Sunday, August 31, 2008

National Business Groups Join Palin's Anti-Polar Bear Lawsuit

Sounds like The Onion, I know, but Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin, now John McCain's choice to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, is suing the Bush administration over an already watered-down rule to protect Alaska's polar bears.

As we know, the Bush administration is hardly a friend of endangered species, or the environment, but when it comes to Big Oil, Palin is The One.

She wants the rule thrown out because it might get in the way of more oil and gas drilling in Alaska, and now several major business groups are joining Palin's lawsuit.

I would think that the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce would join the lawsuit, both to support McCain-Palin, and keep a consistent stand against environmental protection.

M-7 Needs New Focus

The Journal Sentinel produced a story the other day with some muddled comment about the regional business collaborative effort known as M-7.

Seems because it hasn't scored a home-run - - the so-called trophy business acquisition or relocation - - some think it's failing, or deserves an incomplete grade, even though you can wring out of the data proof that jobs are being created in the region.

And job creation is a good thing, so what's the problem for this group, now in its fourth year?

As some of the commentators indicate, hoping for the Big Score is an impossibility: neighboring states, like Illinois, can offer huge tax incentives and other giveaways that Wisconsin cannot, or will not, so a headquarters move like Boeing's from Seattle will end up in Chicago, not Milwaukee.

Of course, having O'Hare International and loads of other amenities in a world-class city like Chicago doesn't hurt, either.

Maybe the M-7 should think less about job increase bottom line numbers, and more about quality-of life-improvements in the Milwaukee area that would assist business development.

Maybe the priority ought to be on improvements to the public schools. Or building a light rail system.

Or in remaking the region as more environmentally-conscious, with priorities on cleaner air, water management, and fitness-and-health - - indices on which the region too often falls down.

Those would be strong selling points for business leaders and entrepreneurs thinking of coming to Milwaukee, or expanding a business here - - putting down roots and raising a family here, too.

Think of it the way we tell modern managers to define their jobs and successes. We tell them not to total up every year how many dollars you manage, or employees you have, or trucks or computers or square-feet of office space you control.

Instead, we tell managers to show us how they have added value to their operations, improved customer relations, trained and enhanced their workforce and its productivity, or expanded services with efficiencies and ingenuity.

Quality-of-life enhancements to Milwaukee and the region will help sell both.

Let's put the horse before the cart.

Wisconsin Libertarians Square Off, So...

It's a test of which campaign believes most in non-organizing.

Holiday In Many Wisconsin Counties Will Be A Dirty Air Day

Some Labor Day.

This from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Watch for Ozone for Door, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, and Sheboygan Counties effective 12:01 am on Monday, September 1, 2008 through 11:59 pm on Tuesday, September 2, 2008 .

The watch is being issued because of the forecast for elevated levels of ground level ozone. Ground level ozone is formed when pollution from power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and volatile organic compounds chemically reacts with hot temperatures, high humidity and atmospheric stagnation.

The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups and others, including people who are not in sensitive groups but who are engaged in strenuous outside activities or exposed for prolonged periods of time.

People in those sensitive groups include those with respiratory diseases, such as asthma, older adults, and active adults and ch ildren. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous outside activities during the watch period.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis should pay attention to shortness of breath, or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Ground level ozone can irritate the respiratory system, reduce lung function, aggravate asthma and chronic lung diseases, and, over time, cause permanent lung damage.

There are several actions the public can take to reduce their contributions to this regional air quality problem.

Reduce driving when possible and don't leave vehicle engines idling.
Postpone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines.
Minimize outdoor wood fires.
Conserve electricity.

For more ideas on how you can reduce your emissions today and every day visit: Do a little, save a lot!
For more information:

Air Quality Watches and Advisories Status Web Site
Daily Air Quality Hotline - 1-866-324-5924 (1-866-DAILY AIR)
Federal interagency air quality web site, for information on the Air Quality Index and nationwide air quality forecasts and air quality conditions, http://airnow.gov/
DNR's statewide air quality monitoring web page, http://dnrmaps.wisconsin.gov/wisards
For local DNR air management program contacts, http://dnr.wi.gov/air/about/regions.htm

Michael Savage Savages McCain/Palin

This is what you call right-wing diversity.

When The Race Card Does Not Fill Out A Full Deck

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has published a very interesting analysis of the City of Milwaukee's response times to citizen complaints about potholes, and concludes that the whiter the neighborhood, the faster was the pothole repair this past, brutal winter.

City officials, awaiting the results of an in-house study, said the story merits investigation, and even aldermen in districts where pothole repairs went relatively quickly said the disparities were unacceptable.

Those are proper, thoughtful and outcome-oriented reactions - - exactly what you want from public officials.

One blogger - - his post is here - - leaps to the conclusion that south side neighborhoods - - where whites live in greater proportions - - will get worse service this winter as a result of the story.

The blogger says, in part:

"You know what this means, don’t you? Milwaukeeans on the south side, you are about to get screwed.

"Residents of the north side, along with their representatives, aided by the bleeding heart Milwaukee Journal will play the race card right up until the first snowflake of next winter. Meanwhile, south side residents and their representatives will, frightened of rocking the boat, will clam up. There will be a concerted effort to make sure the north side’s winter woes are addressed firmly and immediately.

"There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you, just not at the expense of other areas of the city."

Here is what makes this one of the wierdest Wisconsin blog postings ever:
A) The blogger talks about what "we do in Milwaukee," but doesn't live in Milwaukee. He lives in Franklin.

B) The blogger is not involved in Milwaukee citizen complaints during his day job. He works for a State Senator from Waukesha County.

C) The blogger claims the story plays the race card - - but it is his analysis that stirs the racial pot by saying that some intentional racial victimization is right around the bend.

To paraphrase the blogger, is that what we always do in the suburbs?

State List Of Locations For Free Tickets To Obama's Labor Day Milwaukee Rally

Monday September 1

Milwaukee, WI
RALLY FOR AMERICA'S WORKERS WITH BARACK OBAMA
Marcus Ampitheater
200 North Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Doors Open: 3:00 PM
Program Begins: 6:00 PM

Media Coverage: The event is open to the press. For credentials please visit www.barackobama.com/mediarsvp.

The event is free and open to the public. However, tickets are REQUIRED. Members of the public are invited to pick up free tickets at the locations below beginning at Noon on Sunday until tickets run out. Tickets and space at the event are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Campaign for Change Office-Appleton
214 E. College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 735-4989

Campaign for Change Office-Beloit
432 E. Grand Ave.
Beloit, WI 53511
(608) 362-3273

Campaign for Change Office-Dodge County
1231 Madison St.
Beaver Dam, WI 53916
(715) 441-3719

Campaign for Change Office-Elkhorn
21 E Walworth Ave
Elkhorn WI
(262) 893-8012

Campaign for Change Office-Fond du Lac
39 S. Main St.
Fond du Lac, WI 53935
(920) 322-0309

Campaign for Change Office-Green Bay
1041 Velp Ave.
Green Bay, WI 54303
(920) 490-9100

Campaign for Change Office-Janesville
1300 Milton Ave.
Janesville, WI 53545
(608) 756-2851

Campaign for Change Office-Jefferson
218 Wisconsin Drive
Jefferson, WI 53549
(920) 274-2826

Campaign for Change Office-Kenosha
5810 6th Ave.
Kenosha, WI 53140
(262) 510-7771

Campaign for Change Office-Madison
1709 Monroe St.
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 255-0411

Campaign for Change Office--Mequon-Ozaukee County
10521 N. Port Washington Rd. (Entrance E)
Mequon, WI 53092
(262) 240-0102

Milwaukee Campaign for Change Headquarters
744 N. 4th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53203
(414) 305-8389

Campaign for Change Office - Milwaukee - North Side
7984 W. Appleton Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53218
(414) 305-8389

Campaign for Change Office - Milwaukee - North Shore
6805 N. Green Bay Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53209
(414) 841-5939

Campaign for Change Office - Milwaukee - Fifth Ward
170 S. 2nd St.
Milwaukee, WI 53204
(414) 223-3327

Campaign for Change Office-Oshkosh
480 N. Main St.
Oshkosh, WI 54901
(920) 426-8060

Campaign for Change Office-Racine
522 6th St.
Racine, WI 53403
(262) 637-7042

Campaign for Change Office-Sheboygan
501 N. 8th St.
Sheboygan, WI 53018
(920) 457-5160

Shaolin Boxing Methods
202 Travis Ln
Waukesha WI 53189
(262) 893-8330

Campaign for Change Office-Waukesha
804 N. Grand Ave.
Waukesha, WI 53186
(262) 521-2008

Campaign for Change Office-West Allis and Wauwatosa
8633 W. Greenfield Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53214
(414) 899-3841

Campaign for Change Office-West Bend
152 N. Main St.
West Bend, WI 53090
(262) 338-0990

Campaign for Change Office-Whitewater
153 W. Main St.
Whitewater, WI 53190
(262) 893-8012

***For security reasons, do not bring bags. Please limit personal items. No signs or banners allowed.***

Bush's Convention Absence A Media Plus For GOP

The approaching hurricane in the Gulf may bring more tragedy to that region. Let's hope not.

