I’m not over the re-election of Governor Scott Walker in my home state this past November. This administration is responsible for repealing the Equal Pay Enforcement Act in 2012, leaving the state one of 5 in the country without such protections for women in the workplace. Walker’s office stripped public-sector workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights following the passage of Act 10 in 2011. The Governor’s current budget directly attacks education by proposing a 300 million dollar budget cut to the University of Wisconsin System and seeking the de-professionalization of teaching.
That said, what is most disappointing to me about the re-election of the Scott Walker is that he is leading the state perpetually further away policies favoring sustainable development. Even if I could handle voter ID and conceal-and-carry laws, I find it hardest to imagine returning to a political climate that is inhospitable to my practice as an urban designer championing efficient transit solutions and environmental regulations.
I can acknowledge that I have a severe leftward leaning bias. None-the-less, I have trouble understanding who did in fact re-elect Governor Scott Walker after he barely survived a massive recall attempt in 2012? An overwhelming majority of people I know in Central Wisconsin are extremely harsh critics of this public figure and his policies. As my boyfriend and I scoured the internet for answers, we found it. Without winning the counties that are home to the metropolitan areas of Milwaukee or Madison, Walker had taken the majority Wisconsin. The urban/rural divide as a definable boundary was suddenly very clear to me.
As much as I’d like to blame the outcome of this past re-election on the shortsightedness of voters and Koch industry funding, that would close the door to discussion and disregard the needs and values of many who voted this past November. Walker currently appeals to a very large group of people living outside “urban” Wisconsin, many of which favor democracy but have value systems very different than myself. These people have found a politician that speaks the their struggle to support themselves and their families in a global economy favoring centralized, highly educated professional and tech jobs to decentralized industry and manufacturing.
This urban-rural divide is very clear in Walker’s initiatives regarding transportation. Despite pressure from the nation’s capital, he dodges taxation on fuel to keep prices low for rural and suburban residents driving long distances on a daily basis. After running on a platform directly opposing high speed rail development, Walker rejected 800 million dollars from the federal government intended to fund a commuter rail line connecting the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison metropolitan areas. This said, he does support transportation spending. The state’s current budget proposes borrowing 1.3 billion dollars over the next 2 years to fund improvements to roads, bridges, freight rail, ports, and airports – infrastructure directly serving rural people and industries.
The polarization of those living in metropolitan areas and those who do not is a critical force to be increasingly considered in Wisconsin and across the nation. It represents failure in policy to for find shared value in our rural and urban landscapes. Highly admirable environmental and social policies will lose out to more conservative ideology if they fail to connect our cityscapes to the economic realities of disconnected farm and wild lands. As our cities become increasingly global, greater efforts must be taken to speak clearly and loudly to rural families and small communities.