State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
After receiving angry complaints from constituents about the lack of grass mowing in some medians in
I received the following response from Secretary Frank Busalacchi:
August 10, 2009
The Honorable Mary Lazich
Room 109 S, State Capitol
Dear Senator Lazich:
Thank you for writing to share your concern about mowing efforts on state highways. The Governor has asked me to respond on his behalf.
The department has directed that changes be made in order to assure that those routine maintenance activities that are more directly related to safety needs are addressed more effectively and done ahead of those activities that, while still providing a valuable service, are less essential to achieving the higher priority safety responsibilities on the state highway system.
The department is obligated to use the very limited resources available for the day-to-day maintenance of the state highway system in a way that best serves first safety, and then mobility needs. There are many other responsibilities related to ride and comfort, stewardship, and aesthetics that cannot be fully. The appropriation that funds ongoing operation and maintenance of the state highway system is severely constrained. The department has few options but to severely limit a number of valuable, but non-essential services.
Mowing for safety purposes has not been curtailed. Our direction has been and will continue to be that mowing for vision at public road intersections is to continue as in the past. That element of the overall mowing activity is indeed a safety issue and will continue. Mowing that is done for aesthetics or stewardship purposes has been targeted as an area for reduction. We recognize and would prefer that the department were in a position to conform with local expectations placed on other property owners; however, the funding to make that commitment is not available.
The department is working with local governments who may be in a position to place a higher priority on mowing for aesthetics and are willing to step in and do the mowing on the state highway rights of way. Regional offices are prepared to issue permits for that work.
Your suggestion that the department should be able to resolve this using stimulus money reflects perhaps one reason the essential day-to-day operation and maintenance activities are so severely constrained. The department is obligated to follow the requirements of state appropriations and federal program requirements. The department does not have the flexibility to use stimulus funds for these basic services nor to reallocate highway improvement funds to meet these needs.
Given the array of essential services that must be provided in the Highway Maintenance and Traffic Operations program, the department will continue to focus on operational choices that most affect the safety of the state highway system, mobility (including keeping the roads open in the winter), and ultimately the health of Wisconsin’s economy. The state highway system is an important front door and a major factor in the whether people find it desirable to travel in
Thanks again for your interest in safety on
Frank J. Busalacchi
The response is unsatisfactory. Instead of offering solutions, the Secretary makes bureaucratic excuses for his department’s abdication of its responsibilities.
I will be sending Secretary Busalacchi a response and will post on my blog.