Commuter rail referendum: Politics or a chance to be heard?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

On Nov. 2, voters in at least 42 Dane County municipalities will weigh in on whether they support a half-cent sales tax to pay for commuter rail.

But the results of the advisory referendum aren’t likely to make any difference.

While some residents see the vote as a chance for the public to be heard on local commuter rail, others dismiss it as disingenuous politics,

"The powers that be don’t understand how the public feel about it outside the city of Madison in terms of wanting to have a vote on the issue," said Sup. Bill Clausius, of Sun Prairie, who unsuccessfully asked the County Board to hold a countywide referendum.

Clausius said he plans to vote "no" on the proposal, which he said will inform the Regional Transit Authority Board to reconsider including commuter rail in their transit plans.

But RTA Board Chairman Dick Wagner emphasized that the vote in November is not the official vote promised by the RTA and that the results won’t instruct the process going forward.

"I’m not really sure what I would tell (voters to do) because it’s so confusing," Wagner said. "It’s best if they wait for a real transit plan."