March 5, 2010

Democratic leaders, trying to protect Lehman, are killing commuter rail, insider says

Democrats are putting on a good show with efforts to pass a regional transit system in southeastern Wisconsin that would combine bus systems and allow KRM commuter rail to move forward.

But it's an open secret in the Legislature that Democratic leadership, particularly in the Senate, will not allow a transit proposal reach the floor for a vote, according to a Democrat insider with knowledge of the negotiations.

The RTA and KRM are DOA.

Democratic leaders have no interest in pushing any of the proposals circulating around the Capitol that would combine Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee counties into a regional transit authority paid for with some sort of combination of taxes, transportation aids and local government spending.

Majority Leader Russ Decker and other top Democrats are afraid pushing the proposal will force Democratic legislators to either vote for a tax increase or vote against KRM commuter rail. Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, is of particular concern because he's up for re-election this November against Republican Van Wanggaard.

"Lehman is terrified of voting for any sort of tax increase," according to the Democratic insider. "Call it the Petak effect."

Former state Sen. George Petak, R-Racine, switched his vote in the middle of the night in favor of a tax increase on Racine County to pay for the new Miller Park. Local residents threw him out of office and replaced him with Democrat Kim Plache.

Lehman is afraid voters will do the same to him. He's so skittish on the possibility he's even afraid to vote for fellow Racine Democrat Cory Mason's plan that would allow Racine County to join an RTA without passing a tax increase. The plan does call for a sales tax increase in Milwaukee, and Lehman is fearful he'll be linked to the tax increase.

Decker, who's trying to hold on to control of the State Senate through the November election, will not allow any transit legislation come up for a vote this spring, according to the Democratic insider.

"All of this is being done so Lehman doesn't have to vote on KRM," the insider said. "They want it to look like he supports it, but never has to vote on it."

The insider provided detailed specifics on how Democrat leaders in the Senate intend to kill the legislation. The plan was to have Sen. Jim Holperin, chairman of the Senate's Committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, basically pass the bill (SB205) to Sen. Jeff Plale, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail, who would sit on it and refuse to allow it to come up for a vote.

"Once it gets to Plale it's in a blackhole," the insider said.

Holperin apparently complicated things by refusing to release the bill, the insider said. Regardless, Decker will never allow the full Senate to vote on an RTA for southeastern Wisconsin.

The Democratic insider added it may not matter. Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha need a "consistent dedicated source" of income to receive $250 million in federal money to build the KRM commuter rail system. That basically means they need to agree to a regional sales tax, which isn't going to happen.

Mason and Milwaukee Rep. Tamara Grigsby released a plan that would avoid a sales, wheel or room tax for Racine County, but that plan won't pass muster with the federal government, the insider said. Gov. Jim Doyle's plan is the best option, they said, but Democrats' efforts to protect Lehman will kill the proposal.

"The whole process is frustrating since the votes for a three-county RTA with a consistant funding source would pass is Lehman would stop playing politics and do the right thing," the insider said. "It's an easy vote for him, but he's trying to have it both ways."

In summary: the RTA is dead, and KRM commuter rail is dead along with it.


  1. Dustin - if I actually believed it was dead, I'd be preparing the celebratory wake instead of posting on your site.

    I've been following the TransitNOW and KRM proponent's initiative for more than ten years - trust me, it's not dead, just dormant.

    Whether or not this move will save Lehman remains to be seen.

  2. Why does Lehman believe he can have it both ways? You are not fooling anyone.

  3. More lies. More game playing. More smoke and mirrors, but never, never, NEVER the truth for taxpayers.

    Re-elect Nobody!

  4. Wow a state senator who is afraid to vote. Why is he still our senator? I hope anyone who plans to vote for Lehman spends some serious time thinking about his record and the few things he actually takes a stand on that are good for Racine County. It sounds like anyone would be better than Lehman. Van would be much better. He can actually make a decision and cast a vote.

    Thanks for telling us how absolutely pathetic John Lehman has become.

