Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Water issue not a time for pandering


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Mar 29, 2012; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A

Water issue not a time for pandering

The city of Waukesha has responded to the inquiries of three mayors regarding our application for Great Lakes water. What made the inquiries so unusual is that the mayors were from the communities that would be competing to sell Waukesha water.

I’m not sure if it’s customary for sellers to ask so many questions of a potential customer. It would seem to me poor customer service, especially as many of the answers were in the application pending with the Department of Natural Resources.

Interestingly, the acting mayor of Oak Creek signed the letter to Waukesha without the knowledge of the Common Council, a group in favor of selling us water. Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima released the letter to the media before letting the Water Utility staff and the Common Council see it.

I’d say it would have been more appropriate for him to discuss the letter at the next meeting of the Water Utility board, but the Waukesha Freeman has already reported his tendency not to attend those meetings.

Scrima’s interest in transparency is well known and it appears he tried it just this one time to see what it was like.

One of the questions asked of Waukesha is whether selling the city water would lead to an unfair competitive advantage for the city.

It’s an idea pushed by former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist aide Jim Rowen, who has never forgiven Waukesha County for being unwilling to support light rail. Unfortunately, the idea was echoed by Oak Creek Mayor Al Foeckler, much to the chagrin of many on the Oak Creek Common Council.

There is an economic benefit to the selling community in the form of Waukesha purchasing the water. Whether it’s Milwaukee, Oak Creek or Racine, those three communities will be able to turn the excess unused capacity in their water plants into revenue for their bottom lines.

Milwaukee is already benefiting from sales to New Berlin. Rather than envy Waukesha’s relative prosperity, the three communities should embrace the opportunity to reduce the water rate burden on their constituents.

But in a larger sense, why would any of the three communities fear a growing economy in Waukesha? If Waukesha is doing well, then the surrounding communities will do well.

Economic growth is not a zero-sum game. A more prosperous Waukesha means more Waukesha residents spending money in Milwaukee and Racine counties.

While it may be popular with some constituencies in those communities to bash Waukesha, now is not the time for shameless pandering on either side of the negotiating table.

* * *

Despite Democratic spin, the court ruling on the redistricting plan for Wisconsin’s Legislature was a major victory for Republicans. All 33 state Senate districts were approved, and 97 of 99 Assembly districts were approved. Only two adjoining districts on the south side of Milwaukee need to have the border between them slightly modified.

For all the talk of “reform,” indulging a fantasy that some unaccountable commission or panel of judges could draw a “better” map, the political process worked.

The only change needing to be made is the result of an absurd standard that a minority-majority district is required.

The law requires that we judge the voters by their skin color, and they had better behave accordingly by electing someone who looks like them. Whether or not that person will represent their actual beliefs and interests is irrelevant, according to the courts.

Given that absurd standard, what is more preferable? Having accountable elected officials make the decisions on the district lines, or some unaccountable body making up rules based upon skin color?

As part of the political process, the Democratic Party had every opportunity in 2010 to make the case to the voters that they should give Democrats a say in redistricting. The Democrats failed to make that appeal and the voters fired them.

Now the Democrats will have to figure out how to appeal to votes in Republican-leaning districts if they wish to regain the majority in either chamber of the Legislature. That’s not a problem with the redistricting process, but an opportunity for bipartisanship.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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