Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Waukesha is going to have to improve the public information process it used at Thursday's roll-out of the Lake Michigan diversion plan.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:58 PM
For the same reasons that the Pabst Farms Uber-Mall has flopped in Waukesha County, so has the Cabela's been a disappointment.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:28 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 5:01 PM
Friday, January 29, 2010
Waukesha uses around seven-to-nine million gallons of water a day and wants permission from the Great Lakes states to withdraw up twice that amount: 18.5 million gallons daily.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:49 AM
Thursday, January 28, 2010
From Waukesha's City Hall meeting Thursday, where Mayor Larry Nelson, Water utility general manager Daniel Duchniak and some of the city's high-priced consultants disclosed a draft of Waukesha's $165 million Lake Michigan water diversion plan:
Posted by James Rowen at 10:46 PM
TMJ4-TV news this evening was teasing their upcoming report on the high-speed rail funding coming our way to build a line between Madison and Milwaukee.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:43 PM
Save the date: 2/4.
WISPOLITICS.COM/WISBUSINESS.COM PRESENTS "THE FUTURE OF SE WISCONSIN TRANSPORTATION AND ITS BUSIEST INTERCHANGE"
The Zoo Interchange provides connections between I-94, I-894 and US 45 in western Milwaukee County near the Milwaukee County Zoo. Built in 1963, it's the busiest interchange in Wisconsin with more than 350,000 vehicles using it daily.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is moving quickly to replace three interchange bridges and studying other possible changes to meet future needs.
What does the Zoo Interchange situation tell us about the transportation system in the region and the state? And how will state funding challenges and proposals for regional transit authorities impact those systems?
Next week's Feb. 4 event will feature a broad discussion about the future of Wisconsin's busiest interchange and its place in southeastern Wisconsin's transportation system.
This Thursday event is sponsored by the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin and co-organized by MMAC, UW-Milwaukee and WisPolitics.com/WisBusiness.com.
February 4, 2010 - 7:30 AM - 9 AM - Medical College of Wisconsin - Alumni Center
Keynote: Former Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Tom Carlsen
--Kenneth Yunker, executive director, Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, and temporary staff to the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority
--Craig Thompson, executive director, Transportation Development Assoc. of Wisconsin
--Gretchen Schuldt, co-chair of Citizens Allied for Sane Highways, a coalition opposing freeway expansion in Milwaukee
--Dan Devine, West Allis mayor and former Milwaukee Co. board member
--WisDOT representative (pending)
To register, go to http://www.mmac.org or contact:
Posted by James Rowen at 5:26 PM
The full draft plan is set for 7 p.m. release. The summary breaks no new ground, reiterating that the Lake Michigan option is the best.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:17 PM
Statement from Council President Hines, Ald. Bauman, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:52 PM
Questions that Waukesha's plan release tonight - - delayed as Waukesha changed consultants a couple of months ago - - and that probably will be less addressed by Waukesha than eventually by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, then the other Great Lakes states' reviewers.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:55 AM
No surprise here: a consultant hired by the Waukesha Water Utility finds a plan by the Waukesha Water Utility to send wastewater to Lake Michigan via Underwood Creek poses no environmental threat to Underwood Creek.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:16 AM
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
For the Madison-Milwaukee line.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:04 PM
Figures and analysis from One Wisconsin Now.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:48 PM
We keep hearing that firms like A. O. Smith are at the core of Milwaukee's emerging water cluster, but do layoffs along with growing company activity in China and India really portend good news here?
