I spent a few days recently in and near Santa Fe, NM, and believe me, they take water conservation there seriously.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Great news. I should go out of town more often.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:12 PM
Friday, May 29, 2009
The Joyce Foundation is spreading this good news.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:39 PM
Thursday, May 28, 2009
A victory for transit connections:
Posted by James Rowen at 5:22 AM
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The blogger and Great Lakes expert Dave Dempsey, from Minnesota by way of Michigan, notes that New Berlin's diversion application approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Thursday offers a pledge of conservation rather than a program, in place, with demonstrable gains.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:09 AM
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
You read between the lines of this comprehensive piece, and you don't see a strong voice in City Hall slowing down the water privatization deal-making.
Once the consultant gets hired, and that person or firm puts the deal together, it's done.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:40 AM
Government is at it again - - pushing growth and wealth away from Milwaukee to richer suburbs - - and in the process, paving over some of the remaining open space in a highly-urbanized area.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:56 AM
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Here's a sample of commentary following the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' approval of New Berlin's diversion of water from Lake Michigan.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:05 AM
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Every four years, the Federal Highway Administration comes to town to review the performance of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:22 AM
The legislature didn't do the greatest job of policy-making when it set up the first Regional Transit Authorities, but with differing taxation and geographic boundaries.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:45 AM
Friday, May 22, 2009
Great letter. Check it out.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:58 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 10:38 PM
A coalition of organizations is making the case that nuclear power plants are expensive and dangerous.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:08 PM
Ain't situationality a great way to figure out when's the right time to grant people their rights?
Posted by James Rowen at 3:59 PM
Wisconsin (and municipalities) will be cutting programs, laying off workers, adding taxes, boosting fees and doing just about anything to face the recession's realities.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:46 AM
The City of Milwaukee, anticipating future water sales under the Great Lakes Compact to communities like Waukesha that lie completely outside the Great Lakes basin, begins advertising Friday for a contractor to put a value on the water.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:37 AM
Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson was clear at a Thursday water policy conference hosted by the Public Policy Forum that the city's application for a Lake Michigan diversion will be forthcoming before the end of the year.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:05 AM
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Milwaukee County supervisors, taking the money and running, approved selling land at the County Grounds to build an engineering campus that will split its programming between a relatively remote site near the county line and the current East side City of Milwaukee campus.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:34 PM
The Public Policy Forum's "Politics of Water" panel discussion Thursday at the Crowne Point Hotel yielded some news:
Posted by James Rowen at 3:40 PM
For weeks, Rush Limbaugh has been the GOP's defacto media face and Overall Public Blowhard.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:15 AM
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Legislators say they have a package of OWI reforms designed to combat our state's boozy and bloody behavior on the highways, but if you look at the details, it's a very weak approach that cannot be reasonably defined as comprehensive or effective.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:47 PM
Ventura mops the floor with Hannity - - on Hannity's show.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:43 PM
John Keesecker, from Food and Water Watch, Washington, DC, spoke on WUWM-FM's "Lake Effect" program a few days ago.
The context is the solicitation of proposals sought by the City of Milwaukee's Comptroller, Wally Morics, for contractors to lease the Milwaukee Works.
A link to the interview is here.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:25 AM
You can talk all you want about nuclear power plants, but the truth is that no one wants to pay for, or insure them.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:06 AM
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Tomah Journal shows, again, why it is one of Wisconsin's journalism gems.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:32 PM
Today on Milwaukee talk radio I heard local talker Jeff Wagner fret about the new federal fuel efficiency standards adding thousands and thousands of dollars to the cost of new cars people won't want, and Rush Limbaugh further fretting about consumers being forced to buy multiple "putt-putts" to load up all the kids and groceries.
How about some facts, in the form of a simple release from the Union of Concerned Scientists:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
Aaron Huertas, 202-331-5458
PROPOSED CLEAN CAR STANDARD WOULD REDUCE EMISSIONS, CURB OIL DEPENDENCE, SAVE CONSUMERS MONEY, SCIENCE GROUP SAYS
WASHINGTON (May 18, 2009) -- The White House today released details of a plan to develop ground-breaking regulations that would require the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation to work together to dramatically reduce heat-trapping emissions from the nation's cars and trucks.
Analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) indicates that, compared to staying at today's fuel economy and heat-trapping emissions levels, implementing the standard outlined in the plan would:
--curb U.S. oil dependence by about 1.4 million barrels of oil per day by 2020, nearly as much as we currently import from Saudi Arabia.
--cut heat-trapping emissions by 230 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, equivalent to taking 34 million of today's cars and light trucks off the road that year.
--deliver net savings to consumers of $30 billion in 2020, even after covering the cost of technology improvements, based on a gas price of $2.25 per gallon.
--deliver $70 billion in net savings in 2020 if gas prices spike to $4 per gallon again.
"When candidate Obama went to Detroit, he told the automakers what they needed to hear - they had been making bad choices, and as president, he would steer a new course and revitalize the industry by bringing more fuel efficient vehicles to market," said Michelle Robinson, director of UCS's Clean Vehicles Program.
"Now President Obama is delivering on his promise to strengthen the auto industry, while reducing vehicle pollution and our dependence on oil."
Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer with the program, said automakers can use off-the-shelf technology, including cleaner engines, more efficient transmissions, better air conditioning systems and cleaner fuels, to meet the standards.
"This agreement is the breakthrough the nation needs to cut carbon emissions and help consumers deal with volatile gas prices," Kliesch said.
"Automakers have the technology they need to meet and beat these standards while saving consumers billions."
David Friedman, the program's research director, said the proposal was a long time in the making.
"This is an historic day for clean cars in America," he said.
"President Obama has brokered a major agreement by working with states, EPA, DOT, the auto industry and environmental leaders. These first ever national global warming standards for cars and trucks will help revolutionize the auto industry. Everyone involved deserves credit for making history."
The announcement also protects state authority and paves the way for automakers to drop their litigation against state standards.
"Without aggressive action from California and so many other states during the years when political will was absent from Washington, the plan announced today would not have been possible," said Eli Hopson, Washington representative for the program.
Union of Concerned Scientists
Midwest Office Director
Midwest Climate Campaign Director
1 N. LaSalle St., Suite 1904Chicago, IL 60602
312-578-1750 x 13
Posted by James Rowen at 9:10 PM
Good grief: Obama's winning on credit card reform, too.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:19 PM
Retired military leaders understand the relationship between national security and our dependency on petroleum.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:54 PM
The legislature is going to have to a do a great deal more than OK some ignition locks for some OWI offenders to make a dent in the state's drunken-driving culture.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:23 PM
I began hearing a couple of weeks ago that planning discussions about locating the new UW-M School of Freshwater Science at the former Pieces of Eight restaurant site - - along with some some private sector water industry offices - - included a hotel in the complex.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:09 PM
Nicely-designed water issues news blog.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:53 AM
Details from healthylakes.org, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:02 AM
Pres. Obama keeps on keeping his campaign promises.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:42 AM
Monday, May 18, 2009
Freeman columnist Pete Kennedy touts the long-debated, just-approved $51 million Waukesha Bypass.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:30 PM
Mike Nichols on why same-sex marriage makes political sense for the GOP.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:55 AM
Sunday, May 17, 2009
That would be the County Grounds and the Pieces of Eight lakefront site, each for new schools.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:18 PM
Congress will soon pass a six-year, multi-billion dollar reauthorization for transportation spending nationally, and there is more pressure than ever to communicate with Congress and help transit get a bigger piece of the pie.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:34 PM
Amid all the news about failing banks, torture and the rest of the Bush administration legacies, it's important to remember that some good things are happening, too.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:58 AM
Saturday, May 16, 2009
He doesn't like it when you challenge his argumentation.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:51 PM
There's something touching and infuriating about this story.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:12 PM
I posted news Friday that the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission will, in fact, add what is called a socio-economic analysis to its draft regional water study.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:03 AM
Friday, May 15, 2009
Ken Yunker, Executive Director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), confirmed by telephone today that the agency will add an independent socio-economic analysis to the draft regional water supply study that had gone out for public comment earlier this year.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:08 PM
Patrick McIlheran argues that we need more ways to move people through cities as the solution to congestion.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:20 PM
Excellent analysis about the ramifications of compromises emerging on health and energy issues.
In short, business is dealing on these issues because they know change is coming, and the old-timey GOP isn't around to help.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:50 AM
People clamor for lower taxes.
And public budgets and payrolls are shrinking because sakes tax revenues and property tax base collections are shrinking.
No doubt the Right thinks reality is matching up with ideology.
