Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Citizens Should Not Have To Sue To Make Government Obey The Law

It says a lot about the way that federal and state governments have been forcing highway expansion onto the land and the general public that citizens have had to resort to litigation to get officials to follow the law, and to ensure an open process, when public funds, public hearings, public projects and public property are all in play.

That's the underlying paradox in this week's US District Court decision that found a pattern of illegality and injustice in the way state and federal officials have carried out the expansion of Highway J (164) in Waukesha and Washington Counties.

I remember meeting the Highway J activists in a meeting in Waukesha County years ago when they invited Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist to a meeting.

The activists had had a petition signed by thousands of residents along the highway corridor turned aside by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission - - this was during the McCallum administration - - and, in their disbelief at the way their petition had been dismissed, thought Norquist might have some suggestions about how to fight the power.

And these were homeowners, farmers, and everyday rural and suburban folk, not East siders or Story Hill city dwellers who had been fighting against SEWRPC indifference and WisDOT bullying.

So it's taken nearly ten years, but the Highway J activists, having had the widening shoved down their throats, finally had a good day in court.

But it shouldn't have come to this: governors of both parties in Wisconsin have given their WisDOT administrators carte blanche to tear up the land, pave the tax base, spend billions, overbuild highways, bypasses and freeways, and enrich contractors, with little regard to the interests of everyday taxpayers and the landscape.

I hope Judge Lynn Adelman's ruling gets wide attention in the state and across the country, and that policy-makers get the message:

Law first. Then common sense, equity and sanity - - by people who work for the public and should do the public's business without a judge explaining the errors of their ways.

1 comment:

Anon Jim said...

Am sure Lynn Adelman's ruling will get a lot of attention, especially if it gets overturned as so many of his are.