Thursday, March 01, 2007

The JS and Milwaukee

Yesterday's editorial in the Journal Sentinel, a rather shameful rant sparked by Mayor Tom Barrett's warnings about urban sprawl, was a pretty strong confirmation of what was becoming increasingly obvious: the paper is abandoning Milwaukee and is adopting exurbia as its mental home.

The piece started out well enough, with just a bit of pique:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett made some good points last week about water and Waukesha County communities in a talk to environmental leaders. In preaching to his choir, Barrett said cities such as Waukesha and New Berlin should not be allowed to tap into Lake Michigan just to fuel continued urban sprawl.

"In preaching to his choir"?
My, my. Let's keep track of how many times that particular phrase is hauled out in reference to suburban leaders. Besides being snarky, the comment reveals a rather striking ignorance of Milwaukee politics. Memo to JS: there has been a bit of tension between Barrett and enviros on a number of issues, including water. This editorial reads like its writer gets his or her Milwaukee news -- well, from the JS.

The editorial then goes on to raise a series of ludicrous questions:

Is he opposed to all growth? Does he think there should be no more subdivisions in Waukesha County or just no more 5-acre lots or no more office parks or shopping malls that employ people from throughout the region?

I haven't talked to Barrett about this, but will hazard a guess at the answers: no, he is not opposed to all growth. No, he does not believe there should be no more subdivisions in Waukesha County. No, he does not believe there should be no more office parks or shopping malls. In fact, he has even supports their development in Milwaukee.

The editorial's questions are just silly, and serve to raise spurious questions about Barrett and his beliefs. It's a tactic often seen in negative political campaigns -- it really shouldn't be employed on the editorial page. If these were real questions, why didn't the editorial writer pick up the phone and ask Barrett?

What a concept, eh? Or would the answers just get in the way?

The editorial also says:

Returning to those sad days of vocal feuding between the city and the suburbs solves nothing. Water will be a problem for cities outside the lake basin even with reasonable growth.

Regionalism means one community helping the other as much as possible. In other words, true partnership.

Shhhhh, Milwaukee. Don't bother those people out there. They're asleep and want to stay that way.

So the suburban counties embrace regional cooperation? That would mean, of course, a willingness to share the costs of dealing with an impoverished population; development of affordable housing and extensive inter-county transit; and respect for Milwaukee's opposition to freeway expansion within its borders, to name just a few of the more obvious issues

The JS, if it truly believes in regional cooperation, should go after the suburbs on these issues. Or would that mean questioning its choir?

3 comments:

Dave said...

I'm with the Mayor on this... No Water for Waukesha! (unless of course we could trade it for something like mass transit).

Anonymous said...

Ditto -- and kudos. Gretchen, this is an excellent lesson in how NOT to write an editorial . . . followed by your fine editorial comment at the end.

Phil Manwich said...

I'm joining your choir, Gretchen.

Regional cooperation is the emptiest of phrases in Milwaukee (and its daily paper). The following paragraph from your posting is the smartest thing that's been said about it to date.

So the suburban counties embrace regional cooperation? That would mean, of course, a willingness to share the costs of dealing with an impoverished population; development of affordable housing and extensive inter-county transit; and respect for Milwaukee's opposition to freeway expansion within its borders, to name just a few of the more obvious issues