Friday, July 13, 2007

Who Is Zooming Who?

Sometimes you have to pay attention to the ephemera, to the detritus that falls through the cracks and collects as crumbs underfoot. And, when you're thinking about meaning-free crumbs, who comes to mind but Paddy Mac?

Patrick McIlhearn, the overmatched conservative local Milwaukee columnist came out in favor of skywalks in a column last week. He sees them, somehow, as a bum-free alternative to streetcars.

OK, they're not cheap: $1 million a span, estimates Klingel. But $53 million for
a streetcar isn't cheap either. At least skywalks don't make you wait on a
corner where some of the jangle and jumble of real life got soused on Thunderbird and threw up.

Up in the gerbil trails, you smell espresso carts instead. And it's never too rainy or windy or arctic for you to stop and buy, never a red light to keep you from crossing. Against that, skywalks' unpopularity with urban planners seems like a lot of fortified whine.

Where in the world does a world-class thinker like Paddy get his ideas? Especially such bad ideas.

I was pointed to the Macster's bad idea by a Bruce Murphy piece titled, "How Skywalks Would Ruin Milwaukee." Murphy's sources have a lesser opinion of Habitrails For Humanity.

Earth to Patrick. Skywalks were passé in the 1990s. Cities have been moving away from them for years. “An increasing number of cities have started tearing down some of their walkways,” a January 2006 Associated Press story noted. “Planners and others in cities such as Cincinnati, Baltimore, Charlotte, N.C., Hartford, Conn. and Kansas City, Mo., now believe increasing street-level pedestrian traffic will lead to more downtown homes, shops and entertainment.”

Or consider this conclusion of an August 2005 New York Times story: “Many cities are gripped with builder’s remorse. They say the skyways and tunnels have choked off pedestrian traffic, hurt street-level retailers and limited development in the city core.”

“If I could take a cement mixer and pour cement in and clog up the tunnels, I would do it today,” then-Dallas Mayor Laura Miller told the Times.

Why do I care? What make me think the sudden appearance of a bad idea in a McIlhearn column was anything more or less than normal? An entry in the WisPolitics Budget Blog detailed some of the policy items that Assembly Republicans had salted into their version of the state budget. Along with making Wisconsin a "Shoot First" state and changing the regulation of elevators was this little gem.
Eliminate the ban on heated exterior pedestrian walkways not fully enclosed within a building, which has been in existence since 1980.
It's not exactly the kind of burning issue that has filled the front pages of newspapers in Douglas and Iron Counties, is it? In fact the one newspaper writer-type person interested is our intrepid Paddy Mac.

My questions are these. Who salted this idea in McIlhearn's fevered brow? Who needs skywalks in Milwaukee to cash in on that "negligible" $1 mi lion per span? Which of our Republican leaders put this line item in for which of his buddies? Have the roadbuilders been replaced as the darlings of Republican pork by those who build their highways in the sky?

Maybe it's just a coincidence. Maybe McIlhearn had an idea of his own. It's bound to happen someday.

1 comment:

elliot said...

Interesting connections.

On the other hand, if you'd ever lived through a winter in Minneapolis you would hold "human Habitrails" in very high esteem.