CUSH hosts bus service meeting

The Congregations United to Serve Humanity (CUSH) organization, a local interfaith group, hosted a meeting tonight at the Beth Hillel Temple, 6050 Eighth Avenue, in Kenosha.  The purpose of the meeting was to tackle the issue of the 2012 budget proposal discontinuing Saturday bus service.

The meeting opened and closed with a prayer.  Sandy Milligan introduced herself and explained the purpose of CUSH, to address the needs of the community and to ensure that justice is served.  Transportation is not a new issue for CUSH to be involved in.  Ten years ago, there was no bus service out to the senior housing in Pleasant Prairie, and CUSH was instrumental in getting that service started.  Now, the City of Kenosha has handed CUSH another issue, and that is the discontinuation of Kenosha’s Saturday bus service.

About twenty people were present and spoke about their reasons for wanting to retain the Saturday bus service.  Audience members expressed the need to get to and from doctors’ appointments and physical therapy, shopping, work, and school.  “Having options makes you feel independent,” said a visually impaired and epileptic woman, who will never be able to drive.  “This is a social justice and environmental issue,” said another woman, who is a member of CUSH’s Transportation Task Force.  “There is a stigma to riding the bus, which will never change,” was another comment heard.  Audience members were concerned about the homeless and people with no transportation.  “It’s nasty riding a bike into the headwinds in January.”  A student at Gateway commented, “A city of this size needs a bus transportation system.”  A man who lives on the south side of Kenosha who rides the bus to UW-Parkside said that it takes an hour.  “To increase ridership, Kenosha Area Transit needs to look at where people live, where they need to go, and when they need to go there, in order to run more efficient connections.  The bus system is designed for a city that doesn’t exist any more.  Things have changed, and the bus routes have not changed with them.”  A Kenosha Area Transit bus driver of twenty years echoed that sentiment.  A funding solution which was mentioned was discontinuing the bus service to Lake Geneva and Antioch.  “This would save $40,000, and those funds could be used to keep the Saturday service going.”

David Liners, the state director of CUSH’s statewide affiliate, WisDOM, stated that this is a problem not only affecting the city of Kenosha.  ”It’s an issue in Wausau as well.  Fox Valley, too.  Milwaukee dodged the bullet for a year, but they are expecting huge cutbacks then.  We must draw the line somewhere.  We must tell our Common Council that we are not taking another cut.  The powers that be decided to target the group of people ‘who will kick the least,’ and we have to make them see that they need to rethink that.”  Another supporter stated, “If we put the fear into the alderpersons, the mayor (Keith Bosman), and the city administrator (Frank Pacetti) of not getting re-elected, maybe they would then listen.”  “When was the last time an alderman rode on a city bus?” one lady wanted to know.  “Maybe if they rode in our shoes for a while, they’d understand.”

The strategy espoused at the meeting was to get as many Kenosha residents as possible to sign a petition in time for the next Common Council meeting, which will be held on Monday, November 7th, at the Kenosha Municipal Building, 625 – 52nd Street.  If you’d like to help gather signatures on petitions, here is the form to use:  CUSH Don’t Cut Saturday Bus Service!!  Also, as many people as possible are requested to come to the meeting, and either speak or just be present to show their support.  People were also invited to attend a public meeting which will be held next week on Tuesday, November 1st, at 4:00 pm, also at the Kenosha Municipal Building.

One woman praised Alderperson Daniel Prozanski for his caring support which was evident at the last public hearing held on the issue.  “I thanked him for his being there, for his care and support, and for taking notes.”  There are two alderpersons on the Transit Commission, Prozanski and Alderperson Eric Haugaard.  Citizens are also encouraged to either call or e-mail their alderperson and let their voices be heard.  Call your alderperson and have five or ten of your neighbors all call.  “Getting ten calls from ten different people is a lot more effective than getting ten calls from the same person,” Liners said.  Letters to the editor was another idea mentioned.  Helpers were asked to either drop off the signed petitions at the Beth Hillel Temple before the Common Council meeting on the 7th (so that copies could be made), or just bring the petitions to the meeting (with a copy, if possible).

A gentleman by the name of Greg McAndrews offered to organize a petition-signing drive at the downtown bus transit transfer station.  (What better place to get signatures on the petitions to continue bus service than the riders who are currently using the bus service!)  You can reach him on (262) 694-3849 if you’re interested in helping.  Another strategy meeting will be held on Thursday, November 10th, at 5:30 pm, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, located at 9760 – 37th Avenue.  All are encouraged to attend.

This story originally appeared in KenoWI on October 27, 2011 and is available here: http://www.kenowi.com/2011/10/27/cush-hosts-bus-service-meeting/1859