The challenge of regional planning with an elephant in the room

Last evening I attended the VISION 2050 Workshop sponsored by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.  The focus of the workshop was on getting feedback on transportation scenarios for the seven county area under the commission’s jurisdiction.  The participants were presented with a baseline scenario along with four alternatives to the baseline (things just continue as they are) scenario.  Two things became apparent very quickly:

  1. A 35 year planning horizon is not a long time when it comes to regional planning.
  2. Doing regional planning without addressing racial segregation is an incomplete process.

The baseline scenario projects additional growth in the region but also projects a growing disconnect between jobs and potential employees.  The same holds true for the lowest publicly supported scenario.  It isn’t until public transportation options are implemented that the jobs/worker gap begins to close.

What the commission does not address is the fact that much of the growth in jobs is projected to take place in predominately white areas and that a comprehensive transportation plan that would greatly improve access by urban (black and Hispanic) workers to jobs is no guaranty  those jobs will be filled by available workers.  This is not to say the commission members are unaware of this disconnect.

As the process unfolds to the point of final recommendation it will be interesting to see if there will be regional support for a plan that supports overall economic growth through connecting jobs to urban (black and Hispanic) workers or if support will lean toward a plan with lower public funding and a guaranteed continuation of the  paradoxical mantra “we can’t find employees out here/there is nothing that can be done about high unemployment in urban areas.”

To learn more about the commission’s work and provide your own feedback go to:  Vision 2050 web page

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