Glenn Grothman wasn't the only commuter angry about the slick Madison streets after this month's monster snowstorm, but as a Republican senator from West Bend, he's one of the few who can try to do something about it.
Saying Madison officials are endangering citizens' access to their state government and university, Grothman said Tuesday he's drafting a bill that would strip the city's ability to set policies for salting and plowing its main roads and give that authority to the state Department of Transportation. Only Madison, which Grothman claims is worse at clearing streets than other state cities, would be affected by the proposal.
"This is what happens when you have a city with politicians whose base is people who walk to their job at the co-op. They become incapable of handling their responsibilities to the state as a whole," Grothman said. "I'm exaggerating a little bit, but you know what I mean."
One Madison official balked at the proposal to usurp local control but predicted it would go nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Mario Mendoza, aide to Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, said the city already is taking up recommendations of an internal report on the snowstorm ordered by the mayor.
More than 14 inches of snow fell on the city on Dec. 8 and 9, causing widespread traffic snarls and treacherous conditions on the two days following the storm.
"It's an issue that the city is already working on and there is no need for the measure called for by Senator Grothman," Mendoza said.
The bill would not apply to all Madison streets, only main roads such as East and West Washington Avenue.
Both Mendoza and Grothman agreed that to fight snow and ice Madison uses 150 pounds of salt per lane per mile on the major roads covered by Grothman's proposal - about half the 300 pounds per lane per mile used in other cities in the state.
City officials have said the policy is aimed at balancing keeping roads safe and holding down salt levels in area lakes and drinking water. But Grothman, a conservative who often favors local control, said that approach was so irresponsible the city should be stripped of its authority.
Department of Transportation spokeswoman Peg Schmitt and aides to Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, and Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, said they had yet to see the proposal.
As a minority Republican, Grothman will face difficulties in advancing any measure in a Legislature in which several major players are Madison Democrats. He said he has not yet sought co-sponsors for the draft bill.