Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Passive-Aggressive Blogging Is All Wet

Patrick McIlheran, the Journal Sentinel's in-house conservative columnist, tees up Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines as "genuinely thoughtful," then suggests Hines' opposition to selling water to New Berlin indicates the Council President doesn't know what he's talking about.

McIlheran labels Hines "one of the least fire-breathing, most soft-spoken pols in Milwaukee, a genuinely thoughtful man," but by the opening of paragraph four, begins with "I'd correct Hines..."

So much for being called "genuinely thoughtful." When you see writing like that, look out for the passive-aggressive writing coming your way.

I had posted Hines' release about the New Berlin water deal yesterday, and played it straight, in two paragraphs, here.

McIlheran argues that moving water to New Berlin will not necessarily move jobs and development with it.

Growth has been following transportation and infrastructure capacities for many, many years, from rail lines to paved roads to electric wires to sewer lines - - and water is no different.

Milwaukee's water, treated with ozone gas, is the best around, and suggestions that Oak Creek or Racine offered serious alternatives was clever bargaining by New Berlin, but little more than that.

If Milwaukee chooses to sell water to areas beyond its borders, especially with its own perimeter frozen by a special law that applies only to the state's largest city, it has to make a calculation about whether the sale is in the city's long-term interests.

Failing to make the decision using the best data available - - and this was among Hines' points, as the city approved the sale before it hired experts to advise it on what the water was actually worth - - was certainly a cart-before-the-horse process.

McIlheran is correct that availability of treated water is not the only factor in a business or homeowner's decision to locate or invest.

But to suggest that it isn't in the mix, or to argue that the issue is made irrelevant by the region's needs is willfully blind to multiple levels of reality, and to Hines' first and highest obligation as Common Council President, too.

The argument that moving water to New Berlin is good for the region would have more credibility if everyone in the region had relatively equal access to growth, jobs and housing there - - but there are 87,000 Milwaukee residents without access to an automobile, there is no direct bus service to New Berlin, and there is little affordable housing there for working Milwaukeans, especially those without cars.

Hines' statement indicated that New Berlin, as a seeker of Milwaukee-supplied water, was supposed to have made progress on those issues, and had not - - a matter McIlheran has overlooked.

McIlheran would also have you believe that the free market guides all, but a host of government programs, from publicly-funded roads, to mortgage and property-tax deductions, to taxpayer-financed sewer extensions and now to water service all are influences private sector and homeowner choices.

Not to mention the relatively newer forms of public subsidies to developers - - Industrial Revenue Bonds - - or Tax Incremental Financing, which that originally designed to reduce blight but that often has financed projects in neighborhoods where the only "blight" was found in a dictionary.

Millions in TIF funding, for example, helped turn 1,500 acres of agricultural land into the planned community known as Pabst Farms.

Was that the free market or government-subsidized development that encouraged subdivision builders, a hospital and other businesses to build and locate at Pabst Farms?

And to have successfully lobbied the state to promise a $25 million Interstate interchange for the as-yet-to-be-constructed Pabst Farms upscale shopping mall?

Hines' statement suggests he's looking for data on which to make the most informed decision, and balance in the equations.

Advantage, Hines.


Anonymous said...

pat also seemed to throw you a small bouquet by citing your post about the cornfield.

James Rowen said...


Anonymous said...

If jobs and development won't move with the water, as Paddy asserts, then why did NB pad its request for a greater amount of water for areas not currently served by sewer or municipal water?

P. Macky is not only passive-agressive, he's logic-deficient as well.