And photo op or not, Bush in the hurricane zone and not at the Republican convention is just where the US President and Commander-in-Chief needs to be, even if it reminds viewers that he wasn't there when he needed to be - - before and after Katrina.

For the Republicans in the convention hall in St. Paul, Bush and Cheney's announced absences will be a disappointment, but keeping the historically-unpopular duo off-camera is a political and media break for the party.

Brewers Ticket Sales Exceed One Early State Estimate

In the mid-1990's, one of the initial plans to help finance the new Miller Park with state assistance (a $50 million loan from WHEDA, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority) fell through, in part because a consultant told the Wisconsin Department of Administration that to merely break even, a new stadium would have to average 80% occupancy, and bring in additional revenues with at least five concerts annually, too.

I'm pulling these numbers out of my memory - - admittedly a dangerous thing - - but only because I was allowed to read, but not copy - - a DOA consultant's report that the agency shared with me when I was a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

My recollection is that this was in early 1996, when I was working on a stadium story shortly before I left the paper that June.

My recollection is that the consulting firm was from Pennsylvania.

With three million tickets sold this year, the stadium is averaging close to 90% occupancy - - a record, certainly - - and an indication that a good team and brilliant marketing can put a franchise on the right track even after 25 years of disappointments.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Civil Rights Complaint Against SEWRPC Still Not In Mainstream Media

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed a complaint with federal agencies against the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) over several agency plans and actions, but since the August 25th filing, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Waukesha Freeman have not reported on the complaint.

[Monday p.m update: Still no mainstream media coverage.]

The Daily Reporter, a statewide business publication, has written two stories about the complaint, and I have blogged about it twice, too.

Here is one of the Daily Reporter's stories. Good for the Daily Reporter.

And here is one of my blog posting for details, and a pdf to the complaint.
I have been writing pretty constantly about a lack of minority and City of Milwaukee representation and participation at SEWRPC.

And also about SEWRPC's inaccessible exurban location, poor minority hiring record, weak affirmative action plans, 35-year-failure to write a regional housing plan, and support for highway spending over transit services - - all of which discriminate against minorities and low-income residents in SEWRPC's seven-county region, in my opinion.

I hope the complaint get the wider circulation it needs, and that the feds use it as the basis for a comprehensive investigation into SEWRPC's structure, spending and hiring.

Had this been a civil rights complaint issues filed against a major municipality or school board in our region, I suspect it would have been an immediate, big story.

SEWRPC too often files under the radar: the complaint can help bring the agency, its work, and perhaps some more equitable outcomes more fully into view.

Another Reason To Stop Drinking Bottled Water In NYC

The tap water, drawn in part through protected areas and those famous gravity-fed aqueducts upstate, wins a 150-municipality taste test.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Harley Riders Also Love The Bus

Memo to Scott Walker: Visitors to the city, even Harley riders, find transit appealing.

In the business, these are called choice riders.

You know, people who will exercise an option - - if it's available.

Tourists and residents would be riding light rail if it were there.

Limbaugh Hot Damns Over Sarah Palin

Rush Limbaugh summed up one segment of his show this afternoon with this paen to Alaska Gov. and GOP Vice-Presidential nominee-designee Sarah Palin, who is a pro-life religious conservative, avid hunter and mother of five:

"Babies. Guns. Jesus: Hot damn!"

Heard enough yet?

Palin-McCain Now Gets James Dobson's Endorsement

McCain was too liberal for the far-right guru Dobson, but Palin seals the deal.

Heard enough yet?

Palin Bio From The Anchorage News

Lots of information about Sarah Palin here.

If You Fly This Airline, Bring Your Own Water Wings

Ah, who needed life jackets, anyway?

I'm still predicting in-flight pay toilets, as the airlines search for goofy ways to make money.

Wisconsin OWI Deaths Rise, National Trend Down

Still too much drinking and driving on Wisconsin roads.

Update: One Assembly candidate in Waukesha says it's time for action. A statement from Attorney Steve Schmuki, here.

Update II: So does a judge from Outagamie County.

Palin To Polar Bears: Drop Dead

John McCain's running mate is no friend of the polar bears.

I know, I know: polar bears don't vote, but people who want them protected sure do.

So It's Sarah Palin, And Not Pawlenty

OK, I got reeled in by the Pawlenty rumor. It's apparently Sarah Palin, the young - - younger than Obama - - Governor of Alaska.

With so little experience - - a small town mayoralty prior to her surprise win in 2006 as Governor, I'd say the GOP just forfeited the experience argument.

Advantage Biden.

Give the McCain people credit for clever feinting - - though I'd feel differently if I were a working political reporter and had been told it was Pawlenty.

Palin did overthrow a Republican establishment that has been pouted as corrupt. If she's squeaky-clean, (and do you really want your early stories about your new running mate to have that "under investigation" tag line?) that does make her story more interesting.

To Those Fallen Away Democrats: All Is Not Lost

And you know who you are: Obama offered you an open invitation to come back to the fold, and it's not too late.

You don't want to spend the next two months missing this moment and dealing with that empty feeling, the awareness of loss and a bad decision years ago that Thursday night kept you from celebrating Obama's speech in the way your true heart wanted.

Minnesota Governor May Be The Wrong Bridge To Winning In '08

Rumors are flying that Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be John McCain's choice as the Republican Party's vice-presidential candidate.

Are you kidding me? It's barely been a year since the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, with deaths, injuries and hundreds of millions of damage and disruption in its wake.

The Republican convention is right there in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and the fatally-failed bridge and lots of file footage were sure to be TV images, but if Pawlenty is chosen, the bridge serves another purpose - - a visual and visceral source of legitimate questioning about Pawlenty's record and leadership.

Members of Congress criticized his slow response applying for emergency federal aid.

And though federal authorities have not yet released a final report on the cause of the collapse, there was this interesting citation on a physics forum website:

"Investigators in bridge collapse focus on chilling video. By Jon Hilkevitch Tribune transportation reporter 9:41 PM CDT, August 2, 2007

"The bridge must have been near a state of collapse for some time, and the construction might have contributed to its failure," said Zdenek Bazant, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University.

"Bazant said he suspects there may have been a hairline crack or fatigue in the steel joints near bridge supports, leading to the buckling" http://www.chicagotribune.com/services/newspaper/premium/printedition/Friday/chi-070802bridge,0,3911616.story?page=2

Great Gustav! The Republicans need this like they need another hurricane in New Orleans as a Katrina flashback to remind voters of the Bush administration's record and leadership.

The Republican convention looks like it's surrounded by some bad Karma - - the opposite of the transformational political event we have seen in Denver the last few days.

It's still not too late for McCain to rethink his Pawlenty choice.

Joe Lieberman is still available.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Barney Smith Brings Down The House In Denver

The unemployed factory worker from Indiana named Barney Smith became the folk hero of the Democratic Convention tonight when he told the crowd at Invesco Field he wanted a country that but put Barney Smith first, not Smith Barney.

That's "where's the beef"- level political theater.

Get that guy a job, a contract and an Obama For President TV spot.

His bio is here. I'm sure his talk to the crowd will be on YouTube soon.

McIlheran Is Painfully MisInformed

Patrick McIlheran decides to take a partisan swipe at Barack Obama, suggesting he has a "McGovernite view of America's relationship with the world."

What exactly might that be?

* George McGovern's service during World War II as a B-24 bomber pilot, smashing the Nazi war machine during 35 missions and winning the Distinguished Flying Cross for safely landing a crippled bomber and saving the crew?

* Serving as the first director of the Food for Peace Program, which has sent US grain to hungry people, in poor countries, for nearly 50 years?

* Serving two terms in the House of Representatives and three in the US Senate?

* Being nominated by the Democratic Party for President, serving as a member of two US delegations to the United Nations under Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter?

* Co-founding the world food lunch program with former Republican US Senator Bob Dole that was funded by both President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and serving under President Clinton, and briefly under President Bush, as US Ambassador to the UN Food and Agricultural Program?

* Winning the US Presidential Medal of Freedom?

George McGovern has been a soldier in war, a peace-maker, and a leader in the effort to end world hunger.

He has also opposed the unnecessary wars in Vietnam and Iraq - - which I suspect is at the core of McIlheran's thinking, should there actually be some beyond figuring out how to mess with a proper noun.

There are many observers who say that reducing hunger and poverty is in our national security interest.

As is the judicious use of military force, something with which George McGovern has been personally acquainted.

If Obama works towards those goals, I hope he is a McGovernite.

(Disclosure: George McGovern is my father-in-law and I am happy to invite McIlheran to better understand how foolish it is to undermine a genuine American patroit with short-sighted, partisan shorthand.)

In The GOP, Sincerity Is Measured In Seconds

This fools no one.

Canadian 'Think Tank' Suggests Mass Water Export

Seems that Canada has its own, homegrown water sellers.

Civil Rights Complaint Hits SEWRPC

The long-standing lack of participation by City of Milwaukee representatives and minorities at the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planing Commission, and its focus on highway planning over transit, has led to a federal civil rights complaint against the commission, records show.

The complaint, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, is here.

This is a significant development, as SEWRPC will have to demonstrate that its structure, work output and recommended plans have fair representation, and are evenly-focused without discrimination - - a genuine challenge, I'd say.

