Our highways are not owned by trucking companies. Our skies are not owned by the airlines. These public assets are part of “The Commons,” and are managed by officials accountable to We The People.
Why should railroads be any different? Why should private corporations control these vital corridors, often in violation of the public interest?
When corporate bosses demand that decrepit trains keep moving, private rail inspectors end up sacrificing public safety at the altar of profit.
Even though passenger traffic has priority by law, Amtrak riders often find their trains parked on sidings waiting for coal trains to pass.
It’s time for rail corridors to be transferred to public control, and for traffic management and safety inspections to be overseen by responsible public servants.
The railroads that we know still have a role to play. Just as trucks and planes are privately owned, existing carriers would continue to own locomotives and rolling stock. They would own their switching yards, employ train crews, and do rail construction and maintenance under government contract.
But the main line track must become part of our national infrastructure. The railroads should be fairly compensated for their investment in the tracks and other infrastructure, but this is not insurmountable.
Railroads are a vital component of our national transportation system, and their importance is growing. Private corporations have repeatedly violated the public trust, so railroads must come under the same public oversight that applies to highways and skyways.
They say that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes.
I think of that as veterans are fighting to be taken care of for the sicknesses they’re suffering from exposure to toxic burn pits..
..just as earlier veterans had to fight to be taken care of for the sicknesses they suffered from exposure to depleted uranium..
..just as veterans of my generation had to fight to be taken care of for the sicknesses they suffered from exposure to Agent Orange..
..just as veterans of my parents’ generation had to fight to be taken care of for the sicknesses they suffered from exposure to nuclear bomb tests.
History is telling us that “Sign up and you’ll be taken care of” is an empty promise.
It has been interesting to observe the debate over rezoning and repurposing the old Fish Hatchery building in Riverside park.
An architectural and historical jewel prominently located in La Crosse’s flagship park became vacant, so the city sought proposals to rehab the building and give it new life. But when an idea was brought forward, some people reacted as if the world were ending.
Granted, the developers may have botched their sales job by using the words “wedding receptions” and “beer garden” to describe a “meeting and event space.” La Crosse has several event spaces, and this project aims to find its own niche among them.
The opposition has deployed the usual alarms about loud music and alcohol, as if beer will automatically bring herds of frat boys stampeding through the International Friendship Gardens. If residents of the nearby apartment complex are to be believed, they may never sleep again.
These may be legitimate concerns, but they don’t mesh with what I am not hearing from the opposition. I hear no complaints about Riverfest or Moon Tunes, where amplified music fills the park and alcohol is widely available.
And what about Irish Fest or Octoberfest, just a few blocks away? Those events feature an abundance of alcohol and loud music, but I hear no complaints from those who portray wedding receptions in the Fish Hatchery building as the end of civilization.
What I most want to hear from the opposition is a better idea. Unfortunately, amid all the Nimbyism and heckling, I hear no suggestions to solve the problem at hand: How do we pay for the expensive work that this building needs, and create a place that adds value to the park and the city?
An idea to solve this problem is on the table. Suggestions to refine this proposal and make it more acceptable would be helpful. Those opposed to this idea are welcome to submit ideas of their own. But shouting “NO” like a spoiled toddler is not helpful. That’s how you get banished to a corner and ignored.
I applaud Governor Tony Evers for including taxation and regulation of cannabis as part of his budget proposal. In spite of generations of prohibition, the market for cannabis products has not gone away, and this authoritarian approach creates more problems than it solves.
Without regulation there is no quality control, leaving cannabis users vulnerable to mislabeled or tainted products. Prohibition erodes the trust level of law-abiding cannabis users toward law enforcement.
A well-regulated cannabis industry would offer a lucrative new revenue stream for family farms, small businesses and cash-starved state and local governments. Prohibition forfeits this industry to neighboring states and to the shadowy unregulated and untaxed underground market.
Wisconsin’s tax and regulatory structure for cannabis production must be optimized to support a large number of small producers while discouraging large corporate operations. Other states have seen mega-growers (many backed by the tobacco and alcohol industries) force small and artisan growers into bankruptcy. Wisconsin can do better.
Activists tell me that the biggest obstacle to a Wisconsin cannabis industry is the Tavern League. What if taverns were offered a “taste” of this new industry? Perhaps they could offer an alcohol-free cannabis-based beverage, or they could sell cannabis products “off sale”. Instead of competition, cannabis could give taverns new products to offer their customers.
If we do this right, cannabis regulation and taxation will bring rich new sources of income to our small farms, our corner taverns, and our tax bases. To brush this proposal aside is simply throwing money away.
My family has been receiving weekly Republican Party mailers. With apocalyptic graphics, alarming language, and spooky fonts, they warn that Joe Biden has been “taken over” by “the radical left.”
The only thing more laughable than this desperate and pathetic fear campaign against imaginary boogey-men, is their waste of money sending mailers to people like me, part of this “radical left” they seem so afraid of.
During the primary I supported Bernie Sanders. Most Democrats like him, but many worried that during the general election Republicans would fear-monger over “Socialism”. I said that playbook would be deployed against any Democratic nominee. And here we are.
Socialists (aka Progressives) aren’t scary. We are simply good-hearted people who want a good quality of life for everybody. The morbidly rich may pay higher taxes, but in the end they’ll still be rich.
Joe Biden is not getting his marching orders from Bernie Sanders. He may listen to his ideas, but he will also listen to reasonable Republicans (if any remain).
My message to Progressives and to good-hearted conservatives is the same: America cannot survive four more years of Donald Trump. But we can handle four years of Joe Biden. He is the only viable candidate who will bring stability and credibility back to our government, and return us to “normal.”
But “normal” isn’t good enough. Once we get Biden elected, we need to hold his feet to the fire to build a country that works for all of us.
