Thursday, February 28, 2008

Water Deal To Menomonee Falls Approved: Sky Did Not Fall

With very little fanfare, the Milwaukee Common Council has renewed its water sale arrangement with Menomonee Falls, despite some hiccups a few weeks ago at the Council committee level.

Despite the gnashing of teeth in some quarters, and predictions of the end of regionalism as we know it, Menomonee Falls' deal was re-upped, as was going to be the case.

There were so little fireworks when the vote came that Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had the story on page three of the Metro section in my edition.

Truth is - - Menomonee Falls was not, and is not, the sticking point when it comes to regionalism in these here parts on the water diversion issue, or other matters.

The early rhetoric about the pending deal, and the need to tie these arrangements to larger urban needs, like transit and housing and job opportunities, was aimed at other communities seeking water that do not have the best track records on recognizing that there are larger social and economic issues in the region that should be solved together.

Waukesha and New Berlin come to mind - - as I wrote at the time- - or other communities in the area likely to be folded into regional distribution of Lake Michigan water in new schemes being studied at the regional planning commission.

Communities that also have not been leaders in regional transit provision, or pushing the regional planning commission to get busy and update the regional housing plan that the suburbs have been content to have sat dormant since 1975.

What Milwaukee's Common Council and Mayor Tom Barrett are trying to communicate is that getting a valuable resource like water comes the need for reciprocity from the buying communities.

And not just the going rate of something like four cents per 100 gallons of water.

If there is to be real regional development in southeastern Wisconsin, and if that development is going to accelerate in the distant suburbs in part with Lake Michigan water sold by the City of Milwaukee, there needs to be a distribution of some of the water-borne benefits.

Sometimes that it called tax-base sharing.

State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin) one of the communities applying for a Lake Michigan water sale through Milwaukee calls it "extortion" - - not much of a negotiating tactic.

(One link touching on both tax-base sharing and Lazich's extortion screed is here).

And the GOP-run State Assembly is threatening to cripple the entire Great Lakes Compact, the very water management agreement that provides the quickest legal route to a diversion to Lazich's hometown - - an even worse negotiating tactic endorsed by the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce, Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas and others.

So Menomonee Falls will continue to get its City of Milwaukee water.

We'll see if New Berlin and Waukesha get the point:

Regional cooperation means give and take, not just take, take, take, and when it comes to the Great Lakes Compact, obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Menomonee Falls was always going to get water as legally the city had to continue supplying them water. That said the issue with the first contract was that Menomonee Falls had changed the contract giving them more benefits (regarding water use) but the City of Milwaukee got nothing in return. So the Alderman Bauman basically reintroduced the existing contract update with the new terms.