Posted by James Rowen at 5:05 PM
I blogged about it earlier, but let Rob Henken say what the Public Policy Forum is after with its report on the future of Milwaukee County.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:11 PM
Water supply planning in Northern Illinois looks far more publicly-oriented that what the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission is considering and sponsoring around here.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:49 AM
SEWRPC's housing advisory committee is meeting in the agency's cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all style: an occasional confab at which members review staff-written chapter drafts.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:54 AM
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorially takes the position that Milwaukee County's finances are so imperiled that abolishing the unit of government is the rational way out.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:39 PM
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett Takes his 2010 Gubernatorial candidacy to Madison Tuesday for a downtown fundraiser.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:29 AM
I was on several recent road trips the last year across the Great Plains, and the growth in the number of wind farms and turbines visible just from the interstate highways from the Dakotas and Minnesota south into Iowa and Nebraska is astonishing.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:03 AM
Monday, January 25, 2010
I was working in Mayor John Norquist's office when a plan including a theater complex for the Park East corridor floated out.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:28 PM
The Waukesha Water Utility will present to the public its long-anticipated draft application for a diversion of Lake Michigan water supply before the Common Council at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 28. The meeting will be held at City Hall, 201 Delafield St., in the Common Council Chambers.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:10 AM
Thomas Content at the Journal Sentinel reports on the plant's costs and benefits.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:34 AM
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Chicago is the only big city in American that does not disinfect its wastewater when it sends it down a tributary - - in this case, the already-controversial canal that artificially connects to the Mississippi River basin and from which the Asian carp may be invading Lake Michigan.
Now they have a new justification: it'll raise the wastewater agency's carbon footprint.
It's hard to imagine an agency deeper in denial, or one that is less deserving of renegade status.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:36 AM
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I'm no TV critic, but the 24-hour-cable news programs have been in full 'roid rage this week.
Righty shows on Fox deemed Scott Brown's Senatorial win a revolution, or the end of the Obama presidency, and other nonsense.
Tonight, Keith Olbermann on MSNBC - - and I am usually a fan - - said the Supreme Court's approval of corporate contributions to campaigns ranked up there in the legal Hall of Shame (my term) with the Dred Scott decision, and meant the end of American democracy.
I don't think Brown's surprising win or the Court's troubling ruling are the end of the world as we know it.
Fodder for amped-up TV commentators, sure.
But let's see what these stories look like in 12-18 months, and how many unanticipated consequences or unforeseen tangents emerged - - after the hype died down and the yelling or heavy breathing or sheer goofiness subsided.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:24 PM
I again note that SEWRPC's still got its old-timey, nearly-monochromatic and user-hostile website in place despite telling federal regulators at the end of 2009 that a better website was just around the corner,
But given the culture of indifference there when it comes to keeping the public informed, little surprise,.
Another shortcoming: other than name, appointing authority, county represented and term dates, there is no biographical information on the site about the agency's 21 commissioners.
Some of them have been there a long time, and have been spending millions of taxpayer dollars for years, but they might as well be anonymous.
Which I think is the plan, but for a planning agency with known outreach and communication problems, a pretty bad plan.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:46 PM
President Obama will be hosting in a couple of weeks a meeting of Great Lakes officials about the threat to the Great Lakes posed by the Asian carp.
Gov. Doyle was instrumental in getting the meeting scheduled.
This comes on the heels of the discovery of carp DNA in Lakes Michigan and Superior, indicating that all measure of electric barrier zapping and massive fish poisonings in waterway connections to the Great Lakes in recent months have failed.
And with the US Supreme Court turning down a multi-state petition to force Illinois to close a shipping canal's locks through which the predatory fish may entered Lake Michigan, it's unclear what will come of a White House meeting now.
Pick you fractured idiom: horse already out of the barn...cat out of the bag...you get the picture.
What's galling about the failure of the Great Lakes states to act decisively - - and we're looking at you, Illinois, since it is Chicago's shipping canal that is the probable offender - - is that media have been carrying stories for years about the carp's relentless swim northward up the Mississippi River and towards the Great Lakes.
Where $7 billion of commercial fishing and recreational businesses could be trashed by these hungry, 100-pound flying fish.
Take a look at this very comprehensive piece in the Michigan media - - from the summer of 2007.
