It’s Time to Rebuild America: Celebrate Infrastructure Week

It's Time to Rebuild America: Celebrate Infrastructure Week

Today we kick off Infrastructure Week 2014, which will explore funding solutions and best practices to modernize our aging infrastructure and create good midldle-class jobs. Events will be held from May 12–16 and will focus on: major infrastructure challenges, freight and goods movement, passenger transportation, drinking water and wastewater treatment. Events will be held around the country and details on specific events and locations, as well as the full agenda and registration information, are available online.

The week’s events are being put on by the AFL-CIO, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, North America’s Building Trades Unions, the Council on Competitiveness, the Chamber of Commerce, the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, Building America’s Future, 1776, the Organization for International Investment, the Value of Water Coalition, the National Association of Manufacturers and dozens of otheraffiliate organizations.

A Jobs and Infrastructure rally will be held Thursday, May 15, at 1 p.m. at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. RSVP on Facebook here.

You can follow the events on Twitter.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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For A Boston Where All Families Can Thrive, Vote Marty Walsh for Mayor

Since current Mayor Thomas Menino was elected in 1993, the city of Boston has seen incredible change. From West Roxbury to East Boston, entire industries have sprung up, fueled by innovation from the city’s world-renowned universities. Immigrants from across the globe have made their home in Boston, creating one of the nation’s most diverse communities.

Unfortunately, there has been another change: Boston has become much more unequal. The last 30 years have seen wealth in the city increasingly concentrated, and now the Boston area has greater inequality than 85 percent of U.S. metropolitan areas.

The central challenge for the next mayor is to ensure that Boston is a city where families in all communities can thrive; a place where the American Dream is reality, not just a part of proud history. That’s why Working America is proud to endorse State Representative Martin J. Walsh to be the next mayor of Boston.

Few elected officials are more attuned to the needs of Bostonians than Marty Walsh. As the son of Irish immigrants, Walsh understands the challenges of making a life in a new country. As a survivor of Burkett’s lymphoma, a form of childhood cancer that struck him at age seven, he knows personally the struggle to access affordable health care, and the value of Boston’s world-class medical treatment and research facilities.

As a union construction worker since the age of 18, Marty Walsh recognizes better than most elected officials the inherent dignity of a full day’s work at a good job with fair wages. At a time when the majority of jobs created are in notoriously low-wage sectors like service and retail – jobs that only recognize the dignity of corporate shareholders – a mayor with Walsh’s experience is needed now more than ever.

Walsh’s vision for the city is bold. He will expand access to affordable housing in the city, redouble the fight against unfair foreclosures, and even provide incentives for childcare facilities that are open during second and third shifts. From his time in legislature working on transportation issues, he is well-positioned to improve the MBTA public transit system, including pushing back the T’s infamous early closing hours. Not only does that give a boost to the city’s nightlife, it also helps Bostonians who work those later shifts make it home without breaking the bank.

Walsh has been an aggressive advocate for public education throughout his career. He plans to invest in early childhood education by doubling the number of K-1 seats and increase overall funding for public education. “My ultimate goal is to make Boston Public Schools so good there there is no need for alternatives,” he told the Boston Globe, “In the city where public education was invented, we should be as renowned for our public schools as we are for our institutions of higher learning.”

Making bold investments with a view toward the future is a Marty Walsh staple. It was key to the successful creation of Building Pathways, a pre-apprenticeship program focused on training women and people of color for careers in the building trades. At first, the program faced skepticism, even from within the union. “They kept talking about the past,” Walsh told Building Pathways’ April 2013 graduating class, “and I said this program’s going to be different.” By its fourth year, the program had such a strong reputation that 85 percent of participants had been placed at jobs prior to graduation.

Walsh’s ambitious pro-worker agenda has been met with resistance. The formerly Rupert Murdoch-owned Boston Herald, (which endorsed anti-worker candidates George W. Bush and Mitt Romney for president), offered a “rare non-endorsement” to Walsh, using divisive language straight out of the Scott Walker playbook. Similarly, various opponents in the crowded field have sought to use Walsh’s labor experience against him.

They should remember that from the laborers who built the skyline to the city’s heroic first responders, the men and women of the labor movement are an indelible part Boston; and that Boston workers, whether or not they have a union, benefit from higher wages and better benefits caused by labor’s influence. “I’m proud of my record with labor,” Walsh said at a debate, “I wear it as a badge of honor. I love supporting working class people and I’m proud of it.”

Sitting back and taking shots is easy. The politicians who take that route during the campaign are more likely to be passive in office as well, even as inequality in Boston becomes a chasm and affordable housing and good jobs are increasingly scarce.

With his working class background and firsthand experience as laborer, Marty Walsh knows that passivity is not acceptable. For a Boston where inequality is tackled head on, and for a city where all families can thrive, vote for Marty Walsh on Tuesday, November 5th.

Paid for by Working America. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Photo by martywalshformayor on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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Stories from the Road to Nowhere

Laura mentioned Paul Krugman’s excellent op-ed. He and blogger Glenn Greenwald have been thinking along similar lines. Here are some of the stories that inspired them:

The city of Camden, NJ is permanently closing its library system by the end of the year:

Camden is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free.

At an emotional but sparsely attended meeting of the library board Thursday, its president, Martin McKernan, said the city’s three libraries cannot stay open past Dec. 31 because of severe budget cuts by Mayor Dana L. Redd.

“It’s extraordinary, it’s appalling,” McKernan said.

