Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Waukesha water needs test of regional cooperation

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Does Milwaukee really believe in regional cooperation? Will they try to use water to dictate Waukesha’s housing and transportation policies? Or will Milwaukee try to stop Waukesha from securing a long-term solution to its water needs in some misguided belief in zero-sum economics for Southeastern Wisconsin? These are the questions raised in this week’s op-ed for the MacIver Institute website:

On the other side, there’s pressure in Milwaukee to not sell any water to Waukesha. Local environmental writer Jim Rowen is typical of the opposition to selling Waukesha water. Rowen’s objection is to any expansion of Waukesha, believing growth in Southeastern Wisconsin is a zero-sum game. If Waukesha grows, it must be to the detriment of Milwaukee. Regional cooperation gives way to regional competition, and Rowen wants to play cut-throat with Waukesha’s water needs.

However, the growth to which Rowen objects is the natural, modest growth Waukesha has already been seeing projected over the time of the negotiations to get Waukesha approval for water, build the pipeline and arrange for the return flow of the water to Lake Michigan.

Growth of part of the region should be to the benefit of all. If Waukesha grows, that’s more people working in Milwaukee and buying goods and services there. Milwaukee would benefit and, if they adopt the right policies, grow, too.

But if Milwaukee listens to anti-Waukesha voices like Rowen, Milwaukee will miss an opportunity to generate revenue from the water sale and demonstrate to its neighbors it really believes in regional cooperation.

In an almost Pavlovian response, the very first comment at the site, “If Milwaukee sells water to Waukesha, it will result in job losses for Milwaukee. Why on earth would Milw leaders then want to sell water to Waukesha!?”

Sigh.

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