Monday, October 20, 2008

Who Are You Going To Believe?

On November 4th, one of the many important issues that voters will be deciding on will be an advisory referendum regarding an increase in the sales tax in Milwaukee County. The sales tax, if it would succeed, would still need to be passed by the County Board and the State Legislature and Governor Doyle.

However, having people speak out and say, "Why, yes, we want to save our transit system, our parks, our economic viability and our quality of life!" would be a major blow to Walker's single plank platform in his perpetual run for governor. He is desperately trying to prevent it at all costs, even using County resources to do his politicking.

As you can imagine, the local right wing squawkers, who sole job is to promote Republicans and Republican objectives are on the attack, spreading their lies, their smears and their smokescreens in hopes to distract, misinform and scare off any potential resort. It is not unlike the way they are trying to belittle Senator Barack Obama anyway they can, in order to gain some, any momentum for McCain's disastrous plans for this country.

Walker and his squawking allies, namely Charlie Sykes and Jay Weber would tell you all sorts of garbage, including that there will be no tax relief because the last time this happened, taxes went up ten years later. They will tell you that Milwaukee County will become a tax island, even though Milwaukee's taxes are already higher than that of surrounding counties, and businesses are doing just fine in Milwaukee.

They are full of so much rot.

Their arguments hold no water, and are just playing to people's fears. I've been saying this for over a year now.

But if you don't want to believe me, that's cool. I would offer up a study that was just reported in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The report is from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Center for Economic Development and reads in part:
Transit access to jobs could become much worse in 2010, the report says. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the Public Policy Forum have warned that, without new state or local funding, the Milwaukee County bus system could be forced to cut service by 35%, wiping out all Freeway Flyer routes and most night, weekend and suburban service.

If that happens, only 45% of the region's employers would be within a quarter-mile of a bus stop, leaving at least 101,066 jobs that couldn't be easily reached by public transit, the report says."Such an outcome would be disastrous for the regional economy," the report says. Even if the people most directly affected are those who depend on buses, "studies show that regions as a whole may suffer when their central cities fall into decline."

Rast agrees with other studies that called for taking public transit off the property tax levy and out of competition with other levy-funded services. Of 17 comparable metro areas, 12 fund their transit systems at least partly with local sales taxes and Milwaukee is the only one that uses property taxes, he wrote.

In recommending a sales tax, Rast said property taxes should be cut by the amount now used for transit. MMAC agrees, Beitzel said.

And if the gentle reader scoffs at this report, saying that the source is just "liberal elite academia types", that's OK. I would then present a study from the non-partisan Milwaukee Public Policy Forum, headed by former top Walker aid, Rob Henken. MPPF issued their own recommendations almost six months ago:
But the vehicle fee, also known as a "wheel tax," would be only a short-term measure to hold the bus system together until state and local officials can agree on a longer-term solution, such as a local sales tax, local gas tax or major increase in state funding, the nonpartisan research organization says.

And if county officials don't pursue any of those options and keep patching transit budget holes one year at a time, they soon will be forced to eliminate all Freeway Flyer routes and nearly all night, weekend and suburban service, the report warns. That would leave "a transit system that is a shell of its former self," the report says.

Such service cuts could slice into the regional economy because 75% of bus riders have few if any other transportation options, 52% don't even have driver's licenses and 43% ride buses to work, the report adds.

And if that still was not enough, there is always the findings of Thomas Rubin, a conservative mass transit expert:
Cutting fares and restoring slashed service could be key strategies for rescuing the financially troubled Milwaukee County Transit System, a nationally known transit consultant told the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority on Monday.

And in a turnabout from his usual positions, California-based consultant Thomas Rubin recommended serious study of a transit sales tax and of a Milwaukee-to-Kenosha commuter rail line, although he stopped short of endorsing either option.

Rubin is an unlikely figure in the regional transit debate — a prominent rail transit critic backed by two conservative think tanks, hired by pro-transit business leaders to help break a longstanding stalemate on transit funding.

Although Rubin is the former chief financial officer of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, he is best known for studies that oppose light rail and commuter trains and promote public buses in Los Angeles and elsewhere. His Milwaukee-area study is being coordinated through the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and the Reason Foundation, a Libertarian-leaning organization based in California.


Rubin agreed with reports from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the Public Policy Forum that praised the Milwaukee County bus system’s cost-effective management, but that found major ridership losses resulted from fare increases and service cuts since 2000. He also agreed with those reports’ warnings of a 35% service cut by 2010 without new state or local funding — a cut that would wipe out all Freeway Flyers and most night, weekend and suburban service.

But Rubin said ridership could double in five years if county officials restore the service that has been cut and lower the fares. Phasing in that approach, with service restorations first and fare cuts later, would cater to “a huge unmet demand” for transit service that is growing as gas prices rise, he said.

So my friends, the question is who are you going to believe? A college drop out whose sole motivation factor is getting to the governor's office, and his radio squawker buddies, whose sole purpose in life is to promote people like Walker? Or educated professional that have given time and effort in making a thorough study, with their only interest in promoting Milwaukee County and making it the best place it can be?

My money goes with the experts. For further factual information that Walker and the squawkers don't want you to know, please check out the Quality of Life Alliance's website.


  1. Sorry, but that is a bunch of crap. But if the transit system was better run or better yet, privatized, the fares would be cheaper and probably provide better service. With that, you will get additional passengers and income.
    In Vegas, a 24 hour pass is $2.50, a one way ticket is $1.25 and I think a monthly pass is $40. We have much more area to cover, many more routes and the local government subsidy is not as much as Milwaukee County. The system is privatized and it runs quite well. The busses are usually full and we don't have thugs beating up the drivers.

  2. I'm going to believe the college drop-out.

  3. Dan-

    The transit system is already operated by a private agency. The problem is that it still relies on property tax and not a independent source of revenue.


    If so, why don't you live in Milwaukee County?