On behalf of a coalition of low-income residents, the complaint seeks a federal investigation, federally-ordered changes in representation in SEWRPC committees, and transportation planning by SEWRPC that includes transit services for groups and communities heretofore ignored.

It asks for a withdrawal of federal funding if SEWRPC failed to comply.

[Friday update: Here is a statement from the ACLU - Wisconsin: I still do not see a response from SEWRPC, though I hear that one is being prepared.

Sunday update: I see no reporting about the complaint in the mainstream media.]

Look no further than its affirmative action reports, which every year concede that its minuscule number of minority employees is due, in part, to its location far from the minority population centers in the region.

A situation made worse in 2002 when SEWRPC moved from downtown Waukesha to Pewaukee, putting it farther from Milwaukee and other centers of low-income and minority job-seekers, or transit-dependent workers.

The Pewaukee location is not on a bus line.

SEWRPC Executive Director Phil Evenson said in July that he planned to drop the SEWRPC headquarters' location issue language from the forthcoming 2008-2009 affirmative action report, though the fulltime staff is still overwhelmingly white, SEWRPC records show.

And while continuing to cite its affirmative action problem areas, the SEWRPC reports indicate no assertive new or successful strategies to boost minority hiring.

That contributes to the very planning and work supervision by the staff and commission board that is insensitive to the very transit issues cited in the complaint, and which I'd argue have also led to the unwillingness of SEWRPC to write and promote a housing plan for the region since 1975.

The complaint calls attention to several SEWRPC transit and transportation recommendations, including the recent SEWRPC approval of the disputed interstate interchange to the still-not-built Pabst Farms shopping mall in western Waukesha County.

The interchange will cost $23.1 million in public funding, and was moved forward on regional planning schedules.

The complaint specifically asks that SEWRPC plan and implement transit improvement in Waukesha County to serve people without cars at the same time that the interchange plan is implemented.

The Pabst Farm shopping mall interchange recommendation was made this year in the face of substantial citizen opposition in writing to SEWRPC, and also as regional transit service continues its decline.

Sound fair and balanced to you?

And legal, the WCLU is asking?

The WCLU complaint also notes the absence of any Milwaukee residents on the SEWRPC commission, and the few minority representatives on SEWRPC advisory committees where crucial work on final recommendations and plans is researched and honed.

In a June 20, 2008 posting about SEWRPC, I made these observations about SEWRPC, Milwaukee, affirmative action and taxation without representation:

You can contort yourself into knots and turn blue in the face defending SEWRPC, but you cannot get past these facts which grate on city dwellers in Milwaukee:

With a population of 600,000, and more residents than any of the non-Milwaukee County counties in SEWRPC - - all of which have three SEWRPC board seats, the City of Milwaukee has no seat at the table.

Despite having the largest share of minority residents in the region, SEWRPC has no minority management staff members, and has not had a minority staff member for years.

There isn't even a mamangement staff member with a City of Milwaukee address.

And minorities are excluded from SEWRPC's powerful advisory committees. There are zero African-Americans, and only one City representative, on the 32-member water supply advisory committee.

This is 2008.

The US Civil Rights Act of 1965 was supposed to end this sort of institutional discrimination more than 40 years ago.

How is that SEWRPC is immune, tone-deaf, care-free and thoughtless when it comes to basic fairness and equity in basic operations, like hiring?

Yet the City of Milwaukee, where more than half the population is now minority, is responsible for sending SEWRPC about $400,000 annually in recent years as its portion of Milwaukee County's contribution to SEWRPC's operating budget.

I have paid careful attention to the SEWRPC water advisory committee that has been meeting and working since 2005.

The committee will spend $1 million dollars on consultants and other activities; recommendations will influence housing, transportation and development in the SEWRPC seven-county region for decades.

There is strong demand for Lake Michigan water by Waukesha County communities; 140,000 new residents are projected for the County in the coming decades, so water availability is central to how and where that huge population increase will be absorbed.

Will there be consideration of water's economic impacts on the region's minority and low-income residents - - the very people under-represented in SEWRPC advisory and decision-making tasks?

The water committee has 32 members - - including one Hispanic-surnamed male and zero African-Americans.

Would you like to be the attorney who argues that representation is fair representation to the region's minority residents, and for the City of Milwaukee, where minorities now make up its residential majority?

The complaint moves some of these important issues about SEWRPC's basic structure and actions from the political realm to a legal framework.
This is no doubt the beginning of a process that should get the attention of City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee officials who are considering whether SEWRPC's structure should be changed to better reflect the goals of Milwaukee and its minority and low-income taxpayers.

I argued in a June op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Crossroads section that Milwaukee should withdraw from SEWRPC to establish a planning body that would elevate the needs of Milwaukee that are lost in a suburban-oriented, seven-county commission where Milwaukee does not even have a seat at the table.

A Milwaukee Common Council resolution to review SEWRPC and various reform options is underway at City Hall.

SEWRPC did itself no favors in the spring when it named a new Executive Director without a job search or public review.

It did so despite a request from a new SEWRPC body, the Environmental Justice Task Force (EJTF), that SEWRPC delay an apparent done-deal, in-house hiring so the EJTC could participate in a more open hiring procedure, or at least review the hiring.

The Commission's pick, Ken Yunker, will move from the Deputy Director position to Executive Director, in January 2009.

The EJTF was created under pressure from Federal highway funders who felt SEWRPC was doing an inadequate job of community outreach when planning federally-funded transportation projects.

Some of the complaints about SEWRPC's outreach came as it wrote and recommended the $6.3 billion freeway reconstruction and expansion plan - - a plan that the state has accepted, and will add 127 miles of new lanes, but has no transit components.

The plan is underway, with the $800 million Marquette Interchange completed, the $1.9 billion rebuilding and widening of I-94 to the Illinois state line from Milwaukee about to begin, and a half-billion reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange fast-tracked to start in a few years.

$4-per-gallon gasoline makes that plan look archaic, even hostile, to low-income families and workers trying to reach jobs as transit service declines in the Milwaukee region.

Fine Writing From Denver By David Maraniss

No one is better at interpreting Bill Clinton than David Maraniss, the former President's Pulitzer Prize winning biographer.

And this biographical piece about Obama that Maraniss wrote several days ago on the eve of the Democratic convention is absolutely superb.

New Berlin Water Deal Moves Forward: One Question...

The City of New Berlin, knowing a good deal when it sees one, is moving the water sale deal with Milwaukee another step closer to closure.

Notice how fast interest (sic) in buying more expensive water from Oak Creek and/or Racine that was also without Milwaukee's superior ozone treatment disappeared so quickly from consideration?

Here's my question:

Will New Berlin agree to cap its current wells so the aquifer can rebound - - one of the environmental arguments in favor of its accessing Lake Michigan water?

If the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources doesn't require it, New Berlin will be able to fall back on those wells if it wants to push water further west.

Those wells are out of compliance with the current EPA standard for naturally-occurring radium, but the standard can be met with filtration.

New Berlin has said it would not use Milwaukee water to accelerate sprawl to its western acreage, but we'll see.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Finally, A Modest Plan To Balance Transit And Highway Spending In Waukesha

This blog has reported repeatedly about the plan to spend more than $23 million in public funds on an interstate interchange to an upscale shopping mall in Waukesha - - without transit expansion in a transit-starved region.

It's a more-than symbolic omission, and now a group of transit advocates is trying to get officials to fix it.

How those officials respond is going to say a lot about efforts to make transportation spending a little more balanced in our region, especially since the transit need is crucial now, and the mall, once-delayed, has not yet been built.

Private Investors Looking To Acquire Public Assets

More is being written about the emerging trend to lease public assets - - roads, bridges and other big pieces of infrasructure the people have already paid for - - to private investors.

These schemes will raise fees and create new ones, particularly road tolls.

Milwaukee's Economic Segregation Keeps The City Poor, Suburbs Rich

There's more data from the Census Bureau confirming that Milwaukee's concentrated poverty is surrounded by suburban communities with some of the fewest low-income residents in the nation.

This is why the lack of public transit that connects Milwaukee with the neighboring counties is so reprehensible, bordering on the criminal if you consider all citizens' rights to equal protection under the law, and due process, too.

We've had fifty years of willfully unbalanced public policy decision-making and transportation spending that keeps low-income Milwaukee residents disconnected from job growth in the suburbs and surrounding counties.

If that transportation spending were fair and balanced, those jobs, and perhaps (gasp!) housing, could be a bus ride away.

Or on a train link away - - another option ruled out by state and regional planners who have chosen to invest public funds disproportionately in highways that serve commuters with cars.

And more than 87,000 Milwaukeans do not have access to automobiles, which now cost more to operate, given spiking fuel costs.

How else can you explain our seven-county regional transportation plan being implemented by the state transportation department with $6.3 in public funding to rebuild and widen highways - - but not one transit line's funding, let alone expansion, in that package?

Neither Milwaukee County, Waukesha County or the state could find funding this year to keep bus line #9 alive, so the workers who used to get to their jobs near Milwaukee on that route were thrown back further onto their own, limited resources.

