Well, it’s official; The Waukesha County Board of Supervisors has decided – unanimously – to decline joining a regional transit authority.
This is not the first time that Waukesha County has blocked transit links with Milwaukee: it was the Waukesha County Board that voted down a regional transportation recommendation that included major highway improvements and light rail connections with Milwaukee.
And in late 2007, Waukesha County chose not to continue fundiung a direct bus line connecting the two counties – Route #9.
"I didn’t think it was worth saving," said Waukesha County’s Director of Public Works.
Waukesha County prefers to keep job opportunities more accessible to residents there than share them with out-of-county people – – and particularly with Milwaukee, where more than 30% of the residents do not have access to cars.
This is especially true in Milwaukee’s central city, which is heavily African-American.
Whether intentional or not, Waukesha County’s transit disconnects fall heavily on the largest concentration of minorities in Southeastern Wisconsin, and are fundamentally discriminatory.
This may legally fall into home rule powers. I’m not a lawyer and don’t know whether, on its face, the County Board has violated U.S. Civil Rights statutes.
But my attitude is: if Waukesha County will not share transit resources, and will not establish those crucial connections, then Milwaukee should not sell water to the City of Waukesha – Waukesha County’s largest city, with a water service territory set to sprawl to the south and west into the Town of Waukesha, Genesee and elsewhere.
Waukesha County wants to go it alone on transit, and withhold the workforce opportunities that transit brings to the region.
Milwaukee can and should do the same with Lake Michigan water and its city Water Works, and let the City of Waukesha and other water-hungry sprawl centers in Waukesha County continue to tap and clean their deep and shallow aquifers, and rivers, for the water they need.
Waukesha County has taken off the gloves.
Supervisors representing the City of Waukesha were in the exclusionist and isolationist bloc, so the power politics have begun, and Milwaukee can’t allow itself to be the pasty.
End of story.
James Rowen is a writer, a former reporter and a former mayoral staffer in both Madison and Milwaukee. He is the author of The Political Environment blog.