Archive for ‘Regionaliztion’

May 5, 2010

Waukesha water woes?

by thoughtfulconservative

So, did Waukesha get a glimpse of things to come? In a flurry of activity recently, we saw:

1. The Milwaukee County Board voted 13-3 on April 22 to oppose the Waukesha’s water plan.

Ostensibly the vote was to protect the county’s streams from pollution and erosion, but the comments from board members seems to indicate a different motivation, the kind you normally see from children.

“You have been sidestepped on this process,” said one. “We’ve been treated purely as an afterthought,” said another.

“They do not care about the concerns of Milwaukee County,” replied another.

“Why should I trust them?”

“They get the water and we get – I don’t want to say it – we get everything else,” intoned another.


Waukesha’s water utility manager, Dan Duchniak disagreed with the assessment, claiming that the water Waukesha puts into the creeks will be cleaner than the water flowing there now.

To be fair, the County Board is excluded from the process of approving or disapproving Waukesha’s request. The DNR and the Great Lakes states are the ones who will sign off on the request.

Racine’s representative Cory Mason is on record opposing dumping of Waukesha waste water in the Root River. (A tip of the conservative ball cap to James Rowen who recently posted on how new phosphorus rules could add to any plan’s costs.

2. Milwaukee aldermen and Waukesha’s new mayor, Jeff Scrima, traded letters about requirements for receiving Milwaukee water.

Scrima contended during the recent campaign that if Waukesha didn’t keep its options open it would lose some of its sovereignty to Milwaukee. He alleged that somehow, Milwaukee will use Waukesha’s needs for water to advance some dastardly purpose.

The water saga continues and will stretch well into the foreseeable future.

If you’ve been living in a cave the last few years, Waukesha needs water because of elevated levels of radium. Lake Michigan seems to have a lot of water and Waukesha would like to get some, but the Great Lakes Compact requires returning the water to Lake Michigan.

Waukesha’s plan, sent to the DNR earlier this month, is to return the water to Underwood Creek where it would flow to the Menomonee River and back to Lake Michigan.

Waukesha is somewhat under the gun, facing a 2018 deadline for cleaning up there water.

People talk regional cooperation but the playing out is a little more difficult. The suburbs think Milwaukee wants their tax dollars. Milwaukee thinks the suburbs are using their infrastructure without paying for it.

Obviously, more work needs to be done. Like maybe growing up and behaving like adults.

3. Two neighboring local governments have expressed concern about the city’s plan to drill shallow wells as a backup measure. The major concern here seems to be the potential for privately owned wells going dry as Waukesha sucks water from the planned area.

The road is long, the opposition varied and the clock is ticking.

And if both options go down in flames, what’s left?

There’s a lesson for communities everywhere—don’t outgrow your water supply.

Yeah, like they will pay attention.

October 15, 2007

Is the Journal Sentinel proposing a trade?

by thoughtfulconservative

Bus route 9 for Lake Michigan water?

As everyone who isn’t living under a radium-laced rock knows, several Waukesha County communities would like to get water from Lake Michigan. As long as those communities use water wisely and return that water to the Great Lakes’ natural basin, they should get it.

I’m thinking the environmentalists are already not liking where this is going.

But the search for water took another political hit last week, not from anyone in Milwaukee County but from Waukesha County supervisors who apparently can’t tell when their interests and those of Milwaukee County converge.

The Waukesha County Board’s Public Works Committee endorsed a plan to eliminate the No. 9 bus route, one of several commuter bus routes the county funds – in this case, one that brings workers to the county from Milwaukee. The committee also voted to increase the fee on another Milwaukee-Waukesha County route, the No. 10, which connects with Waukesha Transit buses at Brookfield Square mall. [Emphasis mine]

There’s the bus route part of the trade. So?

By themselves, the actions may not be significant – unless you happen to be a worker who uses the service – but in the larger scheme of things, they could cause some harm. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and others had pleaded for Waukesha County to spare the No. 9.

Which, as has been pointed out before, has 35 riders per day (3 per trip?). The companies involved who say this is vital have no interest in ponying up even a token amount.

Having rebuffed Barrett on this, how amenable do supervisors think the City of Milwaukee is going to be on other matters of regional cooperation, such as water?

Well, I don’t think it’s up to the City of Milwaukee. And the environmentalists will fight this hard no matter what the city says. Not that I necessarily believe them to be wrong here.