But man, oh man, do people ever want public services when the need arises.
For example, who do you think is paying for all that swine flu testing?
Or this: A City of Milwaukee HAZMAT team rolled through the East side yesterday - - in expensive equipment, with highly-trained firefighters - - because a gas cloud emerged from a UWM laboratory.
Definitely not a situation for neighbors to attack with garden hoses and window fans.
Major cities provide these specialized services, along with employees that fill the potholes, pick up the garbage, inspect restaurant kitchens and perform a multitude of tasks that make neighborhoods desirable.
And we are more than glad to be taxed for them.
And the same goes for county, state and Federal services, too.
Most people want lowered taxes, but don't want a diminished service environment, either.
So in this era of furloughed public employees and trimmed services, be careful of getting what you wish for.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:14 AM
State Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin), uses her Journal Communications FranklinNow.com blog to bring us details of a recent carp shooting, along with an album's worth of photos of herself at the event.
Proof that not everything about one's self deserves to be on the Internet, or without some moderation.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:30 AM
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Faculty responding to a poll found reasons to dislike moving portions of the Engineering program to the County Grounds in Wauwatosa north of the Zoo Interchange.
Spinning, UWM officials say not to worry - - it's just research that'd move there.
Oh: That'll take care of the objections.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:36 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 7:31 PM
In the 1980's, I covered aviation safety for the Milwaukee Journal and wrote story after story about the very issues revealed in this winter's crash in Buffalo, NY, of a Colgan Air/Continental Express Dash-8 commuter plane that killed 50 people:
Pilot training that didn't exceed Federal Aviation Administration minimums.
Sleepy, inexperienced, low-paid pilots unable to react quickly to bad weather or other stressful conditions, particularly on take off or landing.
Poor cockpit management (chit-chat side-by-side, as conditions deteriorated and the landing approached) and coordination between pilot and co-pilot.
Most aviation accidents involve what used to be known simplistically as "pilot error," which we now know to be very human mistakes when relatively unforgiving events like equipment failures, bad weather or a combination of factors cascade quickly to disaster.
What's heart-breaking about the Buffalo crash is that the FAA has not moved assertively to require of owners more intensive flight simulator training and other safety-minded upgrades to company programs governing how pilots are selected, trained, monitored, evaluated, and - - crucially - - how they are matched up in cockpits.
The two-person crew at the controls of the doomed Dash-8 had relatively few hours flying that type of plane.
The 24-year-old co-pilot was making $23,000 a year. Both pilots were commuting to their New York-area base from far away - - Florida and Washington State - - and were fatigued before they took off.
The best pilots - - like the heroic US Airways Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger who glided his enormous and powerless Airbus safely into the Hudsom River - - rise to the top of the major airlines, flying big jets above the weather and earning good salaries.
Younger, or lesser pilots, are too often flying those very shorter-hop commuter runs where there is a greater number of potentially problematic take offs and landings and also more lower-altitude, rigorous flying - - the very circumstances where weather and danger can come faster, more furiously and perhaps fatally.
In icing conditions above Buffalo, without enough rest, experience, team work and luck, an over-matched crew lost control of their airplane, and 50 people died.
It's really not hindsight to say it shouldn't have happened.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:04 AM
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Nicely-done editorial endorses a needed re-write of the US Clean Water Act sponsored by US Sen. Russ Feingold.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:59 AM
Tax money - - for highways and water diversion - - is set to pour into Waukesha County.
Which is the base of the state's Republican Party.
Any Democratic policy-makers making these connections?
Posted by James Rowen at 9:57 AM
Some months ago, I put up a posting, based on some very well-sourced information, that said the Wisconsin Department of Transportation would be pleased to spend the stimulus dollars sure to come our way, but without staff to engineer and manage the projects, it would farm out more work to outside contractors.
This is because WisDOT says it does not have enough in-house employees to handle the tasks, yet the stimulus program was going to increase road-building in the state.
Today, the Journal Sentinel is reporting that state auditors are finding out that more and more state highway engineering work is indeed being farmed out to contractors - - who cost more than would state employees.
More...as in millions of dollars more.
As I said in January, "k-ching, k-ching."
Posted by James Rowen at 6:01 AM
From Keith Schmitz, Northshore progressive:
CALLING ON A HIGHER POWER -- Solar Panels to Be Installed on Local Church
North Shore Presbyterian Church, (NSPC), in Shorewood, will be going green and using less electrical power thanks to solar panels that will be installed and activated Wednesday May 13th and Thursday May 14th. NSPC will be the first church in the Milwaukee Northshore to utilize solar power to augment its electrical needs.
