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Walker Throws Elderly, Disabled Under Bus

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on October 19, 2009

From Milwaukee County First:

This morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this morning that County Executive Scott Walker’s 2010 county budget proposal includes severe cuts to the paratransit system that many of Milwaukee County’s elderly and disabled people rely on to make it to programming, medical appointments and even to the store.paratransit4

As the article accurately reports, up through this year, the paratransit system covered every corner of Milwaukee County.  To bring the point home, read these paragraph’s from the article:

Slicing Transit Plus to the minimum level would eliminate service to nearly all of Franklin, Hales Corners and Oak Creek, as well as to parts of Bayside, Brown Deer, Cudahy, Glendale, Greendale, Greenfield, River Hills, St. Francis, South Milwaukee, West Allis and Milwaukee’s far northwest and far south sides, said Autumn Misko, who handles transit advocacy at Independence First, a disability rights group.

“For a lot of Transit Plus users, Transit Plus is their only transportation option,” Misko said. “Lots of clinics, nursing homes and group homes in those areas would lose service.”

Also, some riders who live in those areas would be unable to move into the newly reduced service area because they couldn’t get out of their leases, Misko said.

Arlene Conley, a disabled Milwaukee rider who serves on the county’s Transit Plus Advisory Council, said, “It would be a disaster if that happened.”

This is especially poor timing since Milwaukee County is in the process of converting to Family Care, a new management scheme that is designed to deliver services to all of the 6,000 disabled adults in Milwaukee County.   If these cuts are allowed to stand, there will be funding for services, but no way to get the people to them, or to their doctors.

The article goes on to point out that Walker’s cuts are due to Governor Jim Doyle and the state legislature cutting the funding for this service.   This is outrageous, considering that the state was able to come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars to widen I-94 even though it wasn’t needed or even necessarily wanted.  If they have money for this waste, they also have money to provide for our most vulnerable citizens.

However, this does not excuse Scott Walker’s equally poor decision-making.  If Walker can come up with almost $12 million dollars for an elaborate water park in the suburbs, he could have found the money to keep his own county’s most vulnerable citizens from losing this necessary service.

To make Walker’s poor decision-making even more egregious is the statement he came out with today, trying to minimize his responsibility in this fiasco, which ended with this:

Bottom-line: the cuts proposed by Governor Doyle’s administration and the final budget enacted by the majorities in the State Legislature are the reasons for the potential adjustments to the ParaTransit routes. If the state government fixes the funding flaws, the ParaTransit coverage area remains the same for 2010.

This is egregious for a couple of reasons.  One, while Doyle’s cuts are equally inexcusable, Walker could have easily found a way to resolve the problem.  Secondly, nearly a year ago, the voters of Milwaukee County expressed their desire to prevent this sort of tragedy from occurring by voting for a dedicated sales tax that would preserve transit services as well as the parks system and the EMS system from these political and financial whims.

Unfortunately, Walker has chosen to put his political aspirations ahead of the best interest of the County, and has vowed to fight this unfortunate necessity.

Fortunately, most of the County Board has recognized the necessity of it and have said that they would vote for in in veto-proof numbers, if it ever gets to them.

That is where we come in.  If you have not done so, please sign our petition telling our elected leaders in Madison that we need this sales tax passed, and we need it now.  Once you sign it, or if you already have, please email it to all your family and friends, asking them to sign it.  We will be presenting this soon, and we want to make sure that Madison hears us loud and clear.


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