Apropos the recent snow tiff, I thought I'd get in contact with Glenn Grothman to see what he had to say. After the jump, our e-mail back-and-forth.
Letters in Bottles: You have said that because the state pays Madison in lieu of property taxes, snow removal goals in Madison should be set by the state. Is this an issue of local control or state interest?
Senator Grothman: The State gives local units of government transportation dollars and already sets in many areas too many requirements for how local governments design roads, etc. Many of the roads affected by the bill are state highways and the State gives a huge amount of additional money to Madison because of government property in the city. It therefore becomes a matter of state interest in the same way that similar irresponsibility in a city like, say, Cedarburg, which has no or virtually no state buildings would not be.
LIB: By giving an unelected board of bureaucrats control over an issue previously not handled by the state, is your bill not in effect creating a "Snow Czar" whose power will extend throughout the state?
Sen Grothman: I'm not sure what you mean by an unelected board of bureaucrats -- state agencies promulgate administrative rules which are subject to legislative review on a wide variety of issues. The ultimate authority in the Department of Transportation is the Governor, an elected official, who appoints the Secretary of Transportation. As I mentioned, this bill would not extend throughout the state -- only a few main roads in the City of Madison.
LIB: Madison's budget, like that of many cities throughout Wisconsin, is facing straitened circumstances due to the economy. Would you propose raising Madison's taxes to pay for the change in snow removal? If not, from where should the money for extra salt and plowing come?
Sen Grothman: Every other city in the state that I know of has no problem buying enough salt for all their streets. In Madison, we're just talking about a few major roads. To say that the City of Madison can't find the money in their budget for a little salt insults the intelligence.
LIB: Presumably, the addition of more salt to Madison streets will have some environmental impact. Given the DOT's involvement, who should pay for the study of the expected environmental impacts?
Sen Grothman: My guess is Menasha manages to figure out how much salt to put on all their streets without expensive environmental studies despite being on Lake Winnebago. If Madison is doing environmental studies on salt as to their residential streets, I don't know why we would need to do an additional one for the much smaller number of major streets. Again, I don't consider this a serious concern.