“What Scott Walker has done is despicable, is shameful,” Father Tom Mueller, an Eastern Orthodox priest, told the more than 300 people on hand. “He slams the city. He spits on the city. … He doesn’t care what we say. We have to take our message where he is.”
|Father Tom Mueller|
Added Marilyn Miller of the Reformation Lutheran Church: “We need to crash the party on Jan. 3.” Organizers did not specify what they meant by “crash.”
The emotional meeting was a reminder that the high speed rail issue is not just a political game. It affects real people. It could mean the difference between having a livelihood and not having one.
A long string of residents went to the microphone at New Hope Baptist Church on Milwaukee's north side and expressed dismay and anger that Walker turned down an opportunity to create thousands of jobs, which they described as badly needed. Several said they themselves were unemployed. Others spoke of the travails of living in a community with high unemployment.
A church coalition called MICAH joined forces with labor unions and other groups to sponsor Thursday night’s event and the upcoming demonstration in Madison.
Walker had vowed to reject $810 million in federal money, mostly for building a high-speed rail system between Milwaukee and Madison. As a consequence, the federal government took most of the money away and handed it out to rail projects in other states. Construction had begun on the project, but present Gov. Jim Doyle halted it in light of Walker’s statements.
Citing Walker’s anti-rail policies, Talgo, which makes trains, plans to move its manufacturing operations out of Milwaukee in 2012, but would leave a maintenance crew behind.
Walker’s rationale has been that, although the feds would fully cover construction, he didn’t want the the state to be saddled with up to $7.5 million a year in operating costs. The rationale makes little sense because the project itself should have generated more than enough state taxes to cover those costs.
“When you throw away $810 million, that’s a colossal mistake,” one audience member, a pastor, told the crowd.
“Who in his right mind gives away all that money?” asked a young woman.
Said another speaker,: “This man is on drugs. … That’s the only thing I can figure out. His brains are fried.”
Eddie Tipton, a bus driver said of Walker, “He doesn’t care about you or me.”
Rubin (Ben) Ciriacks carried a sign with the numbers “250,000,” the amount of jobs Walker has pledged to create in Wisconsin, and “-55,” the number of workers idled by the halt in high speed rail construction that was already under way. During Walker’s tenure, he said, keep asking, “Where are the jobs?”
The Rev. Leonard Fuller, who works with ex-cons, noted the tough time they had finding jobs, the lack of which fuels crime.
One woman advocated “following Scott Walker everywhere he goes.”
Attendees signed up to go to the protest in Madison on Jan. 3 and to get others to go.
The sponsors of the event: Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH), the Services Employees International Union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, the League of Young Voters and Wisconsin Citizen Action.
Photos by Gregory Stanford