Why Sprawl Is So Dang Complicated, Expensive And Ubiquitous
Sean Ryan, the indefatigable chronicler of development in these parts for the business publication Daily Reporter, has a fascinating piece about one major homebuilder's efforts to win the full panoply of municipal services for its 29-acre parcel in the Town of Waukesha.
Meaning sewer, water, police, fire and street services.
To say that there are hoops to jump through doesn't really cover it, as there are permits, approvals, inter-governmental cooperation, finances and more to nail down... in a certain sequence.
What's really instructive about Ryan's piece is that it describes but one of the multiple, similar developmental examples in various stages underway across the region at any given time, explaining why the state is spending billions on roads crisscrossing the area.
And why legislators are cutting deals to make Lake Michigan water more easily available to certain communities in Southeastern Wisconsin, or why the regional planning commission (SEWRPC) is busy writing a set of wide-ranging recommendations that will make that fresh water supply a faster-occurring reality.
After SEWRPC used a million public dollars to write a 'transportation plan' for the region to add $6.5 billion in major highway projects, without a penny for transit, to match up with its existing landuse plan for the region's seven counties that made sprawl the SEWRPC territory's official policy.
All this governmental activity, paid for with public dollars, is to enable development on open land, because in the real world, government, road-builders and developers constitute a civilian equivalent of the military-industrial complex.
It's powerful, hard to fight, and combines power and money that is both inside government and serving it.
And this focus, this priority on developing open land with public funds to serve private interests also tamps down any serious debate about whether it's the best use of the land and the public dollars in the first place, or in the final analysis.
The more development, the more need there is for road-building, and vice-versa. And the development keeps the transportation and water utility bureaucracies expanding in a loop of subsidized self-interest inside and outside of government - - paid for by taxpayers, of course.
What a sweet deal for all these public and private sector insiders.
So thanks to Sean Ryan for the case study, and to those, like the Waukesha Environmental Action League, for example, who keep hauling out the big picture and urging their policy-and-decision-makers to at least think about it.
"All this governmental activity, paid for with public dollars, is to enable development on open land, because in the real world, government, road-builders and developers constitute a civilian equivalent of the military-industrial complex."
Right on. Good post.
The "conservatives" joke about the WPA paying people to dig holes and fill them in again. The development-industrial roadbuilder complex is the same thing, writ large, when we have existing roads that are built to last 5 years at best, while the Europeans build them to a 40 year spec, all the while the "conservatives" laugh all the way to the bank as they profit from an economy built on waste (the military-industry complex is the ultimate example of this).
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