McIlheran Misses The Point
In-house Journal Sentinel conservative columnist Patrick McIlheran comes to the defense of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, but flunks Politics 101.
He opines that SEWRPC is merely advisory, but SEWRPC does more than offer advice.
It goes a long way towards setting the development direction and agendas in a seven-county region. In politics, whomever sets the agenda holds sway over the process and the outcome.
SEWRPC appoints its working committees, hires and directs consultants, establishes the ground rules and parameters for discussion and analysis and selects lists of alternatives from which the preferred option is selected.
All of which again and again helps create outcomes that play out across the region.
That's how power is created and exercised. It's a heckuva lot more than offering advice.
SEWRPC also enjoys a key federal designation that gives it added power when it comes to major highway construction, thus freeway expansion in the region could not proceeg without SEWRPC's stamp of approval.
That's more than offering mere advice to the state because SEWRPC's freeway expansion and reconstruction study will result in 120 miles of new highway lanes, along with development that reinforce suburban sprawl, speeds farmland conversion and starves transit of transportation department funding.
And SEWRPC exercises power, and has impact, when it chooses not to put an item on its agendas and calendars, like housing in the region.
No study since 1975.
McIlheran says people like me want a planning body that is a governmental boss.
What I argued for was equity in SEWRPC's governance for, as he labels us, "urbanists," for taxation with representation.
Leaving the City of Milwaukee off the SEWRPC board is a genuine weakness, though that was done by state statute. Maybe that can be changed with an amendment.
A better idea is a new commission with Milwaukee city or county at its core.
After 48 years of taxation without representation for urbanists, I'd say it's high time.
Failing to hire minority staff - - in fact, any seniot staff from Milwaukee - - or to orient planning agendas or attention towards Milwaukee and its minority population are self-inflicted wounds by SEWRPC's managers.
And continuing to spend urbanists' money without their input is a rip-off.
I do not respect much of the work of McIlheran, and I think local business interests need to step up and say: "Enough already! We will no longer support reactionary opinion, whether from the newspaper or on the radio." Conservative talk has had a nice run. And where has it gotten us? Nowhere, because it is mostly childish nonsense.
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