The nearly $50,000 project was made possible for the over 55-year-old building, thanks to anonymous donations, along with additional support from Focus on Energy and We Energies.
According to analysis prepared for the project, the 30, 5.4 Kw Kyocera photovoltaic solar panels will reduce CO2 emissions at NSPC by 5.42 tons annually. Estimated electrical savings for the congregation are estimated to be $1,000 a year, reducing the church's electrical usage by 10 to 20%, depending upon the time of the year.
The installation is being performed by H & H Solar Energy Services of Madison. A Fat Spaniel monitoring system will give real time performance information on the system.
North Shore Presbyterian Church is located at 4048 N. Bartlett Ave. in Shorewood.
For more information, please contact the undersigned.
KR / PR Inc.
Phone -- 414.963.0847
Posted by James Rowen at 12:41 AM
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The Public Policy Forum's Rob Henken, echolng the national debate, offers some thoughtful discussion about whether regional governance can be made to work here.
I agree that the recent decision-making process that ultimately distributed some regional transportation dollars offered a glimmer of hope for regional outcomes.
I'd still rather first see Milwaukee, and perhaps with its urbanized neighbors, such as Racine County to the south, create a new regional body that could have representation and agendas that reflect their populations, rather than a reconfigured SEWRPC that keeps its crazy-quilt seven counties (rural Walworth, Washington and Ozaukee Counties, for example, stitched to Milwaukee).
But keep the debate going.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:16 PM
Folks living south of the City of Waukesha will finally get their easier north route to I-94.
Everyone should have the quickest access to the nearest Interstate, don't you think?
Even in an era of less driving and declining subdivision demand, right?
And wouldn't you know that there's one of those pesky wetlands in the way.
Damn you, panfish!
Planners apparently have a way around the problem, if need be: they can redesign the bypass in a configuration that will approximate the route taken by Oliver Stone's magic bullet in his film "JFK," turning the bypass into something resembling a "Z."
But there shall be a bypass, in part because your town or village or city hasn't really been anointed by the state transportation department until it has provided you, at taxpayer expense, with a bypass.
Heck, even Mineral Point has one - - between the booming metropoli of Dickeyville and Dodgeville, to the tune of $70 million.
You don't see this kind of persistence, or creative routing, when it comes to transit connections in Waukesha County. And elsewhere in the state
When obstacles to transit present themselves, the response is, "well, that's the way it goes."
Or: "how on earth would we pay for that?," a question that is never a problem for the DOT.
All told, for the bypass, we're looking at a boatload of local and state tax expenditures - - and the generous DOT will cough up 75% of the tab - - for new pavement to and through and bypassing Sprawlville.
Credit Waukesha County Exec Dan Vrakas for picking pockets statewide for the project. Earlier proposals had the locals paying more, and Vrakas said "no," until the state, with money from the rest of us said, rolled over.
And all this is taking place in the very heart of Sprawlville, an area known for it anti-government, anti-tax-and-spend attitudes, but also where diverted Lake Michigan water could fuel more development.
In essense, the bypass is a key element in the Waukesha County long-range expansion plan.
Another is Lake Michigan water delivered into and outside the City of Waukesha's current water utility service territory, giving developers more reason to see annexation or hook-ups.
Another piece of the puzzle is the widening of I-93 through the count between the Zoo Interchange to the east and the Jefferson county to the west.
Already on the books, thanks to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
All in all, more than a billion dollars of induced sprawl, with public dollars.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:06 PM
I had blogged a few days ago about UWM setting itself up for a struggle over its desire to locate a new school of freshwater science on the lakefront where the Pieces of Eight restaurant was finally being removed from what had been an illegal intrusion onto the lake bed.
There are alternatives available that do not include the host of political/environmental/design/ issues on the Pieces of Eight site.
Bruce Murphy provides more details about how ugly that struggle could get.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:43 PM
I remember initially hearing about this sort of coalition-building after John Gard first lost a Congressional race to Steve Kagan in 2006.
Some GOP activists had simply counted on the GOP and the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and other large groups to raise enough money to buy ads and fuel campaigns, but now they feel out-organized at the grassroots.
Which is correct.