  5. It is a shame that Wisconsin can not join the 21st century and get some decent mass transit. When i moved here 4 years ago i feel i stepped back 20 years.

  6. KRM is like a vampire that won't die. A stake is driven through it's heart yet it rises again and again.

    It needs to die once and for all.

  7. Supporters of the train believe it is an environmental issue first, not a transportation issue. It's hard to believe that TransitNow and its well-funded machine will go away for good. However, as more evidence emerges showing the global warming (oops, climate change) scheme built on a house of cards drawn from the dealer's sleeve, the tougher it will be for today's advocates. Honest, thinking and truthful people will withdraw their support.

  8. George Meyers did a great show on KRM and why it has to go.

  9. Lehman should vote however he'd like to, why be afraid now? It's not like his voting record is going to disappear from the campaign.

  10. It IS DOA! The big money was sent to Milwaukee/Madison already. The county will get a token grant, but KRM? ZIPPO!

  11. Maybe it is time to take a look at a more viable, cost effective alternative that would improve our connection to Milwaukee. After all, the car is the most popular method of transit in the area and busses could run on this route as well. Think about it, no stop lights except for at Oklahoma Ave, all the way to downtown Milwaukee:

  12. Lehman had his chance to move the KRM forward and he bowed to the opposition. How dumb! they would never vote for him regardless and now he has lost those that want to see this happen.

    The narrow minded people who oppose mass transportation have never left Racine they sit at home hiding behind their computer screens giving opinions on subject know nothing about.

  13. If they merge the Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha bus systems together there would be a cheaper solution to KRM right there. The busses could then logically move between the counties and address the transportation needs in the region without spending all the money on the KRM. Besides, if Racine and Kenosha get pushed into the Milwaukee system all the money that would have gone to KRM will be needed just to keep the cash starved bus systems running. Remember that the BUS is behind on some of its employee benefit payments. I have heard that Milwaukee County's system is in even worse shape than Racine.

    If they are bent on smashing the three bus systems together lets see what a regional bus system would do before saddling it with an unsustainable train system.

  14. Does anybody remember Brent Oglesby's telephone number?

  15. I think the people have elected folks to lead and to make unpopular choices, and they are all unpopular choices. Regardless of my opinion on the issue, I will always vote against the leader who refuses to lead.

    John, (and Cory and......), vote with your heart and do the right thing. 1/2 the people will be mad anyway, so at least LEAD! If you lose your job, you will get another (that frankly pays better than the Senate!)

    Stop polling, start LEADING! At least people will respect you more for having a backbone. In the absence of that, you will lose your job anyway!

  16. Really shows just how out of touch these losers like Dickert, Lehman and MAson really are! Election time can't come quick enough! The people of Racine deserve better!

  17. Lehman and Mason have lost my vote along with anyone I can convince to not support either if regional transportation fails. They had the majority and still could not make it happen. They fear losing their jobs, and if that is the case at least they would go down as fighters not cowards.

  18. If this is true it is a GREAT DAY!

  19. If this fails, then so should John Lehman.

    Democrats need to sit this next election out and let John Lehman get re-elected with the conservatives he is trying to make happy. If he thinks he can bank on their support so much, then let him have at it and put that theory to the test.

    No KRM, No Lehman
    Democrats need to take a stand and pass the word.

  20. I'm holding out for a subway or maybe a water taxi,

  21. Lehman doesn't deserve to be re-elected, he did not have the guts to stand for those of us that sent him to Madison. A regional transportation system would move all of S.E. Wisconsin forward and he shot it down with his failure to support a sales tax increase. He is counting on those that oppose doing anything to send him back, they got what they want and will never support him.

  22. Thanks to Mayor Dickert the biggest losers are the Racine Taxpayers. He played the land speculation game with our money and lost. Just another scratch in his long string of failed real estate deals, but it's much more fun to lose with our money. FAILURE, is what a big sign above city hall should read.

