Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Missing Link

It's good to (finally) see the Journal Sentinel clutching onto Richard Longworth's promotion of a more regional governance between Milwaukee and Chicago, and amongst other regional cities. But how long will this latest fascination last? Lip service (or should I say ink) to regionalism has flippantly been given by the Journal in the past.

Sadly, such communal (dare I say socialist) conceptions of government - cooperation for the benefit of the whole - whereby decisions are made with a broader concern have been brushed aside for decades by political and business leaders alike.

In 1992, looking at the potential positive regional impact from light rail transit (LRT), Marc Levine, professor of history and urban studies at UWM, found, "The UWMCED study concludes that, although the economic benefits of LRT should not be oversold and will require supportive public policies to be fully realized, a light rail system could contribute significantly to economic development in the city of Milwaukee and the entire region."

Levine, in reporting on Milwaukee's inner city in 2006, stated, "As a consequence of these trends, income inequality in metropolitan Milwaukee deepened last year, as the inner city fell further behind other areas of the region... These are massive income gaps that have widened considerably since 1990 and signify deep economic polarization in the region. “Regionalism” has become the new buzzword among city and corporate leaders, but, so far at least, there has been little indication that these leaders are prepared to implement the kinds of regional equity policies –in transportation, tax-base sharing, or growth management—that other communities have used to attack regional economic disparities."

In 2008, Levine proposed, "The region’s corporate leaders, represented by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Greater Milwaukee Committee, supposedly support regional rail transit. If that’s true, they should make it the centerpiece of the Milwaukee 7 initiative, turning it into a more muscular regionalism that could underpin an economic revitalization of the city and region."

And, other voices have been calling for more regional approaches to governance for decades. Suddenly the Journal Sentinel is on board. Better late than never, I guess.

The problem is that by opposing rail (and other more regional - cooperative - policies), the Journal Sentinel has stymied progress on the very issue they suddenly see as a no-brainer. Rail would-have-been an catalyst for infrastructure, jobs, and an improved regional linkage. It would have been one of the biggest investments in the region in a generation or more.

The Journal Sentinel goose-stepped right along with Scott Walker and his plan to refuse funding for rail expansion in the region.

Milquetoast coverage and the occasional blip regarding a "regional" solution to the issue-of-the-moment is not full-throated support for regionalism nor meaningfully helpful in bringing regional governance, as a topic, to the forefront.

It's hard to claim to be for the region when one supports policies that prevent the region from more efficiently linking together and growing.

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