Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fiscally Conservative Waukesha Blogger Dislikes Milwaukee Water Sales Conditions

I saw the writer and blogger James Wigderson at last week's Waukesha public meeting on water diversion planning and wondered when we would read his take on the issue.

Unlike some conservative opinion-makers out Waukesha way, James is not an uncompromising ideologue.

The wait is over: in a Waukesha Freeman column, Wigderson is stunned at the estimated expense, and even unhappier that the price tag could grow because of the socio-economic/regional cost-sharing conditions that the Milwaukee City government has said unequivocally by resolution would apply should Waukesha strike its water acquisition deal with Milwaukee.

His headline (I had earlier said it was the paper's headline, but Wigderson corrects us in the comments, below, and thank you, Jim) on the blog posting that linked to his column speaks volumes about the Waukesha view of regionalism:

Don’t let Milwaukee extort Waukesha just for a cup of water


As I had noted on my blog, and to which Wigderson links, Waukesha's water policy public relations contractor, Martin Schreiber & Associates, has hired former Milwaukee Ald. Michael D'Amato to help communicate with the Milwaukee Common Council.

I've been hearing in the last few days that there is a division at Milwaukee City Hall over D'Amato's new Waukesha gig.

For every person who thinks it was a smart, inside move by Waukesha, there's another person who thinks it was too-clever-by-half, and will blow back onto Waukesha, not to mention on Mike, too.

From his Waukesha perspective, Wigderson worries that D'Amato will be too effective in communicating those Milwaukee's conditions to Waukesha leaders.

So there are contradictions, political fault lines and risks everywhere, it seems - - especially since buying water from Racine or Oak Creek as an alternative to Milwaukee and its conditions would mean buying lesser quality water and paying to pipe ir farther - - which is not what cost-conscious Waukesha really wants to do.

Like Wigderson said, the numbers are big for a community Waukesha's size without adding more money to contribute to housing, transit or related regional needs.

The big issues are a) whether the two cities can work together on a deal (and this presumes that all eight Great Lakes states will OK the Waukesha application, a prospect that is not a slam-dunk), b) whether the Wisconsin DNR will ever come off the sideline (it took a pass on writing diversion implementation rules) and exert some public-minded influence over Waukesha's diversion and wastewater return plan, and c) whether Oak Creek or Racine would be allowed by the DNR to expand their water treatment facilities to compete with Milwaukee's Water Works if Waukesha wants to make its deal there.

Put another way, would the DNR permit redundant, competing supply systems that tax and ratepayers would have to support?

Bottom line: Long way to go, folks.


The Big Bopper said...

From Widgerson: "Clearly the preference of Waukesha would be for D’Amato to explain to his former colleagues that Waukesha will not allow itself to be pushed around on subsidiary issues, and that selling water to Waukesha would be a boon to cashstrapped Milwaukee."

Waukesha: Try to remember how this negotiation is going to work. The SELLER will dictate the terms.
Milwaukee may be "cashstrapped" (sic) but that is not a permanent condition. Waukesha needing safe water to support more crap-strapped McMansion developments and business parks is Waukesha's problem. Not Milwaukee's. If Milwaukee's option is best for you than pay up. Or go buy the more expensive and lower quality water from Racine or Oak Creek. But make no mistake the BOON is to Waukesha as you continue to grow and attract new businesses, jobs, and residents at the expense of MIlwaukee.
Milwaukee selling water to Waukesha will, in the long run, continue the economic decline in Milwaukee that began 30 years ago.

James Wigderson said...

That was my headline on my blog where I posted the column. Their headline was, "Waukesha should look elsewhere for water if strings are attached to Milwaukee deal."

And to the Big Bopper, most of us recognize that growth in SE Wisconsin is not a zero sum game. A larger, more prosperous Waukesha will help Milwaukee in the long term, just as a more prosperous Milwaukee will be of benefit to the surrounding counties.

The Big Bopper said...

Mr. Wigderson-

Between 1994 and 2003 the area of Milwaukee just to the north and west of downtown lost 7% of its businesses and almost 7,300 jobs. During the same time period the "WOW" counties surrounding Milwaukee grew its number of businesses 15% adding almost 52,000 jobs. Explain how that is good for the residents and taxpayers of Milwaukee?