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Issue of the Week: Slashing Milwaukee Transit

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

Aug. 11, 2010
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How bad is it going to get? Each year, Milwaukee County residents are warned that much-needed services provided by the county are going to get slashed, thanks to Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s no-new-taxes budget gimmicks.

But this year those threats are getting worse.

Since the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) must meet Walker’s unrealistic budget targets, it will have to cut to the bone to survive. According to MCTS’s budget request for 2011, it has proposed eliminating Freeway Flyer routes, Summerfest Flyer services, and all of routes 68, 28 and 64; shortening other routes; reducing weekend service; and increasing Paratransit fares from $3.25 to $4 per ride.

Slashes this deep may kill off the system for good, since it may no longer be able to provide Milwaukee County residents with reliable public transportation at an affordable price, whether you’re a suburbanite who commutes to Downtown on the Freeway Flyer or a senior citizen who no longer wants to drive.

MCTS has gotten into this mess because Walker has refused to craft honest budgets each year and advocate for a dedicated funding source for local buses. Instead of budgeting to meet the county’s needs, Walker is budgeting to meet his political needs.

Heroes of the Week

Urban Ecology Center Flood-Relief Volunteers

Countless Milwaukeeans helped their neighbors following the historic flood in July. But we’d like to note the help given by interns and staff at the Urban Ecology Center to their neighbors at Riverside High School. The two East Side institutions already have a symbiotic relationship, a partnership of ecology experts, eager-to-learn kids and natural resources that have helped to transform their portion of the Milwaukee River shore land. So when the center’s staff found out that Riverside High had been badly damaged in the storm, they quickly assembled a team of nine people (and lots of equipment) to shovel out debris from the flood and clear access to the school. It’s just one notable example of neighborliness during a time of crisis.

For more information about the Urban Ecology Center and its programs for all ages, go to www.urbanecologycenter.org.

Jerk of the Week

WTMJ-AM’s Charlie Sykes

Once upon a time, Charlie Sykes was seen as a mainstream news reporter and editor. But those days are long gone, unfortunately, as Sykes realized there was much more money to be made by ignoring the facts and instead becoming an entertainer. With that in mind, Sykes got hysterical over a Russ Feingold ad that tried to make a point about the stimulus program. Feingold, like other candidates for office, used a stock, anonymous name in one of his ads. It’s standard practice by ad agencies and nothing worth noting. But Sykes and his small group of true believers went into overdrive. However, as numerous liberal bloggers and pundits have pointed out, Sykes’ favored candidates—Republicans Scott Walker and Ron Johnson—have used actors to portray supporters in their own TV commercials. Sykes isn’t going on a rampage over their ads, though.

If Sykes was so concerned about transparency, he’d also mention that his wife—who, incidentally, used a pseudonym when appearing on Sykes’ radio show—and Walker’s campaign chair are both employed by the ultraconservative Bradley Foundation. Think that Sykes’ constant promotion of Walker has anything to do with that connection? Just asking.

Event of the Week

‘Pieces: In My Own Voice’

It’s tough to talk about mental illness, whether it’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), schizophrenia, suicidal thoughts or bipolar disorder. But Pieces: In My Own Voice, a new play written and directed by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Milwaukee’s Brenda Wesley, should make that discussion easier. The play uses five vignettes and monologues, plus music and dance, to illuminate the real lives of those with mental health struggles. It’s specifically focused on African Americans with mental illnesses to encourage them and their loved ones to seek out more information and to get help. Wesley told the Shepherd that she hopes the play will help to alleviate some of the stigma attached to mental illness. “We are all made up of pieces of a wonderful puzzle,” Wesley said. “But when you have a mental illness, people take that one piece and judge you. I hope people will look at the entire person instead.”

Pieces will be performed on Saturday, Aug. 14, at 3 p.m. in the auditorium at North Division High School, 1011 W. Center St. It is free and open to the public. After the performance there will be a question-and-answer session, resources and a screening for depression.


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