And although I’m sure the County Board would love to help Waukesha City (as well as the others) with its water problems (cough, cough), how much involvement does the county have in this?

So if we keep the bus route, we can get Lake Michigan water? Sounds like a deal to me.

August 31, 2007

The problem with transit

by thoughtfulconservative

Upon receiving Friday’s Journal Sentinel, I read this in the Waukesha section: Barrett fights to save bus route.

In a letter to Waukesha County Transportation Director Richard Bolte and Waukesha Metro chief Robert Johnson, Barrett said connecting workers to jobs is crucial in fighting poverty. New figures show more than one in four Milwaukeeans are below the poverty line, a level Barrett called “outrageous and unacceptable.”

The route is Route 9, which Waukesha county officials are considering eliminating. In a true mark of regional cooperation

The Milwaukee County Transit System operates the route under a contract with Waukesha County, which in turn contracts with city-run Waukesha Metro Transit to administer the route.

So this is going to be a real hardship to how many?

Operating Monday through Friday, the route carries about 70 people a day on average, or about 18,000 a year.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? If a person rides both ways, seventy people a day becomes 35 riders. Seventy fares averages out to 8 fares per trip. And yet there’s a full size bus doing this for about $100,000 per year.

The article goes on,

Steve Brocker, a vice president for Western States, said …”It should be there….It gives us an opportunity to have access to a larger labor pool.”

Well, perhaps the businesses concerned could pool their funds and administer a bus route for their employees. Or, consider,

The county might consider continuing Route No. 9 if employers in the area want to pay cash subsidies to maintain the service, Bolte said.

I’m not against transit, per se. Some potentially high traffic routes could be looked at. I’ve described my experience with route 100 901 from Waukesha to downtown Milwaukee, still subsidized, but crowded when I rode it. Madison to Milwaukee could be a high traffic route. Perhaps even the much-maligned KRM.

But it’s hard to argue with The Spring City Chronicle when he says,

Milwaukee’s Mayor Barrett is blaming his city’s poverty level on Waukesha County’s transportation spending. This time, it’s only one bus route. But our mayor, our county executive and our county board ought to take note of this before they crawl into bed with a Regional Transportation Authority. We have the money. They want it.

The main problem with mass transit is it’s not convenient enough for today’s America (except for some small sections of the country) and it’s too expensive. No one would ride if they had to pay what it really cost to provide the service.

I would be remiss in not pointing people to this piece by Alderman Willie Hines of Milwaukee on the regional transportation issue.

July 29, 2007

Is regionalization any closer?

by thoughtfulconservative

In Sunday’s MJS there was a round table of community leaders on regionalization.

Can we all get along? Region’s leaders debate about challenges ahead

Apparently not from these exchanges. First, on transit.

[Milwaukee Mayor Tom] Barrett: Let’s go back to the $91.5 million, because I think that that’s a prime example. This is $91.5 million that’s been sitting on the table for 16 years . . . .

I thought, OK, clearly there’s an impasse here; Scott’s interested in buses, what I’ll do is I’ll propose that half of this money go to rapid transit buses, because that’s what Scott’s interested in, and we’ll put the other half into a rail base system downtown that complements the KRM.

To me, that’s the seeds of a compromise.

[Milwaukee County Executive Scott] Walker: It’s like saying to encourage compromise in something else, we’ll give you water, but we won’t ask for it to be returned clean. . . .

My response to that is I looked at the $91 and a half million, and I said, I’m not going to accept a compromise just for the sake of saying I got a deal if that undermines the Milwaukee County transit system and the bus system.

I know we have difference of opinion on that, but I fundamentally believe if I take half of that money . . . away from improving and upgrading the bus base system, put it into a system that’s not going to serve the largest group of people that we need to help, the transit-dependent population on the north and northwest side of the City of Milwaukee, and then create a system that longterm is going to compete for federal and state dollars against the bus system, which is going to serve the overwhelming majority of people who are transit-dependent, to me I don’t see that as a compromise, I see that as a direct hit on the bus system.

To me, a compromise would be the part we both agree on, the bus rapid transit, and say I won’t even spend it, we can leave some of that money on the table, have that debate another day, leave that aside.

Barrett: But you can’t have it both ways, Scott, because the other thing you said was, wait a minute, the city’s bus plan, they stole from the county.

We didn’t steal a bus plan from the county; we gave you what you wanted.

