Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Government Decisions Push Wealth To The Suburbs

Government is at it again - - pushing growth and wealth away from Milwaukee to richer suburbs - - and in the process, paving over some of the remaining open space in a highly-urbanized area.

Decades earlier, local and state agencies decided Children's Hospital and much of the region's hospital cluster - - a huge employer and provider of basic services - - would be transferred from Milwaukee's near west side to Wauwatosa.

Two fresh examples:

First is UW-M's decision to locate a new engineering school on the County Grounds, also in Wauwatosa, accelerates the trend.

If you're a young faculty member recruited to teach at the new school, are you likely to buy a condo on the East side, or downtown - - or will you buy in Wauwatosa, or Brookfield?

Will you grab lunch on Downer or Oakland Avenues, or might you instead head to Mayfair or the new hotel ticketed for  school expansion in the County Grounds?

Whether it is highway expansion, construction, or institutional expansion, the public sector plays a major role in big-picture economics as well as individuals' spending.

And in this case, UW-M and the County government joined forces to further chip away at the City of Milwaukee's economy and reward Wauwatosa's.

Some will argue that the school location is secondary to the region's benefit, and that if engineering and research firms sprout up next door to the new school, as planners hope, everyone wins.

I would argue that what will trickle back to Milwaukee will be minimal, and if spinoff development is the goal, locating the new school downtown - -  closer to Marquette, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, or major firms like Rockwell - - would have made much more sense.

The retail, commercial and employment realities, opportunities and needs of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa are hardly equal - - regardless of their close geographic proximity - - and government is continuing to make the separation more profound.

Second example: The approvals by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the cities of New Berlin and Milwaukee to send Lake Michigan water to central New Berlin under the terms of the Great Lakes Compact.

New Berlin could see $1 billion of new development in the area where the water is headed; the thousands of jobs and new homes to be created there will benefit from the surety and quality of the water delivery.

Q.  Are the benefits more to New Berlin, Milwaukee, or the region.

A. New Berlin.

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