Cooperation is up a creek
Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:2010 Apr 29; Section:Opinion; Page Number: 10A
Cooperation is up a creek
Milwaukee County’s stance on water return not good for region
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)
Listening to the Milwaukee County Board, you would think that Waukesha was dumping raw sewage into the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Of course, there are days that might be considered an improvement.
The Milwaukee County Board voted 13-3 in opposition to the city of Waukesha’s possible plan of using Underwood Creek for the return flow back to Lake Michigan, if Waukesha’s application for a diversion of Lake Michigan water is approved.
When Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway expresses concern about the public health effects of dumping treated water into Underwood Creek, the temptation is to remind him the water is probably safer than renting an apartment from the chairman.
The other temptation is to ask since when is the Milwaukee County Board concerned about the dumping of wastewater into Milwaukee’s waterways.
But this isn’t about health concerns. The board members understand that the treated water will be perfectly safe, and that the increased flowage in the river will not be an issue.
The members of the Milwaukee County Board are not interested in the science surrounding the planned diversion and the return. They are just taking cheap shots against Waukesha.
Why? Because if you ask some politicians in Milwaukee, Waukesha County is the source of all evil in the world. We are the al-Qaida of Wisconsin, and they would like 124th Street more heavily fortified than our border with Mexico.
(No, they don’t understand that Waukesha County and the city of Waukesha are two different entities. Most of them are graduates of Milwaukee Public Schools.)
To them, Waukesha’s water problems are not the result of too stringent Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Nor is our water supply threatened by future water regulations from Madison.
Our water problems are the result of stealing jobs and population from Milwaukee County. Somehow Waukesha mayors sneak into Milwaukee at night and kidnap people and businesses. When they’re released from captivity here, rather than return home they decide to make Waukesha bigger and stronger than Milwaukee. We’re building pyramids in Frame Park with these ex-Milwaukeeans even as I type this.
(I told you, they’re graduates of Milwaukee’s public schools.)
Of course, the reality is a bit more prosaic. If people are fleeing Milwaukee County, they’re doing so to escape the high crime, high taxes and lousy schools. People like my wife and I, who sought affordable homes in a community run with relatively common sense.
(Oh yeah, I’m a Milwaukee Public Schools graduate.)
Businesses follow for the same reasons. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker understands that, even if Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other leaders “over there” do not.
But growth is not just a zero-sum game. When leaders from southeastern Wisconsin banded together to form the Milwaukee 7, it was with the recognition that growth benefits everybody. It’s that understanding of the benefits of mutual cooperation that should encourage the Milwaukee County Board to listen to the facts of a water diversion, not the rhetoric.
That’s why Walker wisely said he would veto the resolution. The County Board should take that opportunity to listen to Waukesha and the Department of Natural Resources explain the diversion from Lake Michigan and the return before they act on Walker’s veto.
If the County Board won’t listen to Walker, or the city of Waukesha’s water experts, or the DNR, then perhaps they will listen to Barrett, who will tell them how important the water will be to the city of Milwaukee’s budget bottom line. One of the very first highlights of Barrett’s budget message to his common council was the importance of the sale of water to New Berlin. He understands a sale of water to Waukesha will only benefit both communities.
If they won’t listen to him, perhaps they should remember that Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima’s first preference is to not buy Lake Michigan water at all. Some in Milwaukee did not like Scrima’s campaign rhetoric. Their refusal to honestly engage in regional cooperation will only prove that he was right all along.
Fortunately, the decisions on how Waukesha gets it water and the possible return to Lake Michigan are not Milwaukee County’s to make. It would just be nice to see the rhetoric of regional cooperation match the reality.