Friday, October 23, 2009

Regional Cooperation, Waukesha Style: "No!"

In case you missed it, note the negative, no-way headline in this Waukesha Freeman column about buying water and meeting Milwaukee's regional, cost-sharing interests, too.

The headline: Waukesha should look elsewhere for water if strings are attached to Milwaukee deal

That echoes an earlier Freeman editorial - - I will dig it out - - urging Waukesha to stay out of a regional transit agreement because it might help Milwaukee.

In fact: Here's the entire editorial - - just substitute water for transit and you get the drift:

Waukesha County should stay out of regional transit authority

Waukesha Freeman
June 28, 2008

Regional leaders, including some from Waukesha County, were involved in several discussions this week to discuss regional transportation issues.

The Waukesha County Action Network held talks about funding transportation and regional leaders attended a summit in Milwaukee to discuss transportation and mass transit.

We’d like to address a few items that came up during the discussions:

First of all, while we are fine with regional partnerships and cooperation, we remain firmly against Waukesha County being part of a regional transit authority.

It doesn’t make sense and is not in the interest of Waukesha County residents is to establish a regional transit authority that has the power to raise your taxes and will have aims that mostly benefit Milwaukee.


In regard to mass transit, all efforts that affect Waukesha County should be based on automobiles and buses.

The idea of light rail should be derailed for good. It just isn’t practical.

The expense and inflexibility of such a system are deal breakers. Instead the focus should be on buses. We could potentially see a future where someone opts to go downtown Milwaukee via a hybrid doubledecker bus instead of a car.

But if that doesn’t happen and no one uses the buses, at least there won’t be all kinds of expensive light rail tracks going unused.

Here’s the best idea that came up during the discussions this week:

“Maybe we have to just leave Waukesha County out of the RTA now and once they see how well it works, hope they’ll be clamoring to get in.” – state Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale.

Don’t count on too much clamoring from out west, Jeff. But, yes, leave Waukesha County out of it.


Here’s the worst idea that came up this week, this one from another transportation panel:

Transportation experts said Wisconsin needs to implement toll roads because the state doesn’t have enough money for road repair and construction in the region. Just think, all those taxes you pay and there still isn’t enough to fix our roads.

By the way, is there really anything about Illinois that we want to emulate?


There’s a buzzword that was floating around the discussions this week: NEGATIVITY.

Leaders repeatedly referenced Mark Belling’s recent Freeman column critical of mass transit. But instead of taking his opinion into consideration, many of the leaders chalked it up to the NEGATIVE climate surrounding the regional transit issue.

This dismissive attitude from some of these leaders toward those who oppose a regional transit authority is arrogant and condescending.

The reason there is negativity toward a regional transit authority is because it is a bad idea that would cost taxpayers a lot of money. Of course, we realize we will now be labeled as part of the NEGATIVE alliance against light rail and high taxes. We can live with that.


There certainly can be some good that comes from all of these leaders getting together.

We call on Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson and Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas to continue the discussion but to stand up for Waukesha County’s best interests.

Those interests do not include getting roped into a regional transit authority.

Instead, let’s try a different approach.

Let’s find a way to get the most out of the connections being made with other regional leaders through these discussions. There is a need to think regionally. There’s no doubt about that.

But the best way to go is for the communities to find common ground as neighbors, not join together to create a new transit system.

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