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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Neighbor versus neighbor: In whose Wauwatosa back yard?

American Transmission Company, Underwood Parkway, Transmission Lines

The neighborhood along Underwood Creek, where I live, is the last neighborhood to come to the “party” of high-power transmission-line musical chairs in Wauwatosa.

I’m not sure why we were