The problem is, or the reality is, that at the grassroots, people are not buying what the Right is selling on basic quality-of-life and fairness issues - - health care reform, environmental or conservation protections, and re-regulation of financial institutions.
People are sick of predatory practices and partnerships between big government and big business, exemplified by the Bush administration's entire two-term disaster.
Furthermore, getting people stirred up over immigration or gay marriage or abortion rights - - GOP, right-wing playbook material - - may make a shrinking GOP base feel good, but it's going to take more than tired ploys to win elections.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:19 AM
Monday, May 11, 2009
The monument builders will have their way out at the County Grounds in Wauwatosa, as a committee of the cash-starved County Board approves a $13+ million-dollar land deal.
This reminds me of the Madison Area Technical College's expansion at the Madison airport years ago, when the local tech board wanted a bucolic, picture-postcard campus far from Madison's downtown...bus connections...housing...retail amenities...culture, and so forth.
Which is why UWM never seriously considered downtown Milwaukee for this expansion even though there is square-footage galore, private sector facilities, and engineering and science programs at Marquette University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering nearby.
Once the higher ed powers-that-be get that monument-building fever, there are few antidotes.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:21 PM
Gov. Jim Doyle travels to Milwaukee to announce a stimulus grant to the city's water works Tuesday.
Announcement is at 11:30 a.m. at the city's southside treatment plant on Howard Ave.
[Tuesday update: I got a little ahead of things: What was announced was the availability of funding, and a competitive process. Still a good use of stimulus funding.]
Posted by James Rowen at 4:36 PM
The national transportation reauthorization is up for consideration in Congress, and unless members hear that people want more spending on transit, the road-builders are gonna win again.
Here's how to get your voice and opinion heard, thanks to a national coalition petition drive.
More information here, at T4America.
And that "T" is for transportation, not "tea."
Posted by James Rowen at 3:39 PM
As the area absorbs the news about patently discriminatory firefighter employment in the Milwaukee County suburbs, Gretchen Schuldt discovers a similar situation on the UWM School of Engineering faculty - - the same school that is now getting closer to white-flighting itself to Wauwatosa and the county grounds.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:21 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 2:30 PM
The Public Policy Forum is hosting a regional water conference on Thursday, May 21st, with an impressive line-up of policy-makers and advocates.
Details and registration materials, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:26 PM
The Journal Sentinel has a story that is both shocking and not: Of the 600 firefighters in Milwaukee County suburbs, one is African-American, and he was hired only nine months ago.
Suburban chiefs, while denying racist hiring - - and let's hope that the US Justice Department Civil Rights Division goes a little deeper into the issue than that - - say they cannot remember ever having an African-American in the fire service.
The story says that there are 12,000 African-Americans living in the eighteen suburban Milwaukee County communities - - you know the names: Franklin and River Hills, Greenfield and Oak Creek, and so on - - and their African-American residents make up 3.3% of those suburban communities' population.
You get into the surrounding counties, and the African-American population shrinks below that paltry 3.3% percentage.
Ozaukee County: 1.4%.
Waukesha County: 1.3%.
Washington County: 1.1%.
Go deeper into the US Census Bureau website date, and the effects are apparent of certain public, non-market factors, like legally preventing Milwaukee in 1955 from expanding by annexation, and disconnecting job centers, like the City of New Berlin's industrial park in Waukesha County, from direct bus service.
City of Waukesha: 1.3%
City of New Berlin: 0.4%.
Keeping going west but still in neighboring Waukesha County (using a different census website):
City of Oconomowoc: 0.3%. (Remember a few years ago when an off-duty volunteer fire chief and another off-duty firefighter in that general area chased an African-American fisherman off a public bridge? With a pistol and a German Shepherd. True story.)
City of Delafield: 0.1% - - six African-American residents of 6,472.
And some of you are still wondering why others of us been appalled at the ongoing, 34-year-delay by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) in writing a regional housing plan that would address and give credibility to affordability and expose discriminatory housing practices.
(See the counter at the upper-left of the blog home page for the actual data - - and yes, SEWRPC has created, after years of delay, broken promises and pressure, a committee to begin a roughly two-year study. The committee not long ago had its first meeting. More are scheduled.)
SEWRPC would be perfectly within its statutory mandate to assertively investigate the region's racial and economic segregation, but it chooses not to.