Where was the White House meeting about the carp back then?
Oh, I forgot who was President then.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:20 AM
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I said "might," because the sales tax needed to finance it - - removing the cost from the property tax and bolstering the floundering bus system - - may end up being on the ballot again.
The sales tax plan that passed in a recent referendum was advisory, so it is not clear if that could count as taxing authorization. And surely there would be litigation, so I don't see Milwaukee County actually any closer to solving its bus and transit dilemma.
Larry Sandler at the Journal Sentinel has all the details.
And the issue will be trapped in the gubernatorial campaign, as Scott Walker, though overseeing the failing system, opposes the sales tax remedy.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:02 PM
Politcos and private sector water-based businesses are hosting a fundraiser for Haiti Thursday evening, beginning at 5 p.m., at Discovery World, on the lakefront.
Interesting and useful coalition.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:54 PM
I think Martha Coakley's losing Ted Kennedy's Senate seat is more about a disengaged candidate than national trends.
I've never heard of a candidate, in a short campaign, take a vacation, as Coakley apparently did. Voters will dismiss a dismissive candidate.
That said, Democrats, again, and again, have to refine their message, be true progressives and lead the country out of the recession.
Over at Great Lakes Town Hall.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:11 AM
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Attention all you regional cooperators out there: Milwaukee continues to serve as Waukesha's punching bag, as former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Darryl Enriquez opens his campaign for Waukesha mayor with the requisite kick at Milwaukee.
Aren't we all tired of this Milwaukee-bashing?
Here is his kickoff email to "friends."
From: Darryl and Ellen Enriquez [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, January 18, 2010 6:30 PM
To: Darryl and Ellen Enriquez
Subject: campaign message from Darryl
After much consideration, I have made the exciting decision to run for
Mayor of Waukesha - a city that for more than 25 years I have called home
and come to love.
For 25 years - as a father, a husband, a journalist and volunteer - I
have seen our community rise to challenges and exceed expectations.
Waukesha is at a crossroads. We can either pursue the policies
adopted by Milwaukee that have left neighborhoods in shambles
and a school system that has failed a generation of children or one
that embraces the individuality of our city and recognizes the ways
for our community to prosper in an ever-changing world.
That's why I am running for Mayor and hope you can help provide the
resources needed to run a successful campaign.
Waukesha's greatest asset and strength lies in our diverse
neighborhoods. My campaign is focused on keeping those neighborhoods
safe and not let them fall victim to crime and the resultant fear and
And to keep Waukesha thriving, we need to have a safe, sustainable
source of water that doesn't soak ratepayers or taxpayers and keeps
Waukesha free of policies that diminish our quality of life.
And to effectuate all of this, we need to restore fiscal sense and
accountability to city government. The city's budget needs to reflect
our families' ability to pay and respects the challenges facing
Waukesha in this economic downturn.
I have quickly learned that to keep campaigns running and to
effectively communicate our vision for Waukesha it takes a steady flow
As I continue to build a website to augment my message and as I go
door-to-door to talk to voters, every little contribution can help.
For years I covered the personalities and politics of Waukesha, but
now, I find myself one of those personalities. It can be daunting.
Knowing that the resources to campaign are available will help my
campaign focus on what is most important - making sure voters know
that I care as much about our community as they do.
Please take a moment to visit www.enriquez4waukeshamayor.com to learn
about our campaign and to see who else is supporting our effort. I
hope you will take a moment to consider sharing $25, $50, or whatever
you can to help us share our message with voters.
And please remember to vote in the primary on February 16!
Donations should be sent to campaign headquarters at 219 Arcadian Ave.,
Waukesha WI 53186.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:59 AM
The US Supreme Court declined Tuesday to order Illinois to close locks on a shipping canal that provide the gateway to the Great Lakes for a predatory fish, the Asian carp.
Weighing up to 100 pounds, the carp would overwhelm recreational and commercial fisheries, thus threatening economic and environmental damage across an eight state, two (Canadian) Province region.
