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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Issue of the Week: Transit, Transit, Transit

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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Planning for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail line is moving ahead, despite shaky funding from a rental car fee increase and protests from Milwaukee County supervisors who say the county’s bread-and-butter bus system needs solid funding first.

And does it need funding. Although Scott Walker promises to increase the property tax support for the system by $2.1 million in the coming year, folks at the Milwaukee County Transit System say the funding situation is more dire, at least according to their early projections. Thank the combination of decreased revenue from riders, higher employee and fuel costs, and the increased cost of running Paratransit and Transit Plus, and there’s a $10.2 million budget gap projected for 2011—and that includes Walker’s $2.1 million promise. That represents a 14% service cut or 188,000 hours of service per year.

State lawmakers and local leaders must figure this out before the Wisconsin’s most populous county has no reliable public transit system. Either dedicate more state aid for the system or allow the county to levy a half-cent sales tax to provide stable, long-term funds for transit.

Heroes of the Week

Faith and Francie Bybee

The late Melodie Wilson founded ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis in 1999 to offer free, personalized information and support to those affected by breast cancer—including not only patients, but also their families and friends.

The group relies on the efforts of volunteers such as cousins Faith and Francie Bybee, who, in addition to providing countless hours of administrative assistance and working at community outreach events, also serve as mentors to program participants. Faith, a breast cancer survivor of 10 years, notes that although participants may already have a support network, “when you hear the words ‘you have cancer,’ you want to be with someone who’s gone through it and survived.” To that end, ABCD matches participants with a mentor whose circumstances are similar to their own.

While Faith mentors patients, Francie mentors friends and families of those dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The pair also maintains an immense database of available resources for participants. ABCD (6737 W. Washington St., West Allis) is always in need of volunteers. Survivors interested in mentoring others, or anyone just wishing to help donate time with events, are encouraged to call (414) 918-9222 or visit www.abcdbreastcancersupport.org.

Jerk of the Week

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker once again is focusing on his political ambitions instead of his responsibilities in Milwaukee County. Instead of keeping put and trying to solve the crisis at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, Walker is taking a three-state trip that just happens to wind up in Milwaukee mere days before the state Republican convention on Saturday. But the trip is not political or campaign-related, of course. No, not at all. Not even when he’s flip-flopping on Arizona’s immigration law while he’s on his Harley, first claiming that he’s against it, then coming out in support of it. What does that have to do with promoting Milwaukee’s tourist attractions? We’re stumped.