In 2007, SEWRPC grudgingly created an Environmental Justice Task Force, and only last week hired an outreach manager: both are supposed to facilitate communication with low-income and minority communities.
Little wonder that civil rights complaints have been filed over transportation and SEWRPC decision-making, policy planning, hiring, spending or appointing members to advisory committees that favor the suburbs with public dollars and other resources.
Or that some, including myself, have urged Milwaukee to withdraw from SEWRPC so that public agendas that include minority communities can get real study and action in a new, urban-focused body.
And why selling diverted Great Lakes water to growing Waukesha County communities like Waukesha and New Berlin will intensify the racial and income separation between the City of Milwaukee - - with its majority population of minority residents - - and the surrounding, sprawl-happy communities and counties?
Had SEWRPC included these socio-economic issues and others in its draft regional water supply study, its pro-diversion analysis and recommendations might have been different, or at least more fully-informed and useful.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:01 AM
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Fearing Pres. Obama - - and why, exactly? - - gun owners have stocked up against their invisible foes and created an ammo shortage.
This is not a new story - - guns sales began spiking as Obama was within striking distance of winning the Presidency - - but the madness continues.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:30 PM
A Chicago Tribune headline whining about upcoming traffic congestion on I-94 in Wisconsin is an odd self-parody, since traffic is perpetually congested in Chicago.
It's like the makers of Marlboro cigarettes (Philip Morris) complaining about second-hand smoke from Camels (RJ Reynolds).
Too bad the Trib didn't get to the real story: that hundreds of millions of dollars in the project's $1.9 billion construction and expansion budget are not justified by traffic data.
As pointed out by several groups in detailed comments to federal highway officials, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:15 PM
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel threw a bit of well-aimed cold editorial water on recent statements from Waukesha officials about why it could qualify for a Lake Michigan diversion.
The paper wasn't saying "no" to a diversion.
It was saying 'let's see more evidence' about water conservation and other diversion-related issues.
Governance by news release and PR spin (yes, Waukesha spends heavily on these services) is no substitute for public policy crafting that brings in real science and long-range planning.
Waukesha's diversion plan depends on building a pipeline, then a return pipe for treated water to Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa.
That creek empties into the Menomonee River downstream, and both have had their share of overflow issues.
The implications across-the-board have got to be understood, which I think is what the editorial board is suggesting.
And let's be clear, also, that Waukesha has years to go in writing an application for the diversion that must be reviewed favorably by all eight Great Lakes states.
The good news is that Waukesha has until 2018 to put into place a water delivery system that meets existing standards.
Plenty of time to get the whole thing right.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:51 AM
Friday, May 8, 2009
Boswell Book Company, keeping the Downer Ave. independent bookseller tradition alive, is open for business and building an email list.
Here's where you sign up for author visit notices and all sorts of other useful information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by James Rowen at 7:30 PM
The conversation about Waukesha's water supply issue is constantly framed around two choices:
Lake Michigan water.
Here is another example of that frame, though there is an internal logic there often absent from most of the debate.
There is a third option that should be brought into the discussion, especially since Waukesha has been given until 2018 to implement its solution.
That option is using the Fox River, which runs right through Waukesha, and which Waukesha currently uses as the discharge point for treated wastewater it sends down river to other communities that use it and discharge it again.
Wells placed at or near the river could provide Waukesha with everything it needs without the huge financial and environmental costs associated with diverting water 15-20 miles from Lake Michigan, and then discharging it into Underwood Creek - - and perhaps into nearby basements during heavy rain events - - for eventual return to Lake Michigan.
And the question of whether the Vernon Marsh could stay properly hydrated would be off the table, as Waukesha would continue its current discharge regime, thus keeping all its water supply issues within the context of the Mississippi River watershed where the city is, and not transfer Waukesha issues, troubles and needs to the Lake Michigan watershed.
This is not a matter of either or - - well water or Lake Michigan water.
Let's stop pretending that there are only scenarios to resolve Waukesha's long-term water supply issues.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:00 AM
The water system beneath the Nation's Capital city and its surroundings is an antiquated mess, says The Washington Post, and it mirrors infrastructure and water supply issues nationally.
While I don't think a parallel situation is driving the City of Milwaukee to consider leasing its water works, I do think that water systems generally face revenue shortfalls, disregarded infrastructure and water losses.
It's a genuine problem, because leaky pipes release water that has been piped and treated.