  23. I want KRM. Why are you blocking it Lehman?

  24. This goes to show that Lehman is nothing more than just another career politician. He will do or say anything to get votes and stay in office. It's all about him and his political career. He doesn't give a damn about the people of Wisconsin or what they want, or don't want. Lehman is a perfect example of why we need to vote out EVERY career politician in office, regardless of party. We need term limits to end the "career politician mentality," then maybe we'd get some people in office that really do care about Wisconsin, what is good for its citizens and get this out-of-control spending and out-of-control government back under control.

  25. This article would have more credibility if the insider had a name - this is just more of the same.

  26. So if KRM is dead will the two real estate genius' (Dickert and Crimmings) give Brent Ogelsby an appology, and better yet the land he wanted? Just wondering!

  27. For that matter the Old Danish Home Site to the guy that wanted it turned into a Urban Garden/Park

  28. Lehman & Mason never told Dickert what their real plans are, but then again nobody tells Dickert anything. Either that or he never listens.

  29. Whether you are for or against KRM, the fact remains that Lehman is more concerned with being re-elected than being a political leader. Obviously his first priority is keeping his job, not representing his electorite. I can repect a person even if I disagree with him (her)as long as they beleive in their actions and act accordingly. Lehman thinks by letting Mason take the innitiative and hiding in the background he can have the best of both worlds. He is a political coward not a political leader, and accordingly does not deserve to be our Senator in Madison

  30. Dustin -
    Just curious, did you bother to contact Lehman to get his take on this? I find it a little strange that the subject of the article isn't even quoted.

  31. Ah, the dreaded "Petak effect," also known as democracy.

    Can we start rebuilding State Street, or do Dickert's cronies have some other plans to get rich off of Racine now?

  32. George= Lehman staffer

  33. 9:59,

    The leaders of dozens of large employers, who pay more in taxes than you will earn in your lifetime, think KRM is important to their businesses. They have analyzed its costs and effects and remain firmly in the FOR column.

    So, while I wish for far greater leadership from our elected officials, I also hope your Mommy can coax you out of the basement and into the real world.

  34. Think about it: Whether we "get" commuter rail or not, the money will be spent somewhere. There are other regions competing for that cash and it will be spent. Even if the naysayers are right (they are not), shouldn't we try to stimulate this area with millions of construction jobs and increased infrastructure?

    Pay for it here or there? Is it really a choice?

  35. 10:22 Name the dozens of employers you quote are for KRM. KRM like the CTA are only looking to line their pockets. By the way the CTA is broke and laying off employees.....why because the revenue generated does not even come clost to the costs of having them.
    If Chicago one of the largest cities cannot affors the mass transit system how can a collection of KRM ever offer a viable cost effective solution.
    You sir or Madam are an idiot!
    I and most others are not willing to pay for the rides of a few executives who do not live here, pay taxes here, or contribute in any meaningful way to our local economy.
    BS top to bottom.
    SCJ and the other dozens you mention do not need any further handouts!

  36. Anon 9:48, yes, there are other plans for State Street. It was made quite clear to the people who wanted to open the music hall there that the area is being reserved for offices.

    Now, there are no people or companies waiting in line to open offices there. But, those involved in Racine's development felt that preserving that area for non-existent offices was better than letting the people that proposed the music hall to rehab the buildings, open a music hall that would bring in national acts, regional acts and local acts, provide work for local citizens, provide a concession area that would employ even more people (and would NOT sell alcoholic beverages), would pay business taxes to the city, broaden the income tax base and draw dollars from show-goers far beyond the city limits of Racine.

    It just goes to show the absolute idiocy of the overlords in charge of this town.

    Anon 10:22, you are deluded, or an executive of SCJ. The only reason SCJ wants the KRM is because there will be a station stop AT SCJ for its execs to ride in from their estates in ILLINOIS while the Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee taxpayers pick up the tab! It is a known fact that there won't even be a stop at the Milwaukee airport! How arrogant is that?!?!?!? When the Metra Line was consulted about extending their route to Racine and Milwaukee they turned it down because it would be a money LOSER, not a money maker. Wake up, for crying out loud!