When discussing the lack of comity and collegiality in the halls of government, there’s usually someone who says, “both sides are responsible.” This is a myth.
We Democrats always try to “get along.” After all, that’s the kind of people we are – we want to make everybody happy.
Republicans used to be the home of reasonable civic-minded businessmen; but they’ve become a mob of mean-spirited bullies representing the wealthy elite and trans-national corporations.
Consider the corrupt lying blowhard now in the White House. He shares national security secrets with our enemies, kidnaps children and puts them in cages, incites violence against his critics… the list of atrocities goes on and on.
The Republican Congress is derelict in its duty to hold this president accountable. Their silence equates to complicity.
Something is gravely wrong with the Republican party. It has become the party of anger, cruelty, racism, hatred and ignorance.
We need parties that work together to solve problems, negotiating their differences in good faith to find solutions that work for everybody.
Steve Schmidt (John McCain’s campaign manager) believes that the only hope for the Republican party is to “burn it to the ground” by electing Democrats across the board. Eventually a more responsible party would grow from the ashes.
In this case, I agree with Schmidt. The Democrats are the only party who can defend America from the authoritarian impulses of the rich and powerful. For the sake of our country, please vote for every Democrat on your ballot.
Presidential election campaigns get wall-to-wall media coverage for four years, which holds our attention and leads to high turn-out (though one can argue it’s not high enough). But when local elections are held a few months later, turn-out can languish in the teens or in single digits. I believe this is upside-down.
A national election affects the overall attitude and direction of national policy, but its immediate effect on our day-to-day lives is minuscule relative to the outcome of a local election. For instance, an election for municipal judge is widely ignored. But if we have a dispute with a neighbor or an unjust citation, we stand before the municipal judge.
The city council approves zoning rules that determine what we can do with our own property. They hire police officers with the power to arrest and detain us, as well as the officials responsible for the upkeep of our roads and parks.
The members of the school board determine who will teach our children, what they will be taught, and how well we care for the buildings where our kids spend their days.
Yet with all the direct impact that local officials have on our personal lives, local elections seem to be universally ignored. We ignore these elections at our peril.
Now more than ever, we must pay close attention to local elections. Most candidates are only a phone call away. Talk to them about the issues you care about, then show up to vote on April 4.
You can learn a lot about someone by looking at the company they keep, so it’s disturbing to see the Republican Party hanging out with the repulsive sewer-rats of humanity.
Ever since their “southern strategy” of the Nixon years, Republicans have appealed to bigots with “dog whistle” terms only racists would understand. When white nationalists flocked to the party like flies to a cow pie, Republicans doubled down. They saw only votes where they should have seen vermin.
Now the vermin have promoted a sleazy bullying con-man to the top of the Republican ticket. Party leaders express outrage when he says (in plain English) what Republicans have said in carefully coded language for generations. But the somber condemnations always end with, “He has my vote.”
I’m sorry, that is unacceptable. Any candidate running as a Republican is disqualified from holding any position of public trust.
By nominating Donald Trump for president, the Republican Party embraced hatred, bigotry and mean-spiritedness. The American people must loudly and unambiguously demonstrate to the world that this is not who we are, and we must do so by rejecting every Republican on every ballot in the nation.
The Republican Party has degenerated into a party of white hoods, brown shirts and dunce caps. Democrats may not be perfect, but their candidates are sincere good-hearted people working to improve everyone’s quality of life thru public service. Democrats are far more worthy of our votes than the creeps and clowns on the other side of the ballot.
Bernie Sanders has made many bold proposals in this campaign, only to have them dismissed as “impossible” or “unrealistic”. His primary opponent will have us believe that Americans are no longer capable of doing Big Things.
If all of our presidents had thought this way, we would have never defeated the fascists, built the Interstate Highway system, or landed on the Moon. These big and visionary projects would have been incompatible with such “pragmatic” leadership.
In an American football game, the winning team is the one that is always trying to score a touchdown. That doesn’t mean they won’t accept first downs along the way, but they will devote every play to moving the ball down the field until it is in the end zone.
A team run by Bernie Sanders’ detractors would celebrate and go home after one first down, telling us that the goal line is too far away to even try to get there. That is not a winning strategy.
If we strive for idealistic goals, that doesn’t mean we won’t accept incremental steps that get us closer to those goals. It just means that those steps must be followed by more steps until our goals are achieved.
We only get what we want if we ask for it. So during the primary season, it is important to vote for what we want, rather than what we’re willing to settle for. That is why I am supporting Bernie Sanders for President, and I urge each of you to do the same.
One week before he was elected governor, Scott Walker told the editorial board of the Oshkosh Northwestern that he was willing to work with unions and to listen to any ideas they had to save money. In general, Walker presented himself as a reasonable and collegial manager.
After the election, he told a billionaire donor of his plans to bust public employee unions as part of a “divide and conquer” strategy. This governor turned out to be the polar opposite of what he advertised himself to be. We all have friends, neighbors and family members who were directly hurt by Walker’s divisive and mean-spirited agenda.
For those who say that recalls should be reserved for cases of criminal behavior, I answer with one word: Fraud. Just as a worker would be fired for lying on a resume, the people of Wisconsin must fire Scott Walker for the frauds he committed to get elected.
Walker’s rich out-of-state cronies are dumping planeloads of money into our airwaves, mailboxes, and telephones to deliver their next round of lies. Voters must not be fooled by these expensive packages of deception, but I trust we are smart enough to recognize that gold-plated bullslop is still bullslop.
The people of Wisconsin made a major collective mistake in November 2010. Those who regret voting for Walker (or not voting at all) in that election can redeem themselves on June 5 by electing Tom Barrett as governor and Mahlon Mitchell as lieutenant governor.