Monday, February 5, 2007

Doyle's Upcoming Focus on Milwaukee - - The City or the Region?

In his state of the state speech last week, Gov. Jim Doyle had this to say about Milwaukee and the need for state government to focus resources in the state's largest metro area:

"Whether you live in Milwaukee or Marinette, the future of our state’s largest metropolitan area affects you. For Wisconsin to thrive, we need a strong and growing Milwaukee. It is a great and vital city -- our center of culture and commerce, the hub of our economy. Yet Milwaukee also faces unique challenges. Unless our entire state joins together to help meet those challenges, our entire state will suffer.

"Next week, I will join with leaders in Milwaukee to announce a comprehensive strategy to help the Milwaukee metro area to succeed and thrive. From supporting kids, to cracking down on violent crime, to creating jobs and investing in infrastructure, I’ll ask you to join me in making an investment in Milwaukee for the sake of all Wisconsin."

The City of Milwaukee does need special attention from state government because the city, and especially its core, is where most of the state's poverty is concentrated. State government can do more as a partner to alleviate this situation.

But Doyle's intentions will fall short if his proposals echo the regional drumbeat heard so frequently in the metro area. That is because as well-intentioned as many of the regional efforts are, they rely on a version of trickle-down economics that inevitably will supply greater rewards to the wealthier, suburban portions of the metro area.

Development projects - - hotels, big box stores, conference centers, water parks, subdivisions, shopping malls and manufacturers - - are being announced everyday in the outer portions of the metro area.

Those are the very communities which have cut themselves off from Milwaukee and its large pool of low-income workers with restrictive zoning, costly housing and gaps in the transit system.

Doyle's rhetoric and fiscal policies need to focus on the City of Milwaukee - - not just on behalf of Milwaukee, but as the Governor correctly said, for the entire state, too.

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