    Anon 11:15, you make it sound so great that we could get all these millions of dollars to stimulate the jobs and "get" commuter rail or some other form of public transportation. What you don't mention is that this stimulus money comes with a price tag: it isn't free money. I has to be paid back over time and with interest.
    We don't need that extra burden on the taxpayers back in Racine County. Why do you think Ford Motor Company turned down the bailout funds? It came with the same price tag as this "stimulus" money. The only thing it will really stimulate is interest for the money China is buying the debt with.

  37. Graham,

    Thanks for not listening. That money will be spent here or spent other places. It will be spent. Those are federal funds, not federal loans to RTA/Serta. The whole US Taxpayer base will pay for it to be built here or somewhere else, but rest assured we will pay it back for benefits we receive here or somewhere else.

    I am not a SCJ exec nor employee, and I am not deluded. Graham, you grouse about everything.

    Is there anything good that happens here? And if not, why are you still here? Is there any action anyone could take to make you say anything good about this place? Does it somehow make you happy to kwetch about everything?

    You are more sad than you portray Dickert to be!

  38. 5:33

    See George Meyer's TV show on KRM and know that because of him more of the public knows the sham that is KRM

  39. 6:33,

    Sham or not, call it what you want. Do you want $240 million to be spent here or somewhere else? It is going to be spent. Watch whatever movie you want, do you want $240 million spent here, given to your brother in law and your neice and to people you don't know ~ will $240 Million create some jobs/opportunities here? Do you want it spent somewhere else? I am sure those people want it too!

  40. How about not spending it at all anywhere? How about taking our country back?

  41. Weak. Sen. Lehman, I'm a fiscal conservative, social moderate that voted FOR you in the last election. We moderate voters believe there is SOME government spending which is acceptable, including transport. The effort to add KRM did not need to be this complicated - when it was just rail with a car rental fee, you had a perfect combination. And you had a perfectly good position to take with the fiscal reactionaries who would accept no public transport - tons of local CEOs saying it would be good for business. It was unnecessary and political for you and the Governor to add RTA and bus considerations to the mix - a fact which shows the true colors that Democrats aren't interested in efficient solutions as much as they are interested in bigger government.

    Grow a pair and stand up for something logical, or you'll lose my vote.

  42. Rees Roberts3/07/2010 7:28 AM

    We call ourselves the United States of America. But to see what is happening, whether it be local or national, we have become anything but "United".

    Listen to yourselves. If you people honestly feel the way you do, how on earth do expect to earn the respect of your sons and daughters who are reading this stuff?

    Instead of coming to grips with issues and attempting to see what would be in the best interest of fellow citizens what does comes out loud and clear is the immaturity of so many. You hide behind a system which promotes irresponsibility but does little to create consensus. Politicians appear to have lost the art of compromise and in many respects simple common sense.

    I am honestly ashamed to see how we are evolving. I don't care which side of this issue you are on. We need better. Come on people, come up with something more positive than this. Your kids will thank you.

    By the way, if you flame this post of mine, you would only be proving my point, no matter what side you are on. I only hope we can become "United" again. Otherwise, what is the alternative?

  43. Rees

    Please read the copies of Newspapers from the 18th Cen you will find the same things. One Sheets written by Anonymous and made up names. In Roman times political graffiti was created under assumed or stage names. Nothing new here. If you do not like reading what you find on the Post etc, then don't!
    My guess is you will love Obama's coming crack down talk radio and Fox News

  44. Does anyone really think Washington won't spend the money? Nice idea, completely unfounded in reality.

    7:28, I appreciate your comments. There is no negotiation these days. Ideology is King and fueled by the media. Repubs vilify everything Clinton tried (especially Monica), then came George "the great uniter" Bush who did just that through polarizating policy. Now a black liberal Prez that some still call Muslim. It's all so rediculous. 80% of the health care bill is stuff everyone agrees to. Yet the bill goes no where, thanks to the spineless dems (like Lehman) and the "party of no" who govern through fear. Fear that the shaken electorate plays into.


