Monday, April 27, 2009

Fine Print, Skewed Interpretations Block Milwaukee From Stimulus Funding

Fine reporting in the Journal Sentinel today explaining why Racine and Milwaukee, where the state and region's poor are concentrated, are getting shafted in the distribution of federal transportation funding.

We saw this a few weeks ago, when regional planners tried to make River Hills and other upper-income suburbs priority designations for regional transportation stimulus spending - - even though Milwaukee should have taken precedence because it is an economically distressed area that stimulus legislation says is priority #1.

The bigger picture here is that Wisconsin's Department of Transportation continues to see Milwaukee as a trucking corridor, so the WisDOT priority is pouring money into the interstate system.

And the regional planning commission is still dominated by suburban staff, commissioner representatives and spending goals.


jpk said...

"To me, it's critical that a fair amount of money comes back to Waukesha County," Vrakas said. "You need to take care of areas that are economically generating money."

Here's a comparison of personal income by county (2006 figures)...

Milw County $32 billion
Waukesha County $18 billion

Using Vrakas' rubric, then Milw County should get the majority of stimulus funds. I won't disagree.

For Wisconsin's largest cities to get shafted in stimulus funding is deplorable, both from a social justice and economic standpoint.

I wonder if Doyle's reelection has anything to do with the DOT pushing stimulus $ in affluent (Republican) areas of the state. Is Doyle just angling for votes?

PurpleAvenger said...

DOT is wrong.

The citation from the stimulus bill on how Economically Distressed Communities are defined is Ch 42, section 3161 of the U.S. Code. And here's 42 USC 3161:

(b) Political boundaries of areas
An area that meets 1 or more of the criteria of subsection (a) of this section, including a small area of poverty or high unemployment within a larger community in less economic distress, shall be eligible for assistance under section 3141 or 3149 of this title without regard to political or other subdivisions or boundaries.

So: the City of Milwaukee, and other economically distressed communities within counties that are not distressed, should indeed be getting priority for projects. It's a serious concern if WisDOT is ignoring that