Fewer routes, higher fares and a free falling mass transit death spiral mark the tenure of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is steaming mad and he has a right to be. As a Congressman, Barrett was responsible for getting federal funds earmarked to transportation in Milwaukee. As Mayor, Barrett has pushed for a fixed rail transit system in the downtown area that would help both residents and businesses. To see those same funds he fought for being held hostage by Walker who is unwilling to compromise and share funds with the City, has got to frost the Mayor.
Walker has been consistent in his rhetoric — he doesn’t want his name associated with a tax increase. As such, he has underfunded many of his departmental budgets which has forced the County Board to take leadership to restore key funding. The same holds true of transit.
While Barrett wants to use the funds to help make Milwaukee a world class city, Walker wants to use the funds for more of the same — buses. Barrett claims his plan is the better idea since all other major successful cities have some sort of a fixed rail system. Another mid sized city, Seattle, has seen great success with their rail system. Barrett sees Milwaukee as prime for the same successes that Seattle has had.
And just look at what Barrett has accomplished. A bustling downtown and high density condos and lofts right in downtown Milwaukee. This plan, started by former Mayor John Norquist and continued by Barrett has created success in a relatively short time. Just 15 years ago, many parts of downtown Milwaukee were a ghost town after 6pm. Today, high end development coupled with great restaurants, brew pubs and entertainment venues have drawn people back to downtown. It is no surprise that Barrett won re-election with a higher percentage of the votes than any other Mayor or Mayoral candidate for the past 40 years.
Now that Barrett has been successful in bringing people back to downtown Milwaukee, something needs to be done to move people from point A to point B. Barrett has a plan. Walker does not.
So should Barrett be mad that one of the key segments to continued growth in downtown is being impeded by the County Exec? Should Barrett be steamed that despite all of his efforts, the one thing that could skyrocket downtown growth and development is being held hostage by Walker?