Madison mayor lashes out at Walker over high-speed rail

Friday, December 10, 2010

From an article by Jessica Vanergeren in The Capital Times:

A visibly angry Mayor Dave Cieslewicz lashed out at incoming Gov. Scott Walker at a news conference Thursday, blaming him for an announcement that federal transportation officials were pulling $810 million in free stimulus money to Wisconsin that could have been used for high-speed rail.

Cieslewicz, joined by Dane County Chair Scott McDonell, Steve Hiniker of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin and Downtown Madison Inc. President Susan Schmitz, called Walker's decision to campaign on a pledge to kill the high-speed rail project between Milwaukee and Madison a "purely irrational" decision that has led to a "black day for the state."

"He put himself in a ridiculously tight corner during the campaign that he couldn't get himself out of," Cieslewicz said.

Walker has not yet made a public statement on the federal transportation's decision.

The mayor said he repeatedly reached out to Walker to talk over options to keep the project on track.

Cieslewicz said he would have been open to the city contributing to the train's operating cost, an idea he also had discussed with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Barrett, a Democrat and a high-speed rail advocate, was defeated by Walker in the November election. The mayor said he first tried to contact Walker days after Walker was elected. Cieslewicz said his calls and messages were never returned.

"I was met with a blank wall. I was never able to speak with him," the mayor said. "I think it is very telling about a person. He is not getting off to a good start."