Walker: And if I give you the other part that you want, it will hurt the bus system.

Barrett: Just so you know, this is where there is a fundamental disagreement.

I think that the Milwaukee County Transit System is in a world of hurt.

Walker: Absolutely! Which has nothing to do with the $91 million.

Barrett: . . . And having a downtown circulator is not going to save the system, and it’s not going to ruin the system. The problems are far more deep than.

Walker: By 2010, they’re going to face some major problems without some alternative, which is why I put an idea on the table.

Some people like it, some people don’t. But with or without the $91 million and with or without our ideas, there needs to be a solution long term to funding the transit system in Milwaukee County.

Your point about it being hurt, though, is like saying the transit system has a cut, and now giving it another cut isn’t going to hurt the system.

Barrett: Scott, correct me if I’m wrong, I think anything that contains rail, you will oppose.

Walker: Correct. Because it takes from the bus system. . . .

Even if I said I love rail, and actually there are other forms of rail I’ve actually shown support for, but the funding for KRM doesn’t take away from the transit system.

[Sheldon] Lubar: But you’re saying that if you have a simple circulator on rail, that that’s going to destroy the bus system?

Walker: No, no. I’m saying it’s already . . . if you’re already creeping down that path.

Lubar: We want a regional rail system, don’t we?

[Rosemary] Potter: I think we all do.

The only thing, seemingly, Walker and Barrett could agree on is that there is no consensus about regional rail.

Walker: It that’s the case, you’re living in a different world than I am, because I repeatedly hear people that want some option of KRM, but having a regional rail system. . . .

There isn’t a consensus on that issue.

Barrett: I would agree. There’s not a consensus on that.

Walker: We’ve had this for 16 years, so in some ways, I hear this as though we just got it a year ago and I’m the only one holding us up.

Tom Ament held us up, John Norquist held us up, Tommy Thompson held us up, there’s a lot of people who’ve been a part of not making this happen. . . .

Now, if the city doesn’t like the plan we have, the city’s got a different plan. . . . I said we can rearrange those, to me, I’ll compromise. . . .

Let’s start out with a couple pilots, and we can show the federal government and we can show the Congress that we’re starting to use that money. . . .

To me, that would be a compromise, saying let’s move forward with the piece of it, and we can come back and debate the larger issue in the future.

And at the end,

Barrett: You’re trying to isolate Milwaukee County?

[Former Lt. Gov. Margaret] Farrow: No, no. I’m saying we already are very much part of your solution.

Barrett: But you said this is not Milwaukee or New Berlin. Now you’re saying like it’s my problems?

Farrow: No, no, no, no. Tom, you misunderstood me. That isn’t where I was going at all. . . . Our counties are already very supportive through the way Wisconsin runs our shared revenue formulas.We’re here with you. We’re helping you.

Barrett: Man, if it feels so good, how come it feels so bad? The state Assembly just tried to take $28 million of shared revenue away from the city of Milwaukee.

Farrow: But, by contrast, your county and your city are much higher up what comes in than all of them around there.

Barrett: We have the fourth-highest percentage of children in the country living in poverty, and you’re making it sound like you’re doing us a favor.

Farrow: No. I’m saying you’ve already got your fellow counties around you helping with the problem with no credit given, which is why this area doesn’t have a positive attitude about itself.

Barrett: I’ll tell you what I need. I need the legislators from the greater Milwaukee region who don’t live in the city of Milwaukee to speak up at the state Assembly and say, “Why are you whacking the City of Milwaukee with a $28 million cut in shared revenue?”

The state Assembly by picking four communities in this state – Milwaukee, Beloit, Racine and Superior – and just taking a hammer to them. I don’t feel the love. I’m sorry. I don’t feel the love right now.

Not exactly Kumbaya, is it?

Not to say it was all bad. The fact that they are talking is promising, I think. I liked what Sheldon Lubar had to say,

We have an outmoded, outdated governance structure, and it is splintered. It is so structured that of the county tax bill, Scott Walker, and Mayor Barrett, when he sends out property tax bills, has control of probably 25% of the expenses that befall the average taxpayer.

What I’m getting at is that we have a system of unelected officials who have taxing and spending authority, and there is no oversight on that taxing and spending authority, nor, as I look at it, is there any coordination of it.

If everyone is working together and feel like everyone is in it together, things can get done.

Unfortunately, we are far from that right now.

Video of the round table is here.