Local Control and the Republican Wisconsin Legislature

Local Control used to be a sacred tenet…particularly in the Republican arena…and in a way it still is but the Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature have a funny way of expressing it.

Because a certain county executive got in a snit about being stymied in his efforts to make county government over in his own image, he found a Republican ally in a spiteful former county supervisor who managed to get elected to the state assembly. Did Milwaukee County residents get taken into account as their local county government got defanged? Well, only in passing and only if you count the farcical 2014 referendum on supervisor pay as local control. Did we get real input from county residents? Was there even lip service to local control? No, we got 90 some assembly members and 25+ state senators with no ties to Milwaukee County stuffing ACT 14 down our throats.

Now it’s still in litigation, but over the objection that it violated local control and was opposed by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities…did the City of Milwaukee maintain local control in residency requirements? Were the 100 other municipalities around the state similarly effected given any semblance of input? Was there even any valid public discussion on removing residency requirements? Not on your life…an issue that is the very essence of local control…a perfect candidate for local referendums…was snuck through in the 2013 – 2015 Biennial Budget.

But whoa, those dastardly traffic roundabouts…if the Wisconsin Department of Transportation tries to foist anymore of those, those things on the motoring public…well local control DEMANDS that local government has the final word on their construction!

The bill, a brainchild of state Rep. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon), requires roundabout projects to win approval from local governments, through a majority vote, prior to construction.

A release from Craig’s office said the bill had strong bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate.

“This legislation ensures that local communities have a say in the roundabout process and ensures that Madison bureaucrats — many of whom will never use the roundabouts they design — cannot trample on the voice of those who will actually navigate these roadway projects,” Craig said after introducing the bill.

The only one of the three things I have just mentioned where the pesky Madison bureaucrats just might know something more about than the locals…is roundabouts…I mean…we have a whole building of traffic engineers in Madison who do this sort of thing every work day of the week. It’s their job description!

But they might never use the roundabouts they design so they can’t be trusted to design them? What about those state assemblymen and state senators who will never use Milwaukee County government trampling on the voice of those who are actually affected by MKE county government? Or the same group of elected state officials who may never ever actually set foot in the City of Milwaukee (unless they need to use the airport) trampling on the voice of those who actually use city services and rely on their first responders?

But never fear, defending local governments from roundabouts is the first line of DEFENSE of local control!


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2 thoughts on “Local Control and the Republican Wisconsin Legislature

  1. For the most part, I like roundabouts. In many places, they’re the best solution. There’s one by us which I’m convinced will literally save lives – if it hasn’t already. Of course the intelligence level of many drivers poses some major challenges. Seems like a majority of people don’t even understand the right of way rules at standard 4 way stop intersections anymore.

    I do tend to give the DOT much more benefit out the doubt than most people basically for the reason you mention – that’s what they do, they have a lot more experience & data to draw on. I’m sure it’s a tougher job than most realize, weighing numerous tradeoffs & with your work in public for thousands of critics to see. That said, the assumption there is that it’s those people driving the decisions. Appropriations and the process as a whole are highly political, so blindly saying, “they know what they’re doing” makes no more sense than assuming they’re all a bunch of idiots. With regard to roundabouts, with how prevalent they’ve come, often in places where they seem to function very poorly, I have to wonder if factors beyond driver safety & convenience aren’t driving the bus sometimes. It certainly seems like they holding a hammer & seeing nothing but nails.

    As to the larger local control aspect…more & more, that seems to be used as a buzzword – a way to get support rather than a legitimate philosophical principle. Words mean little when politicians act/vote differently. There are no absolutes – sometimes issues are complex and larger factors are at stake. You con’t get to take state/federal funds and then expect completely local control over something. Local government/citizens should have a great deal of input on transportation decisions that they live with every day. But given absolute control would result in highways that go through every small town without bypasses for longer distance travelers.

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