For commuters coming in from Waukesha County, however, we are moving faster to throw a half-billion dollars into a quickly rebuilt Zoo Interchange, and another $25 million is ticketed for a Waukesha County interstate ramp to serve an upscale shopping mall in Pabst Farms that may or may not be built.

There is even less direct bus service to New Berlin from Milwaukee since New Berlin began buying water from Milwaukee in 2003, despite expressions of concern and interest in transit improvements by New Berlin officials during those negotiations.

Think that the City of Waukesha will propose linking its planned water purchase from Milwaukee with better transit connections?

Right now, if you want to travel by bus (forget a train) between the two cities' downtowns, your option is Greyhound.

It is this constant diminution of transit, and disconnection of workers from suburban employment, that keeps incomes in Milwaukee low and unemployment high.

It's not an accident.

And it also coincided with white flight in the 1950's, when the state legislature also passed a special, one-of-a-kind state law that froze Milwaukee's borders, thus limiting the city's boundaries and the economic opportunities of what would then become its large and growing low-income population

Economic apartheid is not too strong a phrase to describe our region's reality, and it is among the reasons that the Southeastern Wisconsin keeps showing up on these embarrassing segregation indicies and charts.

Talk Radio's Faux Love For Hillary Clinton

It's been entertaining to listen to the conservative talkers and their praise for Hillary Clinton today.

Of course, it's just a way to undermine Barack Obama; that's transparent.

But remember that during the early primary season, when Senator Clinton was the front-runner, she was talk radio's big enemy. They'd remind us of her negatives and her support for what they said was socialized medicine.

They also said that if the country elected her, we'd get the Clintons, both of them, when the truth is that talk radio would much have preferred Senator Clinton as the candidate, and as President, because that would have given the talkers "the Clintons" as punching bags for four-to-eight years.

So don't be taken in: the righty talkers are not fans of Hillary Clinton, but they will always figure out a way to use the Clintons to stir up their conservative listeners and ramp up program ratings.

Rush Limbaugh And His Local Lieutenants Will Not Like This

A draft of the GOP platform for adoption in Minneapolis suggests there will be a global warming plank, albeit watered-down.

If it were to survive and be adopted, expect right-wing talk radio to slam it, and McCain for running on it, as the template on the right is that the planet is not warming and human beings have no control over what the talkers call "the weather."

Fine Primer On Great Lakes Water Issues By Dave Dempsey

Dave Dempsey, a former Michigan environmental policy maker and writer about the Great Lakes, continues to follow the Great Lakes Compact as it needs only House of Representatives approval before a presidential signature.

President Bush, and both presumptive presidential party nominees have all said they would sign the Compact.

Dempsey discusses the Compact in depth, here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Impressive Speech By Hillary Clinton

Senator Hillary Clinton's remarks at the Denver convention tonight were a combination of keynote address and concession speech.

Given how the Democrats completed their nominating process, and the dynamics of the long campaign, it was a unique moment in American politics, and she mastered it.

If Obama wins the presidency, and I still think he's the favorite, Hillary Clinton's speech will rightly be seen as pivotal.

California May Tie Smart Growth To Transportation Spending

California often leads the nation, so a bill moving to the Governor's desk is fascinating, as it would tie transportation spending to projects that promote smart growth.

Or put this way, sprawl gets no state transportation subsidy, as an alliance of builders and environmentalists moves to put major incentives into the state's greenhouse gas emission reduction plans to make those plans pay off.

Imagine such an approach here: regional freeway extensions out into Sprawlville past 124th St. to the west, or along the I-94 corridor south from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line, would find their funding minimized or cut under the California model in favor of state transportation spending that increased mobility in cities, and added value to them.

States other than California will have to follow that model as gasoline gets more expensive and federal transportation dollars, the source of most state road-building dollars through gas taxes, continues to shrink.

Linking transportation planning and spending in order to have an impact on climate change.

Imagine such policy coordination at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, or at regional planning commissions around the state, or in the legislature and Governor's office.

If it can be done in California, why not here?

Entire On-Line Booklet Provides Sustainability Tools

Water, land use, slow food, sustainability and internet tools - - all at one site.

A definite keeper.

Katrina Disaster Anniversary Reminds Us Why We Need New National Leadership

The Brookings Institution provides information about stagnation in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Imagine if your town - - Milwaukee, or Madison, or Green Bay had been hit that hard, and years later, the country's national leadership continued to fail you.

Some Democrats Are Trying Party Unity

Democrats won't beat John McCain if they can't get unified: these two Wisconsin leading Democratic women get it.

Big Pre-Labor Day Event Rolls Into Madison Saturday

A union-sponsored music and political caravan hits Madison Tuesday on its way to the Republican Convention in Minneapolis.

Gov. Jim Doyle and Steve Earle on the same stage! Take Back Labor Day is the theme, and in an era of job losses, inflation, and out-sourcing, there's no better election year theme.

Details here.

McCain Picked Dubious Oil Rig For Photo Op

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, formerly a Senate foe of new offshore drilling, has so firmly hitched his campaign to driver anger over rising gasoline prices that he flew out to a oil platform to pitch his new, poll-driven drilling fervor.

Turns out that the rig where he spent a photo-op'ed half-hour is in a special zone declared especially risky to the environment and health by the US Coast Guard.

Murphy Oil Says Superior Expansion Still Planned

Murphy Oil says its Superior refinery expansion is still being planned.

Sources at the state capitol have expressed some doubt, given the state of the economy and the cost of $6 billion in investment capital.

Time will tell.

Let's Have A Seal Cub Hunt Or Bounty On Gorillas While We're At It

The Bush administration, not content to weaken the endangered species act and open up more wilderness to road-building, has come up with yet another profit-driven plan for its last few months in office:

Reducing the size of safety zones in the ocean to protect the few surviving Right Whales not yet killed in collisions with ships.

Shippers want smaller zones, and the Bushies want to give it to them.

In the spirit of the air pollution permissions the administration enabled through its Healthy Skies Initiative, look for Bush's 'regulators' to dub pro-shippers' plan The Whale Survival Initiative.

As in, see how many of the remaining 300 Right whales can survive a collision with an ocean-going ship.

Monday, August 25, 2008

White Support For Obama Is Guilt-Inspired, Says Clueless Blogger

Memo to Patrick McIlheran, who would have us believe that whites support Barack Obama for President because they are guilt-ridden.

The people I know who are white and who back Obama admire his intellect, support his position on the Iraq war, respect his belief in restoring American prestige around the world, and see him as a representation of much-needed change across the board.

They/we have thought through the issues and choose Obama because of who he is.

Stop with the virtual psychology. You're making us laugh.

Belling Retains His Reliable Cynicism As Ted Kennedy Prepares Swan Song

US Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), dealing with brain cancer, is slated to appear at the Democratic convention Monday night - - if his health allows it - - but that didn't stop WISN-AM radio's Mark Belling this afternoon for saying and repeating that Kennedy was a "rotten" person.

State Considering Replacing Hoan Bridge With Less Costly Alternative

Replace the Hoan Bridge with less expensive lift bridges at street level: an excellent idea under study at the state Department of Transportation.

The Milwaukee Business Journal was first out with the story, here, my own sources confirm it, and WTMJ-TV4's Tom Murray got it on the air Friday:

State officials are considering replacing the aging Hoan Bridge that spans Lake Michigan past the Summerfest grounds and Port of Milwaukee to Bayview with less expensive lift or draw bridges.

The Hoan is nearing the end of its useful life - - I was on it Monday morning, and its pavement is a mess. Plus, the bridge has already had major structural problems (a few years ago one section suddenly dipped, was dynamited out, then replaced).

As iconic as it is at the city's lakefront, replacing the overly-tall and wide structure with another hugely-engineered facility will be hard to justify financially.

Land for development could be opened up with a different bridge configuration, so it looks like a win for state taxpayers and the City of Milwaukee.

Expect opposition from some commuters, but should taxpayers around the state be billed to pay for The Hoan II, when alternatives are available?
State and city engineers can accommodate commuters, the harbor, and Port facilities; motorists already have the High Rise Bridge just to the west, plus routes on city streets, the Sixth Street Bridge and other travel options.

Carefully and efficiently, let's move this issue forward.

And while we're at it, let's get Howard and Layton Avenues near the airport repaired. For people coming into the area from the airport, the potholes and bumpy pavement are hardly welcoming, and it's been this way for too long.

Great Lakes' Water Shortages - - A Canadian Perspective

Great Lakes and other regional water shortages, political weaknesses and disputes with US jurisdictions over water supplies are among the problems that concern officials in Canada.

The perspective is interesting. Details here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More Stupid Nazi Name Calling

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - - people who carelessly throw around Nazi labels or images are comtemptable idiots.

It isn't funny, clever, cute or accurate, and I don't care if they are local right-wing bloggers or aging rock stars.

Knock it off.

More Contempt For Science: Administration Cuts AIDS Tracking

The Bush administration has shown its contempt for science in many ways, whether denying climate change or weakening air and water quality programs, but now it's found a new way to ignore important facts:

Cut the number of states involved in a reporting program that tracks the spread of AIDS, reports The New York Times.

Just when you think this administration cannot do worse, it does.

