September 8, 2009 9:18 AM
The Labor Day New York Times carried a front page story about the three quarters of a million Americans who have given up looking for work. They're not counted in the official unemployment statistics, but they are very real. One of the workers featured was a 58 year old master carpenter named Rick Alexander. Rick applied for hundreds of jobs over the course of the last couple of years, but now is so discouraged that he has only applied for two in the last several months. "There are thousands of people applying for every job I'm looking at," he told the Times. He's so bored that he spent part of a day last week clipping his small lawn with a pair of hand clippers.
If that doesn't tell the story of the human cost of this recession I don't know what does. A master carpenter, not building offices or houses, but clipping his lawn. It's because we need to put people like Rick Alexander back to work that I proposed an ambitious capital budget for next year. My budget would create about 1,000 good paying, family supporting construction jobs to build the new Central Library and the Edgewater Hotel project. And that doesn't count hundreds more jobs that will be kept or created as we rebuild water mains and streets and invest in our parks and other infrastructure.
Over the years we've created even more jobs for new police officers, firefighters and bus drivers. A few weeks ago Metro managers told me of limited term drivers who had tears in their eyes when they were told to come back for permanent jobs needed to fill out the route expansions made possible by the recent bus fare increase.
So, this Labor Day that needs to be Madison's response to recession: create jobs, put people to work, build the city.