The Wisconsin GOP’s Special Flair for Anti-Urban State Politics

We reported last week that Republican state legislators in Wisconsin were doing their damnedest to kill the Milwaukee streetcar — though a civil rights ruling from the 1990s specifically bars them from doing so.

Are top state officials in Wisconsin intent on undermining their largest city? Image: Daily Kos

Why are state lawmakers so intent on smothering a project decades in the making? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is wondering as well. In a weekend story the paper asked, “Is the GOP-run state Legislature at war with Milwaukee?

James Rowen at Network blog the Political Environment says it’s clear that Republican lawmakers have an ax to grind, but it’s less clear how that advances state goals:

Walker and his GOP legislative allies continue to politically batter and budgetarily squeeze Milwaukee with right-wing policies and full-on partisan retribution for Mayor Barrett’s two gubernatorial challenges and big anti-Walker votes in city wards.

An anti-Milwaukee agenda weakens Wisconsin statewide, but plays well in the GOP’s suburban and out-state strongholds — so [it] helps keep gerrymandered Republicans embedded in their safe seats.

[This leaves] Walker and anti-urban legislators free to interfere in the Milwaukee economy and local landscape through city worker residency rule manipulations, a strangled bus system, derailed local, commuter and regional train initiatives along with their lost development potential, local spending limits made worse by drastically-cut public school budgets.

It’s a coordinated attack on Milwaukee and local control with elections, partisan payback and punishment in mind – - gleefully predicted by righty WISN-AM talker Mark Belling on November 3rd, 2010, a day after Walker was elected Governor and the GOP took control of the Legislature.

The evidence that Walker and his allies are politically and personally jamming city taxpayers in ways that ultimately hurt a state that needs a successful, big city is on full display.

We’ve seen anti-urban politics at play again and again with respect to transit — see Ohio Governor John Kasich and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who are trying to derail streetcar projects in Cincinnati and Charlotte, respectively. Ironic that sometimes a city’s biggest obstacle to progress is its own state government, which would seem to have every incentive to ensure that urban areas perform well.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Boston Biker reports that the city’s Hubway bike sharing system is approaching its one-millionth ride. I Bike TO shares a harrowing video illustrating what it’s like for a cyclist to be passed at a close distance. And Seattle Transit Blog explains why transit should be given priority at traffic chokepoints.