Comparison Shows Why Big Oil Loves McCain

The Sierra Club analyzes both presidential candidates' energy policies.

If you love oil companies, McCain is your man.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden Solid Pick For VP

Strikes me as a good choice.

I like his chances in a debate with Mitt Romney, and his appeal to party regulars and blue-collar Dems who may be less enamored of Obama.

High Fuel Costs Imperil Aviation, Airports And Related Industries

If you haven't seen the world yet, buy a decent high-definition televising and get used to virtual touring because that's probably the way you'll see the Pyramids, the Louvre or the Brazilian rain forest.

Even Fisherman's Wharf or Maine's fall colors.

I don't think Priceline or Orbitz is going to keep air travel for the masses, or families on holiday, a reasonable possibility.

Good thing Door County and the Boundary Waters, and the Baraboo Hills are so close, not to mention Miller Park and Bradford Beach.

Have you had the LA-style tacos at Bradford Beach's snack bar yet?

I'm old enough to remember how things were before cheap fuel and deregulated aviation gave us overnight Fed Ex deliveries, People Express, free meals on Midwest Airlines and affordable flights to weddings, conferences and spur-of-the-moment getaways.

When I was young, flying was a luxury. I went to college 800 miles from home.

Flying back home for vacation? Are you kidding? If there wasn't a seat in a car posted on the ride board at the student union, I took the Greyhound, or stayed in the dorms.

Flying was for rich people, or for emergencies, and we're headed back to that era, with profound and varied implications for every nation, city, airport, business and family.

A great piece on this issue, from The New Republic, is here.

In his 2009 budget, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker will propose leasing Mitchell Airport, a fund-raising idea worth a whole lot less these days than a year or two ago.

The airport's major tenant, Midwest Airlines, is a shell of what it had been, and other airlines whose landing fees support airport operations, like Northwest and Air Tran, are laying off pilots and mothballing planes.
If Walker were smart he'd jump on the Midwest high-speed rail bandwagon - - er, express - - since those trains could handle many medium-range trips for Milwaukeans.

But that's a posting for another day, and for Walker, probably an impossibility.

He still wants bus users to buy cars.

No doubt, plane tickets, too.

A Great Lakes City Gets Dissed

Cleveland takes it on the chin from a gloomy blogger.

The internets do offer an outlet for people to express their negativity, and in this case, to diss an entire US city and its immigrant heritage.

What's the point?

Transit A Prescription for Dirty Air Designation, Capital Times Says

Dane County's flunking the US Environmental Protection Agency threshold for particulate matter means remedial action to clean the air, including more transit, says the Madison Capital Times.

The Capital Times is right, and it's not surprising that Dane County would begin moving assertively towards solutions.

With six heavily-populated-and industrialized counties identified as failing the standards - - Waukesha, Brown, Dane, Columbia, Milwaukee and Racine - - the question of compliance is really a state issue.

Investing in transit and trimming billions in highway funding would be a clean air and employment boon that would benefit the entire state and people who live near or travel through these non-attainment areas.

Speak Your Mind To The WMC

One Wisconsin Now has constructed an email conduit that you can access to tell Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce board members that their organization's ultra-conservative political and campaign agendas and undermining good government in the state.

Sick of the group's support of hard-right candidates for the State Supreme Court, and fresh fund-raising to support more right-wing campaigns this fall?

Fed up with WMC efforts to weaken clean air regulations and initiatives for health care coverages?

Done hearing the persistent and unfair WMC whine about the business climate in the state, which hurts the state economy, and Wisconsin's image nationally?

OWN will direct your email comments for you, and thousands of WOM website readers already have, according to the umbrella progressive media and organizing group (disclosure: I sit on one of OWN's boards).

Easy to get started, here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

EPA Website Provides More Information On Fine Particulate Rules, Findings

Here is additional material on a website posted by the US Environmental Protection Agency about its recent announcement about counties that do not meet proposed clean air standards for fine particulates.

Those counties would include Milwaukee, Dane, Brown, Waukesha, Dane and Columbia.

Maybe Tar Sand Oil From Canada Is Too Expensive To Refine In Wisconsin

Pretty quiet on the Murphy Oil expansion front in Superior; sources say the much-rumored $6 billion expansion to expand refining seven-fold at the Murphy Oil facility is on the back burner because tar sand extraction in Canada, the source of refinery's crude stock, is still too expensive to bring a decent return to investors.

Sure, oil is still a hefty $120 a barrel, and was over $140 earlier this year, but it costs $1 a barrel to recover oil in Saudi Arabia and $75-$90-per-barrel in northern Alberta province, a CNN analyst points out.

Where do you think investors would prefer to put capital?

That's not to say that the expansion won't come about, leaving northern Wisconsin with the promise of both jobs and dirtier air above a potentially-polluted Lake Superior below.

Oil refineries have pretty big smokestacks and pipeline connections in and out that can leave a mess behind if things go wrong.

A significant delay in the construction and expansion plan - - the end of this year had been the probable start for the multi-year, multi-billion dollar refining ramping-up from 35,000 barrels a day to 235,000 - - would give the alternative energy generation movement time to move forward.

Wisconsin is embarking on research, development and production goals that would make the best of the state's natural resources and brainpower: the lower the price of oil, the less likely is the refinery expansion, and the more probable that there can be a substitution of more sustainable substitutes in a greener future.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Early Marquette Interchange Construction Conclusion Brings $4 Million Bonus

Now that the media frenzy over the early completion of the Marquette Interchange has ended, Tom Held at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel learns that the contractors a few months ago negotiated a nice bonus should they finish the construction early.

They get $4 million, he reports.

The contractors say the speed-up was to make things easier for the Harley-Davidson anniversary ride headed this way at the end of the month, which the contractors hype as Milwaukee's Superbowl.

The text of Held's Newswatch posting is below:

THURSDAY, Aug. 21, 2008, 12:55 p.m.By Tom Held
$4 million bonus for Marquette freeway job

Marquette constructors scored a $4 million bonus for finishing the core interchange ramps before Aug. 27, securing the cash offered in a contract provision added in early 2008, when the state Department of Transportation recognized the importance of opening the downtown freeway segments before the Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary celebration.

The bonus is tacked on to the $315 million the consortium of three large area contractors bid on the original core interchange package in 2005.

With the payment, the final project cost is expected to be about $10 million to $15 million below the $810 million estimate.

Edward Kraemer & Sons Inc. of Plain, Lunda Construction Co. of Black River Falls and Zenith Tech Inc. of Waukesha combined to win the largest piece of the Marquette Interchange project, the work on the core ramps and intersecting freeways.

Ryan Luck, manager of the core construction work for the DOT, said the state negotiated the time bonus with the contractors after recognizing the importance of clearing the interchange for the thousands of Harley riders coming to town for Labor Day weekend.

"That's Milwaukee's Super Bowl," Luck said. "That's an event where we have tens of thousands of visitors."

The bonus clause included a sliding scale for early completion through late October, and $100,000 a day in penalties for each day the project lingered beyond Nov. 10, Luck said.

The WMC Gets Called Out, Big-Time

The outgoing UW Madison campus chancellor calls out the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce for politically obstructing the growth of high-tech education and job creation with a partisan agendy, and the WMC whines about it.

You can get into the issue here.

The WMC alleges to speak for the business community statewide, but does a better job tearing down the state and promoting selfish policies like relatively weaker mercury abatement that do nothing for the public.

It's in favor of lower air quality standards that will allow more sooty poison to work its way into your children's' lungs, and against universal health care coverage, for example.

Cleaning Up The KK River Is Good For Milwaukee And The Region

Nice partnership between the state and the City of Milwaukee. Clean rivers make for a healthier watershed and Lake Michigan, strong selling points for the region's case as a leader in water quality issues.

And important for southsiders and neighborhoods as the river works its way to the lake.

Vermont Wrestles With Groundwater Supplies, Would-Be Bottlers

Vermont needs public trust protections and more for its precious groundwater, its residents are learning - - the hard way, reports The New York Times.

As is somewhat better known in this part of the world, the Great Lakes Compact and Wisconsin law offers some protections that would make it hard, but not impossible, for a bottler to begin shipping Wisconsin water far from the state.

Public outcry stopped the Perrier plan a few years ago, it's true, but the operation ended up in Michigan, where Nestle, under the Ice Mountain brand, ships an unlimited volume of Great Lakes water far and wide in containers less than 5.7 gallons each.

We haven't heard the last of this issue in the Great Lakes region, or in Vermont, or in many places around the country and world where demand for water, and its profitability, is growing fast.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Do We Want Clean Air And Water, Or Is Life-Threatening Pollution Acceptable?

There is the predictable wailing among the 'sky-is-falling' crowd about the burdens of meeting new clean air and water standards that will get more mercury and fine particulate matter (soot) out of our air, water, lungs and fish fries.

How many of the apologists for existing levels of air and water pollution were clucking at the images of the dirty water and grey skies in Beijing during the Olympics, but are willing to accept levels of pollution here that could be reduced?

You'd think these new standards and rules, and the health benefits they are based upon, would be met with universal praise and relief, since mercury and particles from tail piles and brake linings and diesel engines don't discriminate by politics when they get into one's respiratory and circulatory systems.

