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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, July 22, 2010


by folkbum

Obviously, the city or the state can't print the money to do this, but we could kill a bunch of birds--metaphorical birds, I don't want to get in trouble with yet another interest group this week--with a single stone here.

There are still hundreds of thousands gutters in Milwaukee County that feed into the storm sewer system and, eventually, feed the great mass of water in the deep tunnel during the 100-years storms we seem to get a couple times a year now.

Let's hire a bunch of people--500? 1000?--and have them spend the rest of the summer and fall disconnecting them and installing rain barrels, leaving behind some basic instruction of how to use the rain barrels, of course. MMSD already has a program where homeowners can do this for themselves (at a cost of $45 a barrel), sure. But the vast majority of homeowners haven't done so, and probably won't.

So let's just do it, as stimulus. The barrels are made in Milwaukee. The people installing them will be from Milwaukee, and picking up employability skills and a work history that they can take with them to (hopefully soon) another job once the economy picks up. Plus, injections of cash into the community will stimulate demand more broadly.

Undoubtedly, there are also thousands of miles of water infrastructure that needs updating to the 21st century, too, though MMSD has been among the leaders nationally in that regard. But storm events like tonight's remind us that solutions to infrastructure problems not only are necessary, but can be done now as stimulus.

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