So, my portions of the agenda come up - discussion items with no vote or motion attached, as I said in part 1, to get a read on A) where this commission stands on issues of smart growth and transit, and B) what this commission knows about issues of smart growth and transit.
My feeling - if this hasn't been made clear already - is that Franklin needs to embrace smart growth principles and prepare for upcoming transit improvements, including rail in nearby Oak Creek, in order to remain relevant economically and as a community.
In a postindustrial society, people need not go where the "factory" is; they choose communities based on desires such as: good parks, walkable neighborhoods, access to transit, vibrant public spaces, etc. That's what modern opinion polls clearly reveal.
Now that the federal government has made transit and smart growth high priorities, companies will look to locate in areas where these factors have been addressed; there will surely be tax breaks and other incentives to encourage use of transit for their workforce.
If you read part 1, you get an idea of the reaction I got to the notion of walkable neighborhoods, schools that can be walked to by kids who live mere blocks away, connected street systems, and the end of built-for-speed subdivision roads. There were sighs. Eyes rolled. Now, that's not to say that each and every member of the commission expressed annoyance. However, the ones who may have agreed kept quiet.
On my tape, I can hear a commission member audibly scoff and chuckle as I describe the fact that teens have to get vehicles of their own simply to get to work and school - and teens are by far the most dangerous driving population.
So, walkable communities and smart growth went down like a lead balloon.
The transit conversation was constantly steered to remind me that "people don't want to ride buses." Or I was told about the time Franklin tried bus service to the industrial park, but only eight people rode the route and it was discontinued.
Chairman Skowronski cited a survey from 1998 that clearly indicated to him that people in Franklin like their cars. 'Nuf said. (Fortunately, Skowronski expressed a desire to re-do the survey, which I am 100% in support of - - with better methodology.)
But, I reminded him, I'm talking about preparing for the Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago rail line that will go right through our neighbor, Oak Creek. That means making business aware that we are aware of what's coming and that we'll be ready.
A commission member mistakenly believed that I was hoping to bring rail directly to Franklin. "It seems improbable that Franklin, that's off the corridor between Chicago and Milwaukee, that straight line up, is going to be a 'sweet pick' for the federal government to spend money on, it just seems improbable. It's much more likely that they would choose a community like Oak Creek, through which tracks are already planned."
Which is what I'd said earlier. So, we can't solve the classic "last mile" problem with a park-and-ride? Northwestern Mutual doesn't want ready access to Chicago and Madison?
Furthermore, the commission member said: "I'm not going to go and try to change the behavioral habits of 1.5 million people in the Metro Milwaukee area. They are gonna do what they are gonna do. They like to drive. They're gonna drive."
And yet that's exactly what has occurred in Minneapolis, to name just one metro area now served by rail. People changed their behavioral habits and made the MetroTransit Hiawatha train line part of their daily lives.
But, alas, the message I got was this: the status quo is excellent here in Franklin - no need to look ahead or change our approach to match the new reality. Steady as she goes. Ignore that economic firestorm behind the curtain ...
Fortunately, the meeting ended on a high note, which I'll discuss in part 3.