Actually, they do, as asthma rates are higher in central-city neighborhoods near freeways, and low-income populations, including immigrants, tend to over-consume tainted fish in waterways near coal-burning power plants.

But we all breathe the air and drink the water, so why not ensure that these public resources - - and that is what they are, public resources - - are kept clean and safe?

[Updates: In an editorial to appear in the Thursday paper, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel agrees, recognizing the mutuality of a matter like clean air, but Assembly Republicans Wednesday blocked the mercury rule in committee. Nice.

Reports One Wisconsin Now's Robert Doeckel: "Assembly Republicans blocking the needed rules, which have already successfully been adopted in Minnesota and Illinois, include: Garey Bies, Scott Gunderson, Terry Moulton, Jeffrey Mursau, Lee Nerison, Jim Ott and Mary Williams. All Democratic members of the committee voted against blocking the rule. Republican Dan LeMahieu was absent."]

The safety and longevity of grandchildren and parents and friends and co-workers are important and worth protecting regardless of where they live, play in the park, jog or sit down for a meal of Wisconsin-caught fish.

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association had this conclusion about exposure to fine particulate matter:

"Long-term exposure to combustion-related fine particulate air pollution is an important environmental risk factor for cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality."

Shall we pretend the science doesn't exist, or will be get busy and deal with the problems?

Committing governments and industry to aggressively cleaning the air and water shouldn't be a partisan battle, a fight between environmentalists and business, or a struggle pitting left vs. the right.

It's an opportunity to bring about a cleaner, healthier Wisconsin.

Bush EPA Rule Illegally Allowed Air Pollution, Court Rules

The federal appeals court in the District of Columbia has ruled that the Bush administration, through an improper US Environmental Protection Agency rule, illegally permitted too much air pollution in states that wanted more air quality monitoring.

It's the Environmental Protection Agency, not the Environmental Pollution Agency, you know?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Debunking Oil Myths From Limbaugh, And Other Swift-Boaters

Here's a readable debunking of the election-year myths out there about oil being fomented by conservatives.

GM To Bring Out Hybrid Cadillac Escalade

And you wonder why GM keeps losing market share to Toyota?

A $71,600 hybrid that gets 21-21 m.p.h gallon city/highway?

Stop the madness.

US Department Of Energy Says Proper Tire Pressure Worth 12 Cents A Gallon

As I checked out my tires today, I thought what a silly idea it was for Barack Obama to suggest that properly inflating your tires could save money and gas - - multiplied millions of times by the number of vehicles in America.

Imagine touting what the US Department of Energy has on its website.

Or what George H. W. Bush was pushing during his presidency.

Yeah, what a goofy idea.

EPA Says Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee And Waukesha All Flunk Particulate Air Quality Standards

As I had been telling you on this blog since Friday, federal officials were getting ready to name expanded areas in the state that do not meet new air standards for hazardous particulate matter in the air we all breathe, and the list is coming out now:

Among the major population centers and their counties that are adding to the dirty air problems in Wisconsin - - Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Waukesha, among others.

Says the Associated Press:

'The Environmental Protection Agency said its review found Brown, Columbia, Dane, Racine, Waukesha and Milwaukee counties have unacceptable levels of fine particulate matter in the air or contribute to problems in neighboring areas."

That's a significant portion of the state and its population, and throws into stunning relief the state and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce efforts to get the feds to roll back air quality standards in the heavily-populated Milwaukee region - - an existing non-attainment air quality area.

[Update: Dane County announces a plan to combat particulate pollution. Details here. Since three of these counties - - Waukesha, Milwaukee and Racine are in their respective regions, both SEWRPC and the M-7 collaborative should immediately craft plans similar to that announced Tuesday in and for Dane County.]

The growing dangers presented by growing areas of non-attainment in Wisconsin also underscores the contradiction in state planning and spending that will add 127 miles of new highway lanes to the southeastern Wisconsin freeway system, where more diesel engines, and brakes on vehicles of all kinds, will throw harmful particles into the air and deep into your lungs.

$1.9 billion in added highway building and new lane expansion is scheduled to begin in January, for eight years on I-94 right through Milwaukee and Racine Counties, to the Illinois state line.

Related interstate rebuilding and expansion projects will also extend from the Jefferson County line east to and across Waukesha County and into Milwaukee County, eventually hooking up to the expanded Marquette Interchange.

Does anyone think building more highways reduces air pollution?

Given the state's progress towards alternative-source power research and generation, Wisconsin could be among the nation's leaders in pollution and greenhouse reduction if not for the political clout of the highway lobby.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has included this language in recent air quality alerts it issued due to unsafe levels of particulate matter:

"These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and wood fires.

"The Air Quality Index is currently in the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children.

"When an orange advisory for particle pollution is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities.

"People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms.

"Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure."

Ohio's Voting Practices Make Florida Look Good

Turns out precinct officials in Ohio had been taking voting machines home before elections.

Good lord.

Budget Is Status Quo At SEWRPC For 2009

There are no earth-shaking fiscal changes in the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Comission 2009 budget.

Overall annual spending from grants, contracts, agreements and receipts from the agency's seven member counties, based on their share of the region's equalized property value, falls 1.38% from 2008's budget, to $6,816,105 for 2009.

Consultant fees are down, salaries and other staff and building overhead costs are up, but the the implications of the spending are off the public radar because agency's budget for next year has been approved in typical, SEWRPC low-profile fashion.

Milwaukee County's share of the agency's $2,370,000 operating budget for 2009 is $841,885, virtually unchanged from 2008.

That continues to be the largest among the counties in total dollars and as a percentage of the SEWRPC annual operating budget - - 35.51%.

The Milwaukee County contribution reflects a miniscule drop of $3,640, or less than half a percent, from 2008.

No change either in the political structure at SEWRPC's Pewaukee-based offices, which basically shafts the City of Milwaukee.

Why?

The City of Milwaukee, with a population of more than 600,000 people, still has no representative on the SEWRPC board of 21 commissioners, but its residents, caught in a classic "taxation without representation" situation, supply through their property taxes close to half the Milwaukee County annual appropriation to SEWRPC, records show.

SEWRPC commissioners are chosen for six-year, appointed terms by the counties and the Governor - - three to each county.

Milwaukee's city population exceeds the individual population totals of SEWRPC's six, non-Milwaukee counties - - Walworth, Racine, Kenosha, Washington, Ozaukee and Waukesha Counties.

Without The Sixth Street Bridge, There'd Be No Harley-Davidson Museum, And More

New Urbanism and Old Urbanism 101, today's lesson:

Harley-Davidson's 105th anniversary motorcycle ride rolls into Milwaukee at the end of the month, and the new company museum at 6th and Canal Streets in the Menomonee Valley in the shadow of the iconic Sixth Street Bridge will be a major attraction.

It'll be easy for bikers and other visitors to get there, but the museum site could have ended up someplace much less cool.

For most of the 20th century, there was a flat concrete span across the Valley connecting downtown with the near south side.

In the 1990's, the state Department of Transportation wanted to rebuild the span with a similar structure that would move motorists over the Valley, period.

Former Mayor John Norquist fought the state over the design. He wanted a completely different bridge that would let traffic dip into the Valley.

He knew that new intersection would trigger development and that an old-fashioned, one-dimensional span would continue to block and devalue the Valley below.

And he wanted a structure that also accommodated people on foot and bicycles.

It's a long story, but Norquist prevailed, and the new bridge has won awards for its striking appearance.

It also set off development in the newly, more-accessible Valley, and gave Harley-Davidson the option to locate its museum there.

The struggle with the state and the eventual happy outcome proved that cities are more than land to be spanned.

Get yourself onto the streets where there is commerce and culture. State road-planning shouldn't obstruct that essential definition of what a city is all about.

And public structures can be functional and beautiful. There needn't be a contradiction there.

The key to the new bridge design was its multi-purpose connection to the city's street grid.

Now you can get into the Valley, not merely over it. You can arrive at the museum from the bridge at street level, or go the other way to the west on a widened Canal St. to the businesses in the Valley, including the Potawatomi Casino and Miller Park, or to the Henry Aaron State Trail.

(Canal Street is still the quickest and most pleasant route to Miller Park from several directions: Don't tell Cubs fans, who still inch along I-94 to Miller Park's lots.)

When the old regional postal service complex next to the glitzy post-Amtrak, Intermodal transit station is demolished (yet another facility that Ald. Bob Bauman, and Mayors Norquist and Tom Barrett all forced the state to accept instead of an uninspired box), the value of whatever is built there - - probably a mixed housing-and-retail complex - - will be greatly enhanced by the museum and the rest 0f the energized, greened-up Menomonee Valley.

But it all began with the bridge, and Norquist's insistence that it connect to the Valley.

Wind Power Plan Shows There Are Alternatives To Coal In Cassville

A major wind farm proposal shows that the Cassville power plant planned by Alliant Energy needs far more analysis and studies of alternatives.

Either Wisconsin is serious about cleaner power-generating alternatives, or it isn't.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Read To The Last Line

In newspaper jargon, a final, punchy quote is known as a good kicker.

