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May 5, 201412:42 PMTransportation Matters

with Debby Jackson

Don’t be Homer Simpson; get the facts on state transportation issues

(page 1 of 2)

America was founded on a distrust of government — especially faraway, arbitrary government. Over the years, there have been ebbs and flows in our collective view of government — through a civil war, world wars, a great depression, the New Deal, and the Great Recession. Two hundred and thirty-eight years in and we are at a point where confidence in government is more at an ebb than a flow.

A poll conducted by the AP at the beginning of the year found that 70% of Americans lack confidence in the government’s ability “to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014.”

With recent examples like the response to Hurricane Katrina and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, it is hard to blame us.

As has generally been the case over all of these years, we tend to be a bit more trusting of government that is closer to us. In the same AP poll, 45% of Americans were at least moderately confident in their state government and 54% expressed that same level of confidence in their local government.

While Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike have different reasons to be upset with elected officials and government agencies, it is not productive to just go into shutdown mode. We have to make an effort to discern between what we deem to be ineffective or costly programs and initiatives versus ones that actually have merit and are well managed. If not, we might as well become anarchists.

James Madison put it this way: “A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” Of course, the flip side of that is articulated so well by Homer Simpson: “Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”

For the purposes of this blog, I will assume most of us prefer Madison’s view to Homer Simpson’s. Under that assumption, I would ask that you take the time to look at how Wisconsin is currently prioritizing, managing, and funding its transportation system. Fortunately, WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb is providing us the opportunity to do just that.

He is going around the state hosting town hall meetings that consist of three parts. The first is to explain what comprises our current transportation network, summarize its relative condition, and explain the efforts that are underway in each region to maintain or improve our state and local roads, bridges, bus systems, airports, harbors, and railways. The second is to describe how the department is holding itself accountable to the taxpaying public. And the third is to discuss the funding challenges that we face.

The effort is called Transportation Moves Wisconsin. So far, Gottlieb has held town hall meetings in La Crosse, Madison, Superior, Eau Claire, and Wausau. Meetings are also scheduled for May 7 in Green Bay, May 8 in Oshkosh, May 20 in West Allis, and May 21 in Kenosha. You can go to WisDOT’s website to get all the details.


May 5, 2014 10:24 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

"Providing a platform to move goods and people more efficiently than our competitors across the country and across the globe should be one of those issues."

The problem is that according to national studies, while we might be able to "out-compete" neighboring states in terms of using infrastructure investment to attract business development, the net social return on investment as a whole is less that the return of leaving the money in the private sector by a large margin.

For example, in 2003, the TDA published a study that reported for every $1 invested in transportation above basic maintenance, $3 was added to the economy over 20 years. Care to guess what a conservative return from the stock market would be over that time? $6.70, or a net opportunity cost of $3.70 for every dollar invested in highways. Who wants to compete against other states to be the smallest loser?

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About This Blog

 Debby Jackson assumed the role of executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin after more than 15 years with the organization. In addition to her vast experience in association management and transportation advocacy, Jackson has a background in business. She leverages the breadth and depth of her professional experience, along with her knowledge of the membership and mission of TDA, to be a strong voice for robust transportation infrastructure in Wisconsin. Jackson started her career as a staff auditor with Price Waterhouse, which led to a series of accounting and corporate management positions with a major national retailer.

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