Hope For the Future
December 17, 2010 10:54 AM
I have spent all week in this space trying to sort through the wreckage of Governor-Elect Scott Walker's decision to send $810 million of our tax money and more than 5,000 jobs to other states just to fulfill his extreme campaign promise to kill the train. It was a decision that will have such serious and lasting negative impacts for Madison and for our state that I thought it deserved the attention.
It also got a lot of attention in the local media, including this insightful story by Kristin Czubkowski of the Capital Times: http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_e17a4f96-07bb-11e0-9379-001cc4c03286.html. In it, Chris Berge, who had planned to revamp Restaurant Magnus to cater to train travelers, describes why he won't be able to go forward with the new concept now.
"'It felt like sort of a really bleak financial picture' for the restaurant, Berge says, adding that Magnus will still close by the end of the year. 'Basically, thanks to the vote by the GOP and Scott Walker administration, I'm going to terminate 45 jobs and $1.8 million in commerce per year.'"
So, while next week I'll address other topics here, I won't just move on. One reason is that I think this decision indicates a real lack of understanding of what a modern economy is on behalf of the incoming governor. If he's really going to fulfill his Dark Ages campaign promises then you can expect an attack on stem cell research next. That has implications for our local and state economies that will make the rail decision look like an appetizer.
But another reason I won't just give up is because we don't have to. Let's remind ourselves that regardless of the policies that come down from down the street, Madison still can control some of its own destiny. So, I'm not giving up on high speed rail. We have good, solid plans for a downtown station and they won't just go away. In fact, I'll ask city staff to develop them further.
Second, I'm sending a letter to the President, Secretary Ray LaHood, and our congressional delegation asking them to keep us in the planning loop as the Midwest High Speed Rail Network develops. After all, Chicago and the Twin Cities still need to be connected and I'm going to fight like hell to see that they get connected through Madison and not Dubuque. And I'm copying former Governor Tommy Thompson on that letter. Thompson was a champion of rail and tried to help out behind the scenes here. Maybe he can use his good offices to convince his GOP colleagues to have a change of heart in the long-run.
Look, I'm not trying to put a happy face on this. Scott Walker dealt the whole state a devastating blow. But we're going to do everything we can locally to repair the wound he caused.