Read this story for a fine kicker, as applicable for the subject city of the story - - the District of Columbia - - as it is for Milwaukee.

Is The State Journal Repeating A Story The Capital Times Produced Weeks Ago?

The Wisconsin State Journal has a story about anglers, including non-English speaking immigrants, who are eating too much toxin-laden fish from Madison lakes.

Pretty similar to a story the Capital Times produced last month, and that I posted on my blog, here.

The State Journal even used as a source the same community organization - - The Madison Environmental Justice Organization - - whose advocacy the Capital Times cited.

Granted that the State Journal interviewed anglers along Lake Mendota, while the Capital Times focused on those a couple of miles away on Lake Monona, but c'mon:

Whatever happened to enterprise journalism?

Dangerous Particulate Pollution In Some Wisconsin Counties To Be Declared Extensive, Feds Will Say

I posted this Friday, and now am updating it:

Remember all those dirty air alerts our region has been experiencing - - sample from this winter, here - - especially when it comes to the fine particulates that are a serious health hazard?

I'm told that federal authorities have been studying the issue in Wisconsin and will say the particulate pollution problem is more extensive than believed earlier, and may extend to more counties that do not meet acceptable air quality standards.

It'll be noteworthy on its own, but also in relation to the plan to widen I-94 south from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line, a plan that will put more particulates in the air.

And also interesting in light of the state's petition to the US Environmental Protection Agency, and pleas by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, to ease air quality rules in the southeastern Wisconsin and Milwaukee region.

The DNR includes worrisome descriptions of particulate matter and its hazards when it issues air quality warnings, such as this one issued for Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties in a March, 2008 alert:

"These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and wood fires.

"The Air Quality Index is currently in the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an orange advisory for particle pollution is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities.

"'People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms.

"Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure."

Madison Toilet Purchase Incentive Might Save A Lot Of Water, Money

Madison's Water Utility may offer $100 payments to users willing to purchase low-flow toilets, and if enough people subscribe, the water savings could erase the need for a new well.

Global Warming Continues Despite The Deniers' Claims

Talk radio continues to tell us the planet is cooling because Denver hasn't had a sustained heat wave. Nor hava Madison, Milwaukee and some other North American cities that often have periods of sweltering temperatures.

Here's the catch: the world is bigger than the US, a basic fact of geography and politics that neo-cons and other far right commentators just keep on missing.

Worldwide, the climate picture extends beyond what's happening in Denver, Madison, Milwaukee or other American municipalities.

Planetary temperatures year, and in July, have been among the warmest on record.

And worldwide fossil fuel consumption and combustion - - in the US, China, India - - along with forest burnoffs and other major releases of greenhouse gases - - is contributing to a warming planet.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

When State Senate Releases Leave You Wondering

I know that politicians promote their districts, but egad.

Yee-Haw! Frank Lasee Wants To Drill Under Lake Michigan

Thanks to OWN's Robert Doeckel for posting this Frank Lasee keeper.

The Green Bay-area Republican state representative wants to see oil and gas drilling equipment along and under Lake Michigan.

Door County might be nice. Or along Bradford Beach, near the Calatrava Museum addition.

The kids at UW-Green Bay and Milwaukee could get training in spill cleanups, too; sounds like your proverbial win-win to me.

Sometimes we deserve to be called cheeseheads.

Low Tax States Preparing Fewer Kids For College Work

State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), has dragged out that tired "tax hell" red herring again, and lauds states like Montana, Colorado and South Dakota that have lower tax rates more to her liking.

I've spent time in those states, and they are indeed gorgeous and have a lot going for them.

But how well do they provide public services that we here in Wisconsin want, like education?

Some data is suggesting that these tax heavens may not be as desirable as Lazich suggests, or where you'd want your kids to go from high school to college.

It turns out that Wisconsin, which does spend heavily on education, does a better job preparing its children for college than Montana, Colorado and South Dakota, according to ACT testing data.

Here are the percentages of ACT-tested students that are successfully prepared to do college-level work in these four subjects - - English composition, algebra, social sciences and biology:

Wisconsin, 30%; South Dakota, 28%, Montana, 26%, Colorado, 20%.

All lower than what you'd hope for, but where would you want to be on that list?

Where would you want your college-bound students to have gone to high school?

There is substantial variation among the number of children tested in the states, and variation also among the separate disciplines' scores - - for example, in preparation for college-level algebra, the numbers are Wisconsin, 56%, South Dakota, 50%, Montana, 59%, and Colorado, 30% - - but the point is that taxes do provide valuable services that most people and families demand, from education to fire protection to law enforcement to public health.

Basically, you get what you pay for, and there are situations where if you cut corners and do everything on the cheap, the consequences are more far-reaching than having saved a few bucks as a shopper or homeowner.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wind Power Still Stymied In Wisconsin

People say they want cleaner-air alternatives to coal-fired power plants, but getting wind power siting rules established to everyone's satisfaction contines to be a struggle, explains the Daily Reporter.

The Road To Sprawlville, Chapter XIX: Good-Bye Maple Leaf Farms, Racine County

Maple Leaf Farms has sold off 570 acres in Union Grove, a small Racine County village five miles located west of I-94.

Some of the buyers are apparently farmers, while others are looking to put homes there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cool Rain Barrel Auction Offered By Sustain Dane

Just a few days left to join an auction for some artist-decorated rain barrels through Sustain Dane. Website and information here.

Milwaukee, Area Air Quality Dirtier Than We Knew

Remember all those dirty air alerts our region has been experiencing - - sample from this winter, here - - especially when it comes to the fine particulates that are a serious health hazard?

I'm told that federal authorities have been studying the issue and will include the Milwaukee area and other counties among those facing this serious health risk and falling into non-attainment status by failing to meet standards.

It'll be noteworthy on its own, but also in relation to the plan to widen I-94 south from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line, a plan that will put more particulates in the air.

And also interesting in light of the state's petition to the US Environmental Protection Agency, and pleas by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, to ease air quality standards in the non-attainment area that includes the Milwaukee region, but now could expand, sources say.

Stay tuned...

Correcting Kevin Fischer: It Could Be A Full-Time Job

The conservative blogger Kevin Fischer, who is also staff aide to State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), posts a personal blog on the Journal Communications FranklinNow.com community news website.

He posts about food, music and politics.

One of his favorite government targets is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and he and I have had a virtual debate, if you can call it that, over his use of the terms Nazi and Gestapo to describe the DNR - - descriptors that are insensitive and inaccurate, to say the least.

Anyway, Kevin is off and running again about the DNR, and I am glad to see that this time he has managed to criticize the agency without putting them on equal footing with the people who started World War II and carried out The Holocaust.

Call that progress.

What's notable to me about Kevin's posting, other than the weird type faces and design that remind me of those cranky unsigned letters that arrive without signatures and return addresses, is his incorrect assumption that I always praise the DNR.

His exact language is that I am "the biggest DNR butt-kisser in the entire state of Wisconsin."

Pretty silly-sounding for an adult, let alone someone who, in his day job, might be called upon to serve as office liaison between a Senate district and the DNR, but as to its accuracy, let's just say that I know plenty of people in the DNR who would say I've been tough on the DNR.

I have copied out five of my blog items with their titles in the URL so you can get a flavor of some of the criticism I have leveled at the DNR over policy issues if you don't want to take the time to read them.

Truth is, I call 'em as I see 'em.

Sometimes the DNR deserves accolades, and sometimes not, but if Kevin were to take the time to read these items, and others I have posted, he would see that he is uninformed about some of my analyses of the DNR.

The link samples are below:

http://thepoliticalenvironment.blogspot.com/2007/07/item-1-for-incoming-dnr-secretary.html.

http://thepoliticalenvironment.blogspot.com/2007/11/wetlands-destruction-okd-in-franklin.html.

http://thepoliticalenvironment.blogspot.com/2007/12/dnr-wants-to-be-law-unto-itself.html.

http://thepoliticalenvironment.blogspot.com/2008/02/dnr-wants-to-give-sprawl-planners-even.html

http://thepoliticalenvironment.blogspot.com/2008/05/on-again-off-again-swan-shootings-dnr.html.

Other County Executives Should Support Dane County Falk's Alcohol Education Campaign

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk continues to lead on alcohol education in Wisconsin.

But where are the other County Executives, or District Attorneys, or Mayors, etc., et al in this booze-tolerant state when it comes to aggressive advocacy for sobriety on our highways?

And elsewhere in a state wracked by alcohol abuse.

One public official who has thrown off the cloak of denial is not enough, and every agonizing story about a drunk driver wiping out an innocent driver or cyclist keeps proving that point.

Bio Fuels Technology Startup Launched At 30th St. Business Incubator

Paradigm Sensors, an award-winning company in a 30th St. industrial corridor business incubator operated by the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, is poised to make a significant impact in the alternative energy field through the introduction of innovative biodiesel fuel testing equipment, according to company and NWSCDC officials.

This is a first for the green economy in Milwaukee, where alternative energy businesses can create jobs and add value and wealth to the community

The market for alternative fuels has grown significantly in recent years as an alternative to higher-priced traditional motor vehicle fuels that can also reduce the carbon footprint.