    Read about Transit in New Jerry and the millions in the red it is.

  46. Like the sign said: "LEHMAN AND MASON RAISED YOUR TAXES" - They've already done that, and we will remember...

  47. Anon 5:33, you're correct in the fact that there is very little here of a positive nature. Believe me, if it were at all financially possible, I would be the first one out of here.

    Fools like you, dickert, Lehman, Mason, the city council, RDA, RAMAC and all the others that are anti-business and socialists that want to redistribute the wealth of those who WORK for it and hand it over to those who WON'T (in order to do nothing more than create a larger voting base for liberals) should be forced out of this community/state/country so that we can get control of this city, state and nation back.

    The socialist, Marxist, and yes Muslim fool that sits in the White House needs to stop spending our children's futures and selling our country to China. Fools like you need to stop putting your hands out to take that money, thereby perpetuating the debt.

    Then you've got idiots like dickert who has been asked, even demanded, time-and-time-again over the past year to provide a blueprint for his 10-year-plan, has suddenly decided to write a JT commentary every month so that any new idea that comes up he can say was part of his 10-year-plan all along, when there never was one to begin with. Now dickert asks Lehman for more money, that the U.S. taxpayers can’t afford, to create jobs. Throwing money at these problems seems to be the only thing fools like you and dickert understand. Wake up! THE GOVERNMENT CAN NOT CREATED JOBS!!! Unless it is to grow government or provide dickert with more city jobs for his family and friends. Relieve the over-regulation and tax burden on businesses and they will have the money to create more jobs (which can only be done in the private sector).

    Anon 8:01 PM has it right. Quit borrowing and spending our future down the drain. Give the money back to China and everyone else who is purchasing our debt.

    And, DUMP THE KRM!!! Why should EVERYONE have to pay for a system almost no one will use and will do nothing but drain our financial resources (and raise our taxes) for decades to come, before it is finally realized (just like the North Shore Line was) that it can not be sustained and will then be shut down after billions of dollars are wasted on it. Get real.

  48. Just to reiterate. The real reason the left and some of its local business enablers want rail is the belief we are destroying the environment with the automobile. If you do not believe in, or are skeptical about, global warming (now re-branded as climate change) there is no reason to support commuter rail. There is no way it is economically viable or in the long run will be a net creator of jobs. Thus it is ecological blackmail.

    Some businesses think its cheaper pay the blackmail than fight for the cause. Businesses don't like to be called names and have people who are indoctrinated in green purchase products from their supposedly "greener" competitors.

  49. Graham, how much will you need in order to afford a one way trip outta here? Also, we will need an address to send our donations.

    Maybe if you didn't hate everything and spit venom at every chance you might get a better job elsewhere. Instead, in hating on everyone, you perpetuate your own dilemma.

  50. Lehman is on thin ice to say the least along with a bunch of others.

  51. Anon 12:40, look at your own posts. Talk about hate! What a hypocrite.

  52. Graham,

    You are deflecting from the point.

    It's not hypocritical to want what is best for our little berg. In watching you on this blog for over a year, it's abundantly clear you don't like it here. That is too bad as while Racine isn't perfect, it is a good place for the rest of us.

    If you don't like it here, make it better for you and for us by leaving. Wishing the best for everyone isn't hating on anyone.

    Since you cannot leave, what are you doing to make it better for yourself and for the rest of us? When can I contribute to your political campaign as every single public servent we have is poor in your mind?

    My point is: be part of the solution, not whine about your negative station in life.

  53. 8:31= Racine PIO

  54. 8:44,

    Nope. I am not Racine's PIO.

  55. Yep, Anon 8:31 = Racine PIO.

  56. No Graham, still wrong! But you keep trying to convince yourself of things that are not true.

  57. There were well over a hundred RTA/KRM Line supporters speaking at public hearings in the capitol in Madison yesterday, all asking for action on this long-promised legislation.

    Not one person spoke against it.