Monday, July 10, 2006

Has Walker found a sugar daddy?

The city is considering using borrowed money to help pay for a Milwaukee County Transit System bus route on Canal St.

Yup. It looks like County Executive Scott Walker found a bunch of sugar daddies on the other side of Downtown. Walker is cutting transit, so the city -- with a tax base smaller than the county's -- is close to ponying up $114,000 so the county doesn't have to.

Even though providing transit is a good idea, this is a bad way to do it. The city would use borrowed money -- which means it will have to pay interest on it. It is just bad business to use this type of borrowed money for operating expenses.

Lori Lutzka of the Department of City Development spoke in favor of the proposal when it was before the Common Council's Community and Economic Development Committee last week. No one thought to even mention that the city was taking on traditional county obligation.

And why Canal St? Why not another route? Why not all the routes? What happens if other areas of town want improved transit? Will the city use more borrowed money to run the buses that Walker won't? Are there standards for city-funded county buses? Does my neighborhood qualify? Does the north side? The south side? Are the people whose routes are marked for elimination by 2007 county transit cuts less worthy of city financial support than the people who travel on the new Canal St? If Walker decided to end bus routes to the Grand Ave. shopping center, would the city step in and pay to restore them? What if Walker cuts $114,000 from the funding for each county route? Will the city replace it? Where at City Hall do we file our transit requests? Where do we get a copy of the rules that determine who qualifies for city-funded county transit?

There are better Canal St.-related uses for this money, which comes from a fund meant to support capital projects. The city could, for example, take care of the boulevards that already have been overgrown with weeds. It could even take care of the slummish boulevards directly adjacent to the Department of Public Works buildings on Canal St. (generally among the worst kept boulevards on the street, by the way).

Scott Walker must be smiling. He lives in Wauwatosa, and won't be paying for this new county bus route. Milwaukee taxpayers will be picking up his tab.

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