Because of this market growth, there is a significant need for efficient testing to ensure that biodiesel products meet producers, engine manufacturers, and users’ specifications.

Using technology developed at Marquette University, Paradigm Sensors’ i-SPEC Q-100 Handheld Biodiesel Analyzer allows users to test in the field for key biodiesel parameters - - in real time.

Biodiesel is currently evaluated by taking a small sample and shipping it to a lab for expensive, time-consuming analysis.

i-SPEC, which offers fast and reliable results, will reduce the time and expense of testing and confirm that the biodiesel on the market is high quality.

R&D Magazine recently selected i-SPEC as a 2008 R&D Award Winner, naming it one of the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace during the past year.

As the market for alternative fuels continues to prosper, Paradigm Sensors will expand its contribution to the biofuel community by introducing products that measure other critical fuel components.

Also of note: NWSCDC's Milwaukee Technology Incubator Center, where the i-SPEC is centered, was created through a unique "co-locating" agreement with another fir,, DRS Technologies.

DRS is an anchor for the 30th Street Corridor and is reinvesting in its plant. and growing.

All in all, a great addition to the alternative energy field in Wisconsin, and a coup for Milwaukee and the 30th St. Industrial Corridor.

Check out the company's website at: http://www.paradigmsensors.com/

(My son Sam works at NWSCDC).

Capital Times Notes Sheldon Wasserman's Environmental History, Leadership

The Capital Times examines the State Senate race between incumbent Republican Alberta Darling, of River Hills, and State Rep. Sheldon Wasserman, a Milwaukee Democrat - - and notes Wasserman's long-standing leadership on environmental issues.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cincinnati To Bring Back Its Streetcars

Add Cincinnati to the growing list of cities bringing back their streetcars, or adding light rail and other transportation amenities.

By a unanimous vote of its rightwing talk radio jocks, and support from suburban legislators, Milwaukee has been forbidden from either bringing back its streetcars, adding light rail or initiating commuter rail.

Driving Keeps Declining, Transit Demand Increases - - But You Still Can't Get There From Here

More data about transit's advantages in the era of $4-per-gallon gasoline, a steady story the last few months.

But where are the direct bus routes from Milwaukee to, say, the New Berlin Industrial Park, or other sites in Waukesha County, where there is job growth?

Route #9. Cancelled, 2008.

Route #6 to the New Berlin Industrial Park. Cancelled, 2004.

Downtown Milwaukee to downtown Waukesha, a run between the two largest cities in their respective counties?

At the recent City of Milwaukee Common Council hearing on selling water to New Berlin, a Waukesha County Housing Authority official testified that many Milwaukee residents get discouraged about relocating to Waukesha once they realize that they'd have to take the Greyhound bus to get from Milwaukee to Waukesha.

Yet Milwaukee is encouraging more growth in these areas to its west through Lake Michigan water sales, but without transit connections as a quid pro quo.

And the state is forging ahead with the regional $6.5 billion freeway reconstruction and expansion plan throughout Southeastern Wisconsin without a companion plan for transit expansion.

It won't even redirect $200 million, or about 10% of the cost of the next phase of freeway building from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line - - as requested by Milwaukee's Mayor and Common Council - - into a commuter rail line in the same corridor that has been proposed and studied to death.

All at the time that driving is declining and transit demand is accelerating.

Despite all the talk about the need for regionalism, the discussion does not extend to transit.

Pretty disappointing.

DNR Approves Rainbow Springs Purchase. Outstanding!

The Department of Natural Resources Wednesday approved one of the largest land purchases outside of northern Wisconsin when it committed $10.8 million to buy the 970-acre Rainbow Springs parcel in Waukesha and Walworth Counties.

This is a major environmental advance for the state and southeastern Wisconsin, providing hiking and hunting land, wetlands restoration and expansion of open space in the oft-degraded Kettle Moraine.

There are some small-minded ideologues in the farthest, fringiest outposts of the Blogosphere's rightist extremes who think anything the DNR does is evil and totalitarian.

No doubt, these naysayers will gripe about what the DNR is doing.

Joining these nattering nabobs of natural resource negativity is Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, always looking for an angle to promote his unannounced but active grasp after the Governor's Office in 2010.

As a diversion from the continuing pension scandals swamping his administration, Walker yammered the other day about the Rainbow Springs purchase being a bad deal for taxpayers.

As the author of a string of red-ink stained budgets, he would know, wouldn't he?

Those know-nothings aside, the Rainbow Springs purchase with state stewardship funds (a lasting gift from the bygone era of bipartisanship, led by former Governors Warren Knowles and Gaylord Nelson, and greatly expanded by Gov. Jiom Doyle), is a genuine, true step for regionalism because people with diverse interests, from big cities and small towns, will all find value and opportunity in this exciting acreage.

To the DNR: well done.

And to the probable critics - - dour, grim-visaged scolds who aren't happy unless they have something in the common good to complain about - - I'd suggest lacing up your hiking boots and checking out this wonderful addition to the public domain.

A couple of hours in in the great outdoors will put smiles on your faces.

Aurora Hospitals Violated Clean Air Laws, Pays $250,000 Forfeiture

Pretty sad commentary on the state of health care in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In The Land Of Tax Cuts And Small Government, A State Tax Windfall

New Berlin is home to some of the state's most rabid, small-government Republicans, but thanks in part to Gov. Jim Doyle's belief in public support for public schools, New Berlin will get an extra $3 million in state aid.

Hey - - there's your money for a better bus line to Milwaukee County or some affordable housing.

[I know, I know, it's money for the schools. Just making a point,]

Michael Savage AM Radio Despair Predicted

On his nationwide rightwing radio talk show, Michael Savage routinely decries the loss of political power in the US by white males - - something of a straw man ratings ploy, if you will - - but this story predicting that whites will be in the minority in the US by 2042 will have the head of the Savage Nation in tears.

We here in Milwaukee will probably miss most of Savage's late-night rant tonight, as the Brewers are on the West Coast playing the San Diego Padres.

A pity.

Five-Time OWI Offender Gets Substantial Prison Time

Which is exactly where he belongs - - off the roads, out of his bull-dozing truck, and his victims' apartment, too.

Passive-Aggressive Blogging Is All Wet

Patrick McIlheran, the Journal Sentinel's in-house conservative columnist, tees up Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines as "genuinely thoughtful," then suggests Hines' opposition to selling water to New Berlin indicates the Council President doesn't know what he's talking about.

McIlheran labels Hines "one of the least fire-breathing, most soft-spoken pols in Milwaukee, a genuinely thoughtful man," but by the opening of paragraph four, begins with "I'd correct Hines..."

So much for being called "genuinely thoughtful." When you see writing like that, look out for the passive-aggressive writing coming your way.

I had posted Hines' release about the New Berlin water deal yesterday, and played it straight, in two paragraphs, here.

McIlheran argues that moving water to New Berlin will not necessarily move jobs and development with it.

Growth has been following transportation and infrastructure capacities for many, many years, from rail lines to paved roads to electric wires to sewer lines - - and water is no different.

Milwaukee's water, treated with ozone gas, is the best around, and suggestions that Oak Creek or Racine offered serious alternatives was clever bargaining by New Berlin, but little more than that.

If Milwaukee chooses to sell water to areas beyond its borders, especially with its own perimeter frozen by a special law that applies only to the state's largest city, it has to make a calculation about whether the sale is in the city's long-term interests.

Failing to make the decision using the best data available - - and this was among Hines' points, as the city approved the sale before it hired experts to advise it on what the water was actually worth - - was certainly a cart-before-the-horse process.

McIlheran is correct that availability of treated water is not the only factor in a business or homeowner's decision to locate or invest.

But to suggest that it isn't in the mix, or to argue that the issue is made irrelevant by the region's needs is willfully blind to multiple levels of reality, and to Hines' first and highest obligation as Common Council President, too.

The argument that moving water to New Berlin is good for the region would have more credibility if everyone in the region had relatively equal access to growth, jobs and housing there - - but there are 87,000 Milwaukee residents without access to an automobile, there is no direct bus service to New Berlin, and there is little affordable housing there for working Milwaukeans, especially those without cars.

Hines' statement indicated that New Berlin, as a seeker of Milwaukee-supplied water, was supposed to have made progress on those issues, and had not - - a matter McIlheran has overlooked.

McIlheran would also have you believe that the free market guides all, but a host of government programs, from publicly-funded roads, to mortgage and property-tax deductions, to taxpayer-financed sewer extensions and now to water service all are influences private sector and homeowner choices.

Not to mention the relatively newer forms of public subsidies to developers - - Industrial Revenue Bonds - - or Tax Incremental Financing, which that originally designed to reduce blight but that often has financed projects in neighborhoods where the only "blight" was found in a dictionary.

Millions in TIF funding, for example, helped turn 1,500 acres of agricultural land into the planned community known as Pabst Farms.

Was that the free market or government-subsidized development that encouraged subdivision builders, a hospital and other businesses to build and locate at Pabst Farms?

And to have successfully lobbied the state to promise a $25 million Interstate interchange for the as-yet-to-be-constructed Pabst Farms upscale shopping mall?

Hines' statement suggests he's looking for data on which to make the most informed decision, and balance in the equations.

Advantage, Hines.