Monday, December 29, 2008

Editorial Shows Path To Comprehensive Regional Planning

In a posting Sunday, I noted the insufficiency of the SEWRPC water study and regional water supply scheme because these two linked ideas and goals leave out all the other major elements of comprehensive planning - - transit, housing and jobs.

SEWRPC is the Pewaukee-based Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, a suburban/exurban-dominated public agency on which the City of Milwaukee has no seats and votes, and on which the four least-populated of SEWRPC's seven counties can be a voting majority.

Ironically, just two days earlier, the Journal Sentinel editorial board crafted a profound, one-paragraph summation of the region's comprehensive planning needs in the context of the recession recovery.

Here is that editorial, and the specific graph, which I have set off in boldface:

"In rebuilding from the current recession, it will be critical for the region to physically connect workers to jobs. That connection needs to be made on three fronts: building jobs where there are unemployed workers, such as the inner cities of Milwaukee and Racine; building a better regional transportation system under one authority to transport the unemployed to jobs; and building housing that average workers can afford closer to jobs in the areas around Milwaukee."

The editorial notes the distortion of the housing market in Waukesha County, where 41% of that county's workforce cannot afford to live in the county that employs them, so they commute.

So the question of the day is:

Where in the regional water plan, which brings Lake Michigan water to Waukesha city and county is the companion plan for using that water to stimulate job growth in areas of high-unemployment, open up housing that is affordable, or to provide transit to make jobs more accessible?

Along with the fiscal balance sheet describing its piping and pumping and flowage costs is the social balance sheet indicating the housing, jobs and transit benefits the water sale and development increment can provide?

New Berlin hopes to gain a billion dollars in long-term growth from the smaller water sale it wants to conclude with Milwaukee: The probable sale to just the City of Waukesha is six times the New Berlin volume.

Huge opportunities are there for the benefit of tens of thousands of workers and homebuyers if the parameters of the plan and discussion are widened.

As they should be, since water is a public trust resource, and all the infrastructure dollars are public, too.

This is where SEWRPC fails the region: it intentionally left these issues out of its water study, as it left water needs out of its transportation and freeway widening plan, along with a transit piece there, too.

So what to do:

* Halt the water plan until these issues are approached and worked into a new plan.

* Restructure SEWRPC with a new mission - - genuine comprehensive planning - - and give it a different structure and management.

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