It is possible the Court will reverse its order if there is actual damage attributable to the carp, though such after-the-fact action would be too late to stop the carp, as they have no known natural predator.
The ruling will be lauded in Chicago, until the first carp smacks a boater off the lakefront there.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:48 AM
Monday, January 18, 2010
The City of Milwaukee is accepting applications for the position of Sustainability Director, filling a vacancy created not long ago when Ann Beier, the only person to hold the job, decided to return to the west coast.
Here are the hiring details from the city website.
It's a good thing that the position will be filled, as City Hall needs a strong advocate for green jobs and strategies for both growth and environmentalism.
Especially as the city continues discussions with Waukesha, and the DNR, over how Waukesha's application for a Great Lakes diversion will be analyzed, and what sorts of negotiations will take place over water pricing and related matters.
Beyond the Waukesha issues, Milwaukee needs to position itself as a provider of green jobs, whether it be in high-speed rail, alternative energy production or in academe, so there is a need for technical and political expertise available to aldermen, the Mayor and as a liaison to the private sector.
Let's hope the city finds the person it needs because that person will be invaluable.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:38 PM
We can also measure the lack of progress on race relations during today's King Day reflection by grasping that Rush Limbaugh, the nation's leading talk radio personality, mouthed openly racial remarks in the wake of the Haiti disaster, with no remorse, and also very little criticism from more respectable conservatives, or Republican leaders.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:33 AM
I didn't live in Milwaukee when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968, but it doesn't feel like our city and its environs have made a lot of progress on meeting his goals.
Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties remain among the most segregated and separated two-county regions in the country; the City of Milwaukee remains beset by poverty that is concentrated here in part through exclusionary zoning codes, transit disconnects, and the intentional export of employment and capital further and further from the central city.
The Kerner Commission, created in response to the riots that struck the country after Dr. King's murder, said with some understatement that we were moving towards two societies, separate and unequal, and the Milwaukee-Waukesha County region continues to illustrate that intolerable reality.
This is not to say that there aren't people working on these issues every minute of every day.
Just that the effort has to be broader, and more intense, or our sadly bifurcated region will continue to stagnate - - economically, politically, morally.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:28 AM
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
A former senior aide to both Presidents Bush and GOP Presidential candidate John McCain speaks up as a conservative for climate change legislation - - now.
A must read from and hat tip to Repower America.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:10 AM
Friday, January 15, 2010
Readers of this blog know I am a fan of the regional blog Daily Yonder, and again I call attention to it by way of its reviewing an important book about the hateful practice of mountaintop removal to get at the coal below.
Review and details here.
Awareness about how we get the coal we turn into electricity, along with the consequences for the air we breathe and the climate we impact should go into our calculus in favor of renewable energy generators, like solar and wind.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:05 AM
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Waukesha's water-diversion blogging mouthpiece hauls out the tired chestnut that Illinois gets to take a lot of water from Lake Michigan without returning it - - without mentioning that there is a US Supreme Court grandfathering for the arrangement that Wisconsin fought unsuccessfully.
The blogger also forgets to mention that there is a new eight-state, two-country Compact in place that aims to rationalize additional diversions - - which the blogger should stand behind if he is really concerned about Great Lakes stewardship (my term, not used in the blogger's original text) - - that is designed to make sure there are not more, Illinois-style diversions of water.
And the blogger forgets to mention that Waukesha has said in some instances it might not return all the diverted water it is likely to soon seek - - during major storms, for example - - and my understanding of the Compact is that such co-mingling of waters is not permitted.
Again - - because the Compact is designed to preserve Great Lakes water, not find more reasons to flush it down the Fox River, where Waukesha currently dumps its wastewater and may elect to send some Lake Michigan water to prevent flooding along the tributary in Wauwatosa where its return flow would routinely be routed.
