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County Execs Discuss Environmental Viewpoints

by Belle Bergner

The Milwaukee County Conservation Coalition hosted a public forum January 26 with County Executive candidates Joe Klein (I), David Riemer (D), and County Executive Scott Walker (R). Here’s a report on where they stand on issues, particularly those in which differences of opinion were expressed. On beach closings: All three highlighted the often-cited failure of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) to prevent partially- and un-treated sewer waste from emptying into Lake Michigan. Riemer suggested turning to UWM scientists and follow their advice. We hope that they have brought at least one outside scientific consultant to determine the source of contaminated, nearshore lake water. Maybe those NASA scientists, when they’re done looking at pictures of Mars’ water, could spend a few days looking at ours on Earth. On the proposed, independent Parks District, recommended by MCCC: Walker has proactively supported such a concept; Klein does too. Riemer is skeptical that it will be marketable to Madison legislators. On SEWRPC’s proposed freeway expansion project: Klein and Riemer are opposed. Riemer highlighted destruction to neighborhoods and families, Klein focused on the air and noise pollution the project would cause. Walker supports freeway expansion, stating that job growth is the most important issue for Milwaukee and a widened freeway would allow more people to live and commute away from the city. Did someone say… air pollution? Urban sprawl? What was that about bringing downtown Milwaukee to life? On bus ridership decline: Klein, showing his bus pass, strongly advocated for a light rail system as cities like Houston, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City have done. Riemer, also a bus rider, pledged to bring back buses and routes that have been suspended and to decrease bus fare. Walker did not speak much about how to increase bus ridership, but he is not in favor of a light rail system and does not support a gas tax increase. A member of the audience asked if there were any environmental cause that could merit a tax increase: Walker expressed opposition to a tax increase; Riemer expressed opposition as well. So how do they expect to pay for deteriorating environmental safety and clean-up programs? Riemer advocates for lowering the property tax and does not agree with raising taxes for a specific cause. Klein, however, stated that there may be conditions where taxes need to be raised to protect the environment.
by Belle Bergner