Columnist Patricia Murphy caught our attention last week when she wrote challenging Congress to join her in being boring.
The column was about infrastructure and the need to focus on it in Washington. That applies to state and local governments, too.
“There’s very little media attention, and even less voter bandwidth, for members of Congress doing the hard work of boring,” wrote Murphy, who covers national politics for The Daily Beast. “But it’s crucially important, especially if you take a minute to think about what’s quietly happening to the country’s basic services while half of us are glued to ‘Game of Thrones’ or Donald Trump’s latest tweet.
“According to a report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the country’s infrastructure in general rates only a D+. Anyone who rides the Red Line to work in Washington won’t be surprised to know that mass transit in the U.S. gets a D-. Aviation infrastructure like air traffic control systems get a D. As you drive home today, try not to think that 9 percent of bridges in the country are structurally deficient or that in West Virginia, that number spikes to 19 percent.”
This indeed should get attention even in divided Washington, where there are signs of life. As Murphy noted, “Democrats have always wanted to move a big, beefy infrastructure package, and last week, Trump told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a group of Democrats he wanted to do something on the issue that’s ‘not typically Republican.’ That comment, along with Trump’s agreement with Dems that a $2 trillion price tag could be about right, is the strange sound of harmony coming from the two sides. Of course paying for all this is the tricky part.”
That’s also the case in Madison, where the question is how to pay for a roads plan that’s desperately needed and has been avoided for too long.
Gov. Tony Evers got elected talking about it and he has made it part of his proposed budget, while majority Republicans have been sharing ideas on how to fund it. It’s time, in coming weeks, for a compromise, however boring, as Murphy would say, in Madison.
That gets us to Kenosha County, and we were delighted of late to hear County Executive Jim Kreuser highlight infrastructure in his state of the county speech that was anything but boring, and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian detail planned road work to further fuel the topic that everyone talks about in the city.
“Quality highways and solid public safety are at the heart of county government,” Kreuser said. “Good infrastructure leads to economic development, which leads to jobs.”
Specifically mentioning the Highway S and Highway KR expansions, Kreuser said, “Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas pedal when it comes to planning and keeping pace with our highway projects. Traffic congestion, the pension fund mess, education, public safety and quality of place are key reasons Illinois companies continue to choose Kenosha County.”
In the city, Antaramian updated widespread road construction and resurfacing projects that will be in full swing this summer. The city’s capital improvement plan budgets about $8 million this year for 15 road projects.
“Things are moving rather well,” the mayor said. “We have gotten a lot of projects underway. The majority of work will be on major streets and getting those ready for the future.”
Of course, everybody has an opinion on city road work and how long it’s taking, but it’s never boring.
Evers recently stopped at the Kenosha News to talk about Medicaid expansion and pointed out that his transportation funding proposal emphasizes road reconstruction, mass transit and outdoor trails and will assist local governments throughout Wisconsin.
“It’s important to make a wide commitment to the municipalities and counties that do the hard work on transportation that they have the resources they need,” the governor said.
So there’s work to be done. But it pays off as improvements that taxpayers deserve and expect.
Let Murphy explain, returning to her challenge to Congress: “There is magic in the mundane. Power in the humdrum. Solve a problem someone sees every day, and you’ll get re-elected, no matter what the president tweets about between now and then.
“So, please, do the boring, Congress. Fill the potholes. Pay attention to the pots and pans.”