So let's have a higher standard of reasoning about Waukesha's water diversion planning, and adherence to Wisconsin's legal and environmental standards and laws, along with the Compact, beyond "Illinois is worse."
And though the blogger says that concern about Waukesha's probable plan is anti-suburbanism.
It's about beginning to support real Great Lakes watershed preservation and protection - - the lakes and tributaries included - - with standards and follow-through.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:49 PM
The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Commission is accepting proposals through 2/12/2010 for green roof projects within its service territory - - so businesses, governments and others within its 28 municipalities should get their applications in order.
Green roofs reduce storm water runoff and save the treatment system energy costs, too.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:58 AM
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
The UW Regents last week considered the County Grounds option for the new UWM Engineering school and related Innovation Center, but the way the latest plan is described to me, a private developer will be found to underwrite much of the project.
This entire deal looks shakier than ever.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:19 PM
Mark your calendars; Waukesha now says its draft Lake Michigan diversion application will be made public at its City Hall Friday, Jan. 28th., at 7:00 p.m.
It's announcement today indicates that the draft will undergo revisions into the spring;. I will post a link to the release when I have it in a form I can work with.
A couple of observations:
The application is a draft for several reasons:
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will have to sign off on Waukesha's return flow plan that utilizes Underwood Creek rather than a pipe directly to Lake Michigan or to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.
That review could take many months, or longer.
Secondly, no one has firmly established the costs of the diversion option as compared to other supply alternatives.
A final observation: the Waukesha announcement discusses the diversion's return flow as recycling - - a more environmentally-conscious phrase.
But Pr aside, it is not clear yet whether 'recycling' Lake Michigan water is actually the best use of the water in the first place, or can be done without harming Underwood Creek.
So let's be mindful about the language and terminology that accompanies what will be a long debate, aina?
Posted by James Rowen at 11:27 AM
There is more evidence that the predatory Asian carp are approaching Lake Michigan, with the new report showing a different route than the Chicago shipping canal being targeted by several Great Lakes attorneys general with remedial legal action.
No doubt those with a vested interested in keeping the shipping canal open and in carp-enabling status quo mode will use the new carp movement finding as an excuse to keep the Great Lakes legal officials and their US Supreme Court motion at bay.
Actually, it re-affirms that any and all means need to be taken immediately to keep these voracious and dangerous fish out of the Great Lakes.
Should they make their way into what is the world's largest system of fresh water, the consequences to commercial fishing and recreation would be devastating.
So it behooves Illinois and federal officials in charge of both waterways to use whatever means are available to block or kill the carp.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:14 AM
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
You'd think Illinois officials and their counterparts in federal agencies would have by now been implementing phase two or three of a full-bore Asian carp battle plan, but as the big predators approach the Great Lakes, denial and inaction is the principal stance.
If the carp successfully breach the electric barrier and enter Lake Michigan, a lot of (ir)responsible public officials will have a lot to live down, as they will have allowed the Great Lakes fishing and recreation industries - - worth untold billions across eight states and two Canadian provinces - - to suffer irreparable harm.
You'd think that fear of having that sort of mark on one's permanent record would have been motivation enough to marshall the resources and will to stop the carp's northern migration, but apparently not, as officials are still holding the kind of planning meetings that are years late.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:48 PM
A major wind farm moves closer to ground-breaking north of Madison, and its large potential moves the state closer to meeting the modest alternative/renewable energy goals established by the legislature and Gov. Doyle.
And also makes clear that the state can, as some legislators are suggesting, increase the percentage targets for the alternatives, thus making a real reduction in the state's burning of fossil fuels to generate power.
Wind power has its detractors - - ranging from naysayers who scoff at the entire notion to concerned neighbors with legitimate fears about negative effects.
So it's important for the state and the power companies to proceed with caution, but to to proceed, as coal-burning plants produce severe health and environmental consequences.
Furthermore, wind power provides green jobs in manufacturing and servicing, so the spinoff benefits abound.