What a waste to know that valuable water is leaking.
Estimates to fix the country's water systems exceed $500 billion - - certainly a big number, but a mere fraction of what we spent on shock and awe in Iraq.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:05 AM
Better late than never: I forgot to post Dave Dempsey's excellent piece from last Sunday's Journal Sentinel Crossroads about continuing flaws in the Great Lakes Compact and its implementation, particularly in water-rich Michigan.
Here it is.
And here is Dave Dempsey's blog address:
Posted by James Rowen at 12:37 AM
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Rebuilding/adapting the County's under-utilized Downtown Transit Center at E. Michigan Ave. and Lincoln Memorial Dr. that is across the street from the Art Museum, and also the under-utilized O'Donnell parking structure.
That would put it on primo real estate within yards of the lakefront, but would get it off the Pieces of Eight site, and all the lakefront/Public Trust Doctrine legal/environmental/aesthetic messiness that new construction at the lakeshore would bring.
And it would link together water and transit: if you are serious about environmentalism, and attacking global warming, this would make UWM a pioneer and rebrand the city's downtown and lakefront.
Congratulations to the proposal author, Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry Broderick.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:11 AM
In Milwaukee, a compromise by a regional planning commission committee moved about $15 million in a $38.7 million stimulus transportation package to the City of Milwaukee.
Federal stimulus legislation says the money was to be spent in economically-distressed communities, yet some of the money will go to communities with very fewer low-income residents and unemployed residents than the City of Milwaukee.
The formula agreed upon by the committee was better than some earlier proposals, certainly; the compromise solution broke a stalemate.
Likewise, a compromise finally among smoking opponents and proponents is moving a statewide workplace smoking ban through the legislature.
Proponents wanted a ban years ago. Opponents balked, and obstructed, and finally won another delay to July, 2010.
Another compromise - - and another year+ during which a lot of restaurant and tavern workers and patrons will breathe other people's carcinogens.
I have no doubt that this delay will cost some people their lives, with the danger finally ceasing next July.
I know it's in the nature of the political system that compromises are made: In these cases, I wish there had been more substantive or faster solutions, but I give credit to the people who kept fighting the good fight.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:43 AM
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
There were plenty of regional public-works bureaucrats in the audience at Wednesday's regional transportation funding meeting, and a few were telling war stories from the concrete battlegrounds.
One fella was reprising to others what his local electeds did with a recent road project in a community outside of Milwaukee County:
"Five people came and bitched. They backed down. I mean, grow some gonads."
Posted by James Rowen at 4:00 PM
An advisory committee to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission voted 15-4 Wednesday to move the bulk of $38.7 million in stimulus transportation funding that can be allocated by local officials to the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
This is more in line with language in the stimulus statute that says allocation priority shall go to areas of economic distress - - which in that portion of the seven-county SEWRPC territory known as the Milwaukee Urbanized Area means the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
This follows weeks of wrangling during which state transportation officials and some legislators outside of the City of Milwaukee were promoting suburban allocations.
To achieve the vote, SEWRPC staff proposed including an existing methodology - - the relative amount of arterial street miles in the region - - that is used to distribute regional transportation dollars annually.
There is substantial overlap between where those lane-miles are located in the region, and areas of economic distress, as the City of Milwaukee has a great deal of arterial street-lane miles relative to many smaller communities, as well as most of the region's low-income and unemployed residents.
While some stimulus dollars will find their way to smaller and suburban communities, preliminary estimates are that about 40% of the funding will go to City of Milwaukee projects, and more dollars to Milwaukee County projects, which means a great deal of these funds will be spent where County Executive Scott Walker said there'd be no stimulus money spent.
Lesser amounts would be allocated to projects in Cudahy, South Milwaukee, West Allis, the City of Waukesha and in the County of Waukesha.
SEWRPC Executive Director Ken Yunker, whose staff drew up the proposal that passed with no rancor and relatively little discussion, said the goals were fairness, reasonableness and following the statute, along with getting projects underway.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who had argued at earlier committee meetings that the stimulus funding should be focused on areas of economic distress, did not attend the Wednesday meeting.
All told, communities had submitted requests to the committee totalling more than $213 million.
Most stimulus dollars are under the control of state officials, but the stimulus law broke out a portion for allocation by Municipal Planning Organizations, such as SEWRPC, that could be more responsive to grassroots concerns.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:52 PM