Monday, October 12, 2009

Milwaukee Is More Than Generous Financially With Regional Spending

Tuck away for a few moments the figure $82 million Milwaukee public dollars as a recent year's measure of invisible regional, cooperative support, and read on, if you will:

As the debate intensifies over shipping Milwaukee water to Waukesha, and let's be frank; the DNR's refusal to write rules governing the diversion application process gives Waukesha inside-track momentum - - you will hear a lot about the need for Milwaukee to be a willing, cooperative supplier because Regional Cooperation demands it.

In our region - - artificially defined for planning purposes by state officials more than 50 years ago as a seven-county urban/suburban/rural combine - - Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Walworth, Racine and Kenosha Counties - - Regional Cooperation often mean a dutiful sacrifice of resources by Milwaukee to the others.

Land downtown in the Marquette Interchange for wider ramps and new lanes tor suburban commuters?

Take what you need. Is eleven miles enough?

And the rest of the I-system, from Story Hill to the Zoo Interchange?

Help yourselves to homes, businesses and land worth tens of millions in taxable dollars.

But saving the lone bus route to the New Berlin Industrial Park?

Nope: can't afford that.

Light Rail that crosses 124th St.?? Oh, no way. Awful idea. Over our dead bodies.

Participation by Waukesha County in a regional transit authority?

No way.

Commitment to affordable housing? Hey: isn't that Milwaukee's role?

But making a water deal?

Why - - that's Milwaukee's obligation. It's Regional Cooperation 101.

New Berlin set the precedent, getting away with paying Milwaukee a payment (above-and-beyond the bargain water rates set by the Public Service Commission) $75,000 annually for 20 years - - a pittance, relatively speaking, that will not make a dent in New Berlin's affordable housing, transit and other regional imbalances.

But back to Milwaukee's existing, yet unrecognized regional generosity.

In 2005, Milwaukee commissioned a study to find out what share of its city contracting went to minority firms.

A small percentage, the study found.

But Waukesha County made out nicely, in part because many of the construction firms that do business in the city are based in Waukesha County.

Based on the year 2005, two-thirds of Milwaukee city construction contract dollars, and 47% of all $174 million contracting dollars - - $82 million - - went to Waukesha County-based firms.

You can read the county breakdowns in charts, here.

That's a hefty resource shift from city taxpayers to a county where isolating Milwaukee residents from jobs, affordable housing and other amenities and activities is traditional and often institutionalized, and Milwaukee-bashing can be good politics.

So let's remember that there is already a high level of resource-sharing with Waukesha by Milwaukee, and that there should be a bit more gratitude in the attitude west of 124th St.


Brutus said...

Prohibit the water bottlers (like nestle) from setting up shop along the corridor and the project will likely fizzle.

Fredo said...

Outstanding reporting. I can't understand why The City of Milwaukee and its residents just sit on the sidelines while the suburbs run up the score. Regional cooperation has always been at Milwaukee's expense. How much revenue will Milwaukee earn when Waukesha taps Lake Michigan water? Is this an opportunity for The City of Milwaukee to take a stand? Or will Waukesha just do an end-around and get their water from another municipality?