I think within five years, wind turbine production and wind farm siting will be far less controversial and much more routine, so meeting more ambitious generation targets will simpler.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:56 PM
Monday, January 11, 2010
I am hearing that the City of Milwaukee - - having decided not to study the value of water it could sell to communities like Waukesha - - has decided at least at the committee level to study what it thinks it will cost a city like Waukesha to purchase water from the potential sellers Waukesha has said it might select as the ultimate supplier - - Milwaukee (preferred), and also Oak Creek and Racine.
Here is a link to the council file on the matter.
Both Racine and Oak Creek present Waukesha with problems not faced by Milwaukee, namely infrastructure, capacity, piping distance and water quality.
Which means the Racine and Oak Creek options, while perhaps real on paper, or in a bargaining ploy, are in fact not true or likely options.
I suppose the thinking behind the study is to be able to professionally second-guess Waukesha should it claim that Racine and Oak Creek are offering bargain-basement supply costs to Waukesha, necessitating a low-ball purchase agreement with Milwaukee.
It's not a bad idea, and helps establish a politically-acceptable deal with Waukesha fromf Milwaukee officiais, but fails to answer what value the water will add to Waukesha's tax base, employment rolls and overall growth.
And, no doubt, Waukesha is free to challenge the study's outcome.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:17 PM
Will one Alderman, County Board supervisor or legislator openly criticize the annual, $1,000 taxpayer-paid dinner thrown for its commissioners, staff and consultants at The University Club?
Posted by James Rowen at 5:07 AM
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Milwaukee is at the center of important business development opportunities that have a green basis - - Spanish high-speed train works, water innovation and now a wind-turbine complex.
The city needs to remain focused on these new energy opportunities because it has all the basics to take full advantage of a greener economy.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:31 PM
An anti-whaling protest ship gets its bow sheared off by a whaler.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:03 AM
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Consider that the Waukesha School District stands to lose tens of millions of dollars in a failed investment scheme, which means one or more of these things will happen, all with costs to taxpayers:
Posted by James Rowen at 12:15 PM
Cameron Davis, known in these here parts as the former executive director at the Alliance for the Great Lakes, talks about water issues and his appointment as President Barack Obama's senior adviser on the Great Lakes, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:34 AM
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Now it's all the Great Lakes states, except Pennsylvania and the target state, Illinois.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:10 PM
Weather forces the postponement of the joint meeting of two SEWRPC bodies: the advisory committee on housing and the Environmental Justice Task Force.
Parties interested in SEWRPC’s Environmental Justice :
In light of the weather forecast, Chair Adelene Greene and Commission staff have conferred, and decided to postpone tomorrow’s Task Force meeting which was scheduled for 4:00 PM at IndependenceFirst in Milwaukee. The National Weather Service for Milwaukee/Sullivan predicts a with heaviest snow Thursday into Thursday evening, and 7-10” accumulating over much of the Region. Our meeting location and travel routes for most attendees are centered in problem area due to predicted Lake-effect intensification.
Though no one can know the snowfall outcome at this time, we would not want to expose our many valued volunteers in the Task Force’s efforts to undue inconvenience or hazard.
We would like to reschedule the meeting for Thursday, February 4, 2010, 4-6 PM, hoping that the lead time will find calendars clear.
Regional Planning Educator
UW-Extension working with SEWRPC
Posted by James Rowen at 10:57 AM
Posted by James Rowen at 9:59 AM
Thanks to The Sconz.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:31 AM
Posted by James Rowen at 12:05 AM
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I missed this Business Journal story when I was out of town and want to post a link to it because it shows how the proposed UWM engineering campus on the Milwaukee County Grounds has evolved.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:43 PM
The Journal Sentinel's in-house conservative blogger and resident rail naysayer, quoting a known railophobe, laughs off high-speed trains, assuming that every short-to-medium range trip can be accomplished by airplane at 600 mph.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:57 PM
A hotel, conference center and water park slated for the very portion of New Berlin to be served by the diversion of Lake Michigan water that began last year has stalled, according to a report in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online publication.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:29 AM
Milwaukee County's park system suffers from deferred maintenance in the $200 million range.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:27 AM
Monday, January 4, 2010
That's how Mike Nichols sees it.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:40 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 2:28 PM
I will use the blog this week to reference documents from several Open Records requests, or commentary based on records or their requests.
