Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Milwaukee Connection

The City council should oppose the legislative creation of the S.E. Regional Transit Authority, known as SERTA, to start the KRM construction process in 2010.
SERTA is designed to—and eventually will—take total control of all transit operations in S.E. Wisconsin, which includes Racine and the Belle Urban System.

1. The SERTA tax is touted to take transit off the property tax rolls.
Technically this is correct. But to what advantage to the City of Racine property taxpayer? The City budget will not decrease by that amount. Spending in other parts of the bureaucracy will increase to fill that void. Property taxpayers in the City will continue paying what they had been paying in property taxes with an additional Transit Tax.

2. SERTA, the new taxing authority, will be controlled by Milwaukee.
Five of the nine SERTA board members are from Milwaukee, appointed by the Mayor and County Executive of Milwaukee and the Governor of Wisconsin.

3. The Milwaukee County Transit System is virtually bankrupt and they need additional funds from wherever they can get them. How the Transit Tax (the money going to SERTA) gets spent will be determined by this SERTA Board. Milwaukee most certainly would like to see SERTA in control. SERTA would give the Milwaukee system a broader reach for funds, going into Kenosha and Racine Counties.

4. The Racine BUS will lose the current $4.3 million in state and federal assistance it receives. The BUS will be controlled by Milwaukee, and will find itself competing for money for its Racine operations with a larger, destitute Milwaukee system.

What is the real support for KRM??

1. Ask RCEDC for a statement regarding the importance of commuter rail in their search for new businesses.

2. Ask RAMAC for a statement regarding how many new jobs current
employers will commit to add if KRM actually get built.

3. Ask SERTA for current KRM ridership projections with facts to back it up.

4. Via a referendum, ask the people if they want KRM

And finally, two observations.

1. Downtown Racine to O'Hare Field is 65 mils and 80 to 90 minutes by car. KRM is 3 hours, 2 trains & 2 cabs.

2. Case/IH to CNH Global, Burr Ridge, IT.- is 80.5 miles and 90 - 100 minutes by car. KRM is 3lh hours, 3 trains and 3 cabs.

These comments are a summary of the information given in the handout I distributed at the January 19, 2010 City Council Meeting and can be found at the Racine Taxpayers Association website.

Butchering Taxpayers

Aldermen and the mayor are relying too much on the bureaucracy for their information. There is something one must realize about bureaucrats and data: they will give you carefully sifted data that support what they are doing and give them more money.

OK. So you can ask a bureaucrat, “What time do you come to work? What time do you leave? How long is your lunch break?” You could even ask Rick Jones something like, “How much solid waste is taken to the landfill each year?”

For questions like that you can rely on their answers.

But when you ask speculative questions like, “What happens if we…?” “How long would it take to…?” or “What should we do if…?“ you will get carefully culled answers that put constituents in the worst position possible and put them in the best position possible to give rationality to sucking money out of taxpayers pockets to support what they are doing.

That is how the bureaucracy functions.

To a large degree it works that way in the private sector also. That is why one gets second opinions and does additional research before purchasing. That is why businesses like Motor Trend, Consumer Reports and the Good Housekeeping seal are important.

Doctors, lawyers, insurance brokers all tend to cherry pick their data to sell you on them.

Bureaucrats are just as bad—generally worse.

So quit relying on bureaucrats for information.

Also remember, that you have limited time for your research. Under pressure a bureaucrat can spend his whole day researching. You may not believe it, but he has little else to offer you than data. His livelihood depends on it. He has no profit motive. He only has a “you need me” motive.
You will have trouble “out-researching” them.

So when dealing with a bureaucrat you must also have a strong philosophical base from which to operate. Otherwise you will be meat for their grinders.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Cumbling of Obstructionism?

The City Council voted this evening on the next step in the Tom Tousis venture in West Racine. The step allows Tousis to submit a comprehensive plan for the purchase of the corner lot of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard.

Only one alderman, Jeff Coe of the First District, voted against the measure. Coe was adamant that there would be “No gas station put on that corner!”

At first look, a 14-1 vote for Tousis seem promising, but the undercurrent of grumbling makes it pretty obvious that Tousis has some rocky roads ahead of him in this project.

Alderman Sandy Wiedner of the Sixth District made is clear that she wants more to say about the plan and wanted assurance that her voting in the affirmative on this was no indication of her acceptance of the overall plan. She voiced an objection to Tousis proposal of a forgivable mortgage on the $250,000 piece of land. Brian O’Connel from the City Planning Department made it clear that she was not accepting the plan with this vote.

Of course Jim Spangenberg spoke up from the northeast outback of the council making it clear that he was only approving this step as Tousis (or "anybody") should have that opportunity; but he was opposed to the plan.

How the council will go on this issue, I believe, is still up for grabs. But hope is in the air: Mike Shields from the Third District was most positive in the discussion saying the council should support Tousis. “We should encourage young entrepreneurs in the City.”

It is unlikely that a plan could be devised that would meet the total approval of every member of a 15 person council such as this one. There are just too many different opinions among that many people to expect everyone to agree. Not only that, but in a modern, rapidly changing market place, innovation is often a key ingredient to success. And as soon as innovation appears on the scene, so does departure from the status quo, conventional wisdom, and proven success.

And for 15 people that not only think along those lines but get elected promoting those things, finding unanimity on a project that is to succeed in a very difficult economic environment is next to impossible. Our only hope is that at least eight of the fifteen have the vision of a Mike Shields on this issue and allow Tousis to proceed forward.

Tousis, I am sure, is only persisting into this gauntlet of obstruction because he is from Racine and really want to promote his local economy. Any out of town investor would have walked away many objections ago.

But Tousis is still here and I detect subtle support beyond that of Mr. Shields‘. Maybe the Wall of Obstruction of the Old Guard is crumbling.