All materials in the libraries would be donated, auctioned, stored, or destroyed. That includes 187,000 books, historical documents, artifacts, and electronic equipment. Keeping materials in the shuttered buildings is a fire hazard, officials said, and would make them vulnerable to vandalism and vermin.

Camden is a city of over 500,000 people, who will have no access to free books or to free library computers and internet.

Ripping up the roads:

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as “poor man’s pavement.” Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.

Remember when America’s roadways and highways were something to be proud of?

Utah looks at making the senior year of high school optional:

The sudden buzz over the relative value of senior year stems from a recent proposal by state Sen. Chris Buttars that Utah make a dent in its budget gap by eliminating the 12th grade.

The notion quickly gained some traction among supporters who agreed with the Republican’s assessment that many seniors frittered away their final year of high school, but faced vehement opposition from other quarters, including in his hometown of West Jordan.

“My parents are against it,” Williams said. “All the teachers at the school are against it. I’m against it.”

Buttars has since toned down the idea, suggesting instead that senior year become optional for students who complete their required credits early. He estimated the move could save up to $60 million, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

There’s more. In the NY Times we learn of a Georgia public bus system being shut down completely:

Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.

and Hawaii furloughed schools:

Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation and sending working parents scrambling to find care for them.

We’re in a big, big mess – and there aren’t any real solutions being offered. Cutting taxes for the wealthy isn’t going to dig us out of this hole. Worrying about the deficit isn’t going to dig us out. Cutting food stamps or Social Security isn’t the way forward. President Obama has said that everything other than defense is on the chopping block. We are supporting over 1000 overseas military bases. Is this really making us stronger or safer? If we can cut food to hungry families without even blinking, we shouldn’t be afraid of reevaluating how we spend our defense dollars.

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Pay a Little More, Get a Little More

Voters in St. Louis get it: You pay a little more in taxes, you get meaningful improvements in services. A 1/2-3/4 cent increase in the sales tax, with the proceeds to go to public transit, passed with 63% of the vote. Why?

One, there has been a popular realization that transit service is an essential necessity for the efficient functioning of the region and that those operations are dependent on adequate funding. The dramatic downgrade in service provision after the failure of the 2008 referendum made getting to work more difficult for a large section of the region’s population; the lack of adequate funding was made manifest in Metro’s clear demonstration of its efforts to improve efficiencies even as it had to cut back on trains and buses.

The question is whether St. Louis could have passed a similar measure without first having to suffer through service cuts. In other words, can the citizenry be convinced of the value of transit without first having to see first hand what it’s like without it? The answer probably depends on the degree to which two other explanations for the measure’s passage have been articulated.

If Metro entered the 2008 vote with a scarred reputation — its services had been plagued by high-profile crime among other problems — the agency’s management has made a concerted effort over the past year to demonstrate that it is a good custodian of public dollars and that it has been an efficient distributor of funds…


Meanwhile, the public review of the Moving Transit Forward plan emphasized participatory democracy. By staging meetings across the region, developing an active website and encouraging communication between “regular people” and top management at the agency, Metro demonstrated that it wanted to plan the region’s transportation options with the population in mind. Governments have a strong incentive to show that their efforts are designed to meet the needs of people on the ground.

The effort to project this kind of competence from the public sector is obligatory if the goal is to get voters on board with a tax increase.

(h/t Atrios)

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I Love Taking the Train

In the dining car, you can eat with the most interesting and random assortment of folks, at the same table. And, the food is good. You also eat with silverware.

I’ve eaten with a woman who can’t fly due to inner ear issues. I’ve eaten with students because Amtrak gives student discounts, so it makes sense for them. I’ve even eaten with folks from the First Class sleeper cars, now try and do that on a plane. But best of all, are the people who are taking their first ever trip. I love seeing the countryside through their eyes.

I’ve had mostly good experiences and occasionally, I’ve had amazing experiences.

I’ve taken the train to Orlando, Savannah, Cleveland, Chicago, New York and even a commuter train into New York (not Amtrak). I’m hoping to take the train to see friends in Fayetteville this winter and it’s really convenient for Fayetteville since they have a station there. If I wanted to get there faster and fly, I’d need to fly into Raleigh-Durham, about an hour away. I’m also likely to take the train to Pittsburgh for the blogging convention Netroots Nation in August. As you can see, I take the train.

Taking the train for me is cost effective, first and foremost. I rarely pay as much for the train as I would for a flight and then there’s the added bonus of not having to pay additional security taxes and fees. Of course, when your ticket has been issued, if you lose it, as my daughter did on our last trip, you will need to re-purchase that return trip ticket. That was a very expensive lesson to learn for the 15 year old. On the other hand, trust me, she’s never done that again.

Second, it’s safer than driving. Of course, there are those moments when car and train collide, and car always looses. I suppose the accident last week in Michigan is a reminder to all of us that, you can’t race a train:

Early last Thursday afternoon a passing Amtrak train pulverized a car full of young people when the driver decided to circumvent waiting cars at the crossing in an attempt to beat the train. The car occupants included four boys and a girl, ranging in age from 14 to 21.

The driver was 19 and operating the vehicle on a suspended license. It took a mile before the train came to a complete stop. When I saw the initial footage on TV taken by helicopter, I couldn’t tell where the car was.


First of all, he should have known enough not to race an Amtrak train going 65 mph. He should have known if the gates were down, they were down for a reason and no emergency in the world would justify trying to go around them.

And my last reason for train travel:

It’s better for the environment. Train travel is mass transportation. By taking the train, there are fewer cars on the roads or planes in the air. Sure, walking is even better, but who has that kind of time?
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