I've encountered some pretty cynical things in politics, but Mayor Paul Soglin's "Helping Hands Homeward" budget proposal is just about the worst I've seen. I could respect Soglin more if he at least would call it what it is: the "Hey, Homeless, Get Out of Town!" program.
In the "Helping Hands Homeward" program, Soglin is channeling 1984 ("Peace Is War") by proposing to spend $25,000 of our money to buy tickets to put homeless people on buses to their hometowns. When asked about details of the program, Soglin said only that maybe the well-respected Porchlight nonprofit might run it. That organization had never heard of the idea.
This reveals a few things about the mayor.
First, he's no progressive. This is a reactionary idea that George Wallace would be proud of.
Second, he doesn't communicate. He hadn't even consulted with Porchlight and its excellent director Steve Schooler before he shot from the hip and suggested they might actually want to do this. They apparently don't.
Third, he doesn't think things through. If you're homeless, what is your "home town"? Maybe it's a place you were born in but soon moved away from. Maybe it's Australia. Is the mayor going to pay for a bus ticket to Australia? How do you get to Australia by bus exactly? Maybe it's a place where you were bullied or stigmatized or beaten up or, very likely, a place that will provide you with yet another bus ticket to come right back to Madison.
If your "hometown" was so great, then why are you here?
Soglin made a big show while running against me that he was going to do something more about poverty than I already had.
Who knew that Soglin's real plan was to solve the problem of poverty in Madison by moving the poor to someplace else?
This isn't just $25,000 of our tax money spent poorly. It speaks volumes about this mayor's reactionary nature and his reckless management of our city's resources.
The city's finance committee, the Board of Estimates, is poised to toss this from the budget tonight. They should do it with some enthusiasm.