Here is the first: an account of the close-and-easy relationship between the general managers of the water utilities in Milwaukee and Waukesha.
Now I know it makes sense that these officials exchange information, as the fraternity of water utility managers in Wisconsin is small.
And in this case, Waukesha's Dan Duchniak and Milwaukee's Carrie Lewis sit on the regional planning commission's water study advisory committee, where they both voted to approve a preliminary (hint: read as 'soon to-be-qpproved.') recommendation approving a sale of Lake Michigan water by Milwaukee to Waukesha.
You can read a lengthy description of the study's conclusion, here: Work you way to p. 57, fyi.
But is Dan Duchniak the best source of legal information for Carrie Lewis if she has a technical legal question about how diversion negotiations as spelled out in the Great Lakes Compact and in Wisconsin statutes?
Anyway: more later this week, including details of Waukesha's full court lobbying press in Milwaukee City Hall orchestrated by former Milwaukee Ald. Michael D'Amato, now a registered lobbyist working for Duchniak's Waukesha Water Utility through former Gov. Martin Schreiber's public relations and lobbying firm.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:52 AM
When Milwaukee decided about a year ago to sell Lake Michigan water out of the Great Lakes basin to New Berlin, the big city's Common Council also advertised for a consultant to help it determine the true value of water.
It did so because it had no economic basis upon which to evaluate a modest, so-called regional cooperation fee it eventually accepted from New Berlin - - $75,000 annually - - as compensation for the agreement above and beyond the per-gallon charges set by the State Public Service Commission.
The plan was a good one: have an expert's study in hand as an aide negotiating a far bigger sale with Waukesha. (A brace of consultants is helping Waukesha with various legal, environmental, media and strategic matters as it prepares to formally apply for a Great Lakes diversion, and how much it will pay is sure to be a key issue when it comes to picking a seller.)
But Milwaukee didn't like the water pricing consultant proposals it received in response to a solicitation, and along with what I have been told was not-so-subtle resistance from the Milwaukee Water Works - - where there is in-house balking at anything from outsiders that might block sales from its under-utilized capacity - - Milwaukee has decided against getting independent opinion and expertise.
In an email exchange obtained in records provided by the Waukesha Water Utility, then-Milwaukee sustainability director Ann Beier told Waukesha officials that future sales would be addressed as they are now, on a "case by case basis without a formal analysis," according to an August 18, 2009 email to Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak.
Who, in turn, let others know, eliciting this response from Bill McClenahan, a Waukesha contract lobbyist and PR specialist:
"This is good news from Milwaukee that they have given up on the value of water study, apparently concluding there is no magic formula (or perhaps that the formula would have resulted in a lower number than they had hoped for)," he said by email back to Duchniak and other Waukesha water consultants.
"In any case, it eliminates a potential source of delay."
Note that Milwaukee has chosen not to hire a consultant - - to the delight of Waukesha's consultants.
And the Milwaukee Water Works seems comfortable getting legal/informational questions answered about the Great Lakes Compact water selling provisions answered by Waukesha officials, other records show.
So if you are keeping score, these early rounds are going to Waukesha - - not by strategic superiority, but by default.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:26 AM
Waukesha and four others stand to lose big, but will they look for handouts?
Posted by James Rowen at 12:33 AM
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Deborah Howell, a trail-breaking woman in American journalism, died suddenly in a freak accident; A Washington Post story quotes former Milwaukee Journal staffer Linda Fibich, who had followed Howell into a job at Newhouse when Howell left for the Post.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:20 PM
The Journal Sentinel carried Sunday page one frivolity with photos about the annual Polar Bear Plunge, noting that the "pro" it located for an interview fuels up with Jack Daniels each year before 'braving' Lake Michigan cold waters.
OK, don't be a scold about cold-weather fun, you say.
But you read farther into the paper and find stories about 55 drunken driving arrests over New Year's in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties that included four crashes, two injuries and one not-so-funny plunge into Lake Michigan by a drunk driver and her passenger - - in their car.
I had driven (sober) past the area of the accident not five minutes earier. The paper says that deputies, closing off the scene, made several more OWI arrests on the spot.
So I count my lucky stars that I didn't meet one of these irresponsible drivers out on the roads - - not to mention that as I was turning off I-794 to go north on Lincoln Memorial Drive, a deputy was pulling over the motorist directly behind me...
Then the paper carried this story about a fatal snowmobile crash - - alcohol and speed believed to be factors - - and you wonder: Anyone connecting the dots?
The Journal Sentinel has been pounding away about our state's penchant for drunken driving, and has editorially criticized the State Legislature's recent weak effort at amending Wisconsin OWI statutes.
It's interesting that both the conservative blogger/talker Jeff Wagner and I both have taken similar positions.
But my point is that the paper undercuts its news and editorial campaign against excessive drinking on the roads by glorifying the drinking that underlies some of the Polar Plunge participation.
Do we think that those people fortified by alcohol before the plunge had designated drivers?
The story finds one group of plungers who then headed off to a tavern.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:51 AM
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Sunday's New York Times will carry a major piece about the politics surrounding efforts to unite the Great Lakes states and keep destructive Asian carp out of Lake Michigan.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:32 PM
Two months ago, as Milwaukee's Common Council was debating whether to approve a letter of intent to sell water to Waukesha - - thus beginning the negotiation process between the two cities once Waukesha actually applies for Lake Michigan water - - the Milwaukee Water Works manager Carrie Lewis had a question:
"What exactly does the state statute require? Willingness to negotiate only, or "support for and willingness to negotiate" as stated in the Waukesha resolution," asked Lewis in a Thursday, November 5th email to Waukesha Water utility manager Dan Duchniak.
The email exchange is part of an open records release provided to me by Waukesha. (I will post more items this week, so stay tuned.)
Duchniak had earlier that day sent Lewis some materials, including Waukesha's city resolution asking various cities to submit letters about possible water sales negotiations.
"Please let me know if you need anything else from me," said Duchniak by email at 2:19 p.m.
Lewis' question is a good one, but wouldn't the better party to ask be Milwaukee's City Attorney, and not the potential water buyer?
Thirteen minutes later, Duchniak replied, sending Lewis a citation for a state atatute and "relevant section," by page.
I'm not saying the information is right or wrong, or that Duchniak wouldn't or didn't know.
My question is: shouldn't these questions raised by Milwaukee officiala be answered within Milwaukee City Hall?
I worked for both Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, and for Madison's Paul Soglin, and I cannot imagine those offices or other depaartments getting a key legal question answered by the other side in what would be a multi-million dollar, long-term and precdent-setting national and international discussion and contract.
* Does the Milwaukee Common Council have a greater willingness to exert control over contacts in these preliminary discussions?
* Does it even know how key information for its use is being obtained?
* What will happen when preliminary discussions lead to formal negotiations, and perhaps contract drafts and final agreements? Will email chatting between the parties' technical staffers continue, or will Milwaukee officials take greater control over who is communicating with whom?
Posted by James Rowen at 1:58 PM
Friday, January 1, 2010
Five states now are asking the US Supreme Court to force Illinois to take strong measures to block the Asian carp from invading Lake Michigan through the Chicago shipping and sewerage canal.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:49 AM