Sunday, June 22, 2008

Waukesha Freeman Backs SEWRPC

The Freeman, Waukesha's daily paper, published an editorial on June 19th backing the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) and dismissing any suggestion there is room for improvement or reform in the agency's structure or operations.

No surprise there. It will play well in Waukesha County, where SEWRPC and its leadership live and work, and will not play well in Milwaukee.

As several of us in the Milwaukee-centric" camp keep noting, City of Milwaukee taxpayers send more money to SEWRPC for annual operations than do five of SEWRPC's seven counties.

For Waukesha and the other counties, Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee are cash cows for SEWPRC.

The more we realize that it's a bad deal for us, and the more we are told the opposite by SEWRPC and its Waukesha beneficiaries, the more frequent will be the calls from Milwaukee for structural and policy changes at the agency.

Here is the editorial's text.


Planners deserve questions - but not of worth
By Freeman editorial board
June 19, 2008

After a flash of opinions and calls-to-arms that have likely received too much validity, some Milwaukee aldermen are questioning the worth of staying with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

Their argument, shared by some others in the Milwaukee-centric camp, is that the nearly 50-year-old organization doesn’t pay heed to the clout of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County in relation to the six other counties it serves.

Not just cutting off the nose to spite the face: Without Milwaukee’s involvement, it would be like lopping the head off a body of knowledge for the region.

Milwaukee is clearly the center of the region and gets due attention. However, it can’t thrive without counties like Waukesha, where many of its workers and financial backers live.

Although there are definite differences between the counties - Highway 83 in the town of Genesee would never be mistaken for National Avenue in Milwaukee - there is a vested interest to explore every avenue of benefit.

A prime resource is found in SEWRPC (the location of which in City of Pewaukee is purely arbitrary).

County supervisors here debated the worth of staying with the planners last year, though took no action. And we have wondered what level of attention Waukesha County gets in relation to its down payment that ranks second only to Milwaukee County.

But ultimately the planning organization gives the region resources, options and a historical perspective that might otherwise come at a premium.

A few positive recent examples are its two-year water study in relation to accessing Great Lakes water, research into a rural and metropolitan Wi-Fi system and assistance to Pewaukee and City of Pewaukee during its oft-reviewed merger discussions.

Others - notably, the push for an expensive light-rail system that might alleviate nothing but taxpayers of some more money - are not viable for the county. Though its ranks do make a case for that option sometime in the future, playing particularly in Milwaukee’s favor.

At least the planning group offers informed, documented choices. It’s something Milwaukee leaders should aim for instead of relying on fast talk and advisory measures that would cut ties and cut down SEWRPC.

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