Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel demands Mayor Barrett jump on Waukesha's water wagon in the name of regional cooperation.
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 3:24 PM

"... entire region is trying to work together on a
host of interrelated issues that include water,
transportation and economic development"
MJS: 2/28/07

Water and transportation have been, until now, only marginally "interrelated issues". Transit is being linked now only because there is going to be a big honkin' quid pro quo: Waukesha County can afford to--and must--make a big commitment to regional transit before Milwaukee even considers pumping Lake Michigan water to Waukesha and beyond.

This editorial argument would be more credible if the editorialist would point to something significant--something beyond blue sky talk--about regional transit that is actually being worked on. Waukesha's need for water is
just about the only thing that has afforded Milwaukee some leverage with the hundreds of thousands who have fled Milwaukee to surrounding counties with little interest in looking back at the economic decimation that is the direct result of their flight.

The editorial encourages something-for-everyone; but most of the benefits accrue to the developers of more and more fallow farm land--currently controlled by speculators--that is slated to become annexed "upscale" subdivisions devoted to exotically-priced tract mansions.

It is a clearly-stated preference in the City of Waukesha: neither the Plan Commission nor the Council wish to see proposals for low and moderate income subdivisions on land that is proposed for annexation. Such housing proposals are steered to brownfields or ignored. And the developers have sunk so much money into purchased
farmland, that they crave lot prices of $100 thousand and up. Developers are not about build low and moderate income subdivisions.

The editorialist says that houses on five-acre lots amount to sprawl. But, houses built on lots of three to five acres, served by well water and septic systems can be built in the townships (as opposed to being
annexed to the city), and they are self-limiting. Developers cannot make big profits without the gigantic-houses-on-small-city-lots, served by city services. It is the subdivisions and developments that demand annexation, then cram over-sized and over-priced houses on 1/3 of an acre (every house thus far built in Pabst Farms is on 1/3 acre) that fuel the worst kind of sprawl.

Waukesha's water problems and the Waukesha Water Utility's proposal to divert 22 million gallons per day (present usage is 8 million gallons per day) from Lake Michigan is aimed at fueling more annexation and more of the dense sprawl that craves city water and sewer as well as all the other essential, yet costly, city services.

At a bare minimum, Mayor Barrett should answer Waukesha's proposal to take Great Lakes water--should a diversion be permitted under the Great Lakes Compact--only if the amount of water is ten million gallons a day,
or less, and if Waukesha bargains as if there's a two-way street, with a two-way streetcar. That means rapid transit, fast rail, regional transit, and the kind of access that will provide access to Waukesha jobs for those without SUVs.

I have lived in the City of Waukesha for almost 35 years in a working class neighborhood with terrific neighbors and lots of services--including 14 years of public education--within walking distance. I've seen lots of other Milwaukeeans move out here with undisguised contempt for Milwaukee, Milwaukeeans, Milwaukee's economic
life, Milwaukee's problems.

They do, however, like to be able to zip into the big city for sports and nightlife and work in the office towers
downtown, so long as they are guaranteed a 70 mph commute, without slow-downs, back to their homegeneous, land-o-sprawl subdivisions where each of the houses is a slightly different shade of beige from the one next door.

I like Mayor Barrett's bottom-line consideration. He's not willing to give Waukesha what that suburban area demands without a significant gain for the city and the people of Milwaukee in return.

And that's the way it should be.

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.