it.”  Supervisor Larson wrapped up his strong support for regionalism and mass transit message saying “I’m for an RTA.”

Supervisor John Weishan took issue with the media’s characterization of the committee’s recent action as an anti-regionalist and as stopping efforts to improve mass transit in Milwaukee.  He made is beliefs clear stating that “our vote did not stop anything.”  He also at times talked down the recent referendum’s approval, in regards to it be an indicator that the citizen’s of Milwaukee County support expanding mass transit saying “lets not read to much on the 1% sales tax.”  He argued that the citizens of Milwaukee County wouldn’t accept an RTA because it is made up of an unelected board and would have taxing authority.  Despite effectively voting in opposition to a proposed regional transit solution, all be it with some flaws, he attempted to explain that “this doesn’t mean we’re against regionalism.”

Supervisor Michael Mayo complained that “we want to be part of the solution, not told what to do” and added various comments to the same effect indicating he felt the County Board deserved more power and control.  He made mention of his working on regional transit solutions going back to 1994 but failed to note those efforts have resulted in no progress in bringing rail service to Southeast Wisconsin.

In the end the committee’s vote to reconsider their previous measure regarding the RTA failed on a vote 2 to 5 with Supervisor’s Larson and Jursik supporting the measure.

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6 thoughts on “Milwaukee County Committee Fails to Reconsider RTA Vote”

  1. Joe Klein says:

    So, I give up, why cant Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee elect their representatives? The RTA may formally require appointments, but cant the legislative bodies each enact laws to elect a representative and then mandate that the Mayor and The County Executive appoint those respective people? In effect it is a binding referendum with a list of names on it.

    I the case of the city …

    2-04. Appointed Officers. All other officers necessary for the proper management of the affairs of said city shall be appointed by the common council, or by the mayor, or in such manner as the common council may direct, except when otherwise directed in ch. 184, L. 1874.

    Isn’t requiring an election of the RTA representative an appointment “in such manner as the common council may direct” ???

  2. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Joe

    The Common Council confirms Sharon Robinson for her position, so in effect they already control who the Mayor appoints. If you don’t like the Mayor’s appointee, throw the mayor out of office. If you don’t like County Executive’s appointee, get the county executive thrown out of office.

    Why can’t we elect the Secretary of Defense?

  3. Joe Klein says:

    @Jeramey Jannene – The Secretary of Defense is a cabinet position.
    The RTA appointees are not the logical equivalent of cabinet members. The RTA box is not under the Mayor or County Exec on the organizational chart..

    OK I skipped a step. Some people don’t like that the RTA has an appointed board, hence the comparison to SEWRPC. I was just trying to point out that the legislative bodies at the City of and County of Milwaukee could take the initiative and resolve that problem through legislation, at least for two board members.

    I think it is good to have elected board for government units with taxing authority, don’t you?

    I would also like to get the County Executive thrown out of office.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Joe I’ll add my 2cents.

    The problem to me is that Southeast Wisconsin has been working on 100 different rail/transit systems for decades now and haven’t accomplished well any of them. The RTA in its currently proposed form is the best chance our region has to move forward because it wasn’t arranged in its current form by chance. It was created in the form that it is, so that it could actually get in the Governor’s budget and actually have a chance at obtaining approval at the state level.

    So we and the County Board can quibble over details and essentially throw the baby out with the bathwater, or we can move forward with regional transit for Southeast Wisconsin.

  5. Joe Klein says:

    If I sounded like I’m against the RTA, that is not my intention. I’m all for them combining operation of MCTS with Racine, Kenosha. It would save money. I am also for building KRM. I even said this to people at the Amalgamated Transit Union back last year. The problem is fighting the fiefdoms. The petty possessiveness of the governing authorities who can’t let go.

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @Joe My point is if the city and county start tweaking the details, it could fall apart. Is it a perfect arrangement well maybe no but it’s as close to a reality as we’ve seen in a long time and adding speed bumps doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.

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