We Wisconsinites who now pay the fourth highest state and local taxes in the nation have been told for decades that high taxes are the price we must pay for the quality of our public services.
Which is a highly debatable concept, particularly for those who (unlike me) have lived in other states and can see that their public services are not appreciably different from or inferior to ours.
This came to mind during a road construction (one of Wisconsin’s two seasons) adventure on the way to southwest Wisconsin for a few days.
The drive from Ripon to Platteville was uneventful, including a couple of construction zones, except for the annoyance of the stoplight-to-stoplight drive on Verona Road leaving Madison. Then we got to Platteville, and I noticed the U.S. 151 exit we take to head toward Lancaster had a board over the word under “Platteville” on the Big Green Sign that indicates the Wisconsin 80/81 exit. And when I saw detour signs, I realized that the Big Green Sign covered up the word “Lancaster.”
OK, this is not a problem. I lived in Grant County long enough to know there are alternate routes from Platteville to Lancaster. The closest one to Lancaster is Grant County B, which runs from Platteville to Rockville, north of Potosi. Except that County B was also closed, with, unlike the 81 detour, no marked detour route. Several minutes of driving around the periphery of Platteville later, we found Grant County O, which runs from Platteville to Tennyson and is the detour for County B.
Grant County O, however, is winding, lacks shoulders, and appeared to have not had its center stripes (double yellow the whole way) painted in a year beginning with the number 2. And, of course, we were stuck behind a pickup truck pulling a horse trailer. But we finally did get to Tennyson and U.S. 61, which splits Tennyson and Potosi. Where we discovered that U.S. 61 is in the midst of a repaving project. While U.S. 61 is open, parts of it have only one lane open during said repaving.
This only made us late for my mother-in-law’s delectable chicken drumsticks and corn on the cob. (Not to mention giving me column fodder. Attention politicians: Bloggers with followers are the wrong people to make angry.) But the Grant County sheriff’s car ahead of us did make us wonder how fire trucks or ambulances would navigate the barely paved roads. And the inconvenience to farmers and trucking companies means lost revenue.
I don’t know who is at fault for this poor planning — the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Grant County Highway Department, the City of Platteville, or all three — of having not only a road closed (for, as it turns out, one bridge) and a detour route closed at the same time. Or having one of the county’s main highways coming out of the county’s largest city closed and a potential detour route (plus a second, Grant County A from Arthur to Lancaster, as we found out in the Grant County Herald Independent) also being repaved at the same time. (We didn’t follow the posted detour because, as those who live near Wisconsin 23 between Green Lake and Princeton know, WisDOT has a habit of extremely lengthy detours for its road projects on the principle that detouring traffic onto similar roads is preferable to detouring traffic on the most direct alternate route. The marked detour, U.S. 61/151 from Platteville to Dickeyville and 61 from Dickeyville to Lancaster, is both twice as long and, yes, also being repaved.) Someone didn’t plan the calendar correctly, given that road projects are planned years in advance. And if you are stuck in traffic or stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle, you don’t really care whose fault it is.
So for those who have noticed a lack of respect for government employees during the first six months of the Walker administration from the voters, well, that lack of respect may be for reasons unrelated to salaries or benefits. Saying you have great schools (this means you, WEAC!) or high-quality public services does not necessarily mean that is the case. Perhaps voters are unsympathetic to the public employee (collective bargaining, two words you haven’t heard) cause because they don’t think their tax dollars are being wisely spent.