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Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010

Issue of the Week: The Decider

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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Looks like Gov.-elect Scott Walker is learning the difference between running a perpetual campaign and actually governing.

His first fumble is over his promise to “kill the train” between Madison and Milwaukee, which would eventually link Wisconsin to the rest of the Midwest.

The problem is that killing the $800 million train also means Walker is killing $100 million worth of contracts already in play, more than 400 jobs now (and up to 5,000 jobs over the next two years) and multi-millions of more dollars for upgrades to Milwaukee’s transit infrastructure. Even the new Talgo plant at the Tower Automotive site is up in the air, since the company wouldn’t have this Wisconsin project in the pipeline.

Now, any smart businessperson would jump at the chance to finalize this project. After all, the federal government is providing $823 million for the rail line and local upgrades, while the state will only have to pay an estimated $750,000 per year—since the feds have said that they would cover 90% of the $7.5 million annual operating costs. Leveraging $750,000 a year to win an $823 million project, plus all of the added jobs and revenue and tax base? Sounds like a winner to us. And that’s why the money will go to another state that has a smarter governor than Wisconsin’s Walker. New York Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo has said that his state wants the $823 million if Wisconsin is foolish enough to give it up.

But Walker doesn’t see it that way because he’s a politician first and a chief executive second. He still believes the fantasy that the money can be used for highway upgrades—which, not surprisingly, will line the pockets of his biggest contributors.

Walker’s ultimate decision on the train is going to anger a lot of people. Whether Walker upsets the vast majority of the state that would benefit from this project or the small minority that backed his candidacy is up to him.

Hero of the Week

Caryl Anne Halfwassen

Caryl Anne Halfwassen is a woman with a mission. As a volunteer with Kids Matter Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to helping neglected and abused children in Milwaukee, Halfwassen works to make a positive difference in the lives of society’s most vulnerable residents.

In October, Halfwassen donated 140 snowsuits for infants and toddlers. She also gave more than 1,200 blankets and articles of clothing to infants entering the foster care system in Milwaukee this year.

“I came from a much smaller community in central Illinois three years ago, and I was truly shocked at the depth of the issues confronting children, their families, caregivers and support agencies in Milwaukee,” Halfwassen says. “It is not just the children who receive the donations that I think about. I also want to assist the caregivers, caseworkers and medical staff. This is one less thing to worry about.”

Halfwassen is one of many volunteers at Kids Matter to use limited resources to make a huge difference. To volunteer or donate, visit www.kidsmatterinc.org or call 414-344-1220.

Jerk of the Week

‘Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’ Columnist Patrick McIlheran


Now, to be fair, the JS’s Patrick McIlheran didn’t say that being gay was as bad as being a Nazi. It’s just sort of in the same ballpark. McIlheran’s comparison of Spanish same-sex couples kissing in full view of Pope Benedict to the murderous Nazi regime was a bit over the top, even for the paper’s resident knuckle-dragger. (“Did they imagine he’d never seen sin?” McIlheran wondered. “As a boy, he’d endured the rise and fall of the Nazis: He’d seen far worse sorts of wrongdoing.”) Oh yes, the pope certainly has seen all sorts of “wrongdoing.” McIlheran conveniently omits the fact that the pope had seen the rise and fall of the Nazis because he was a member of the Hitler Youth. And he forgot to mention that Benedict, back when he was a cardinal, had been charged with “reviewing” cases of Catholic priests who were accused of molesting children, “reviews” that let guilty priests off the hook. Finally, McIlheran and the JS’s nonexistent fact-checkers should note that simply being gay in Spain—even kissing!—is not “wrongdoing,” since the Spanish parliament legalized same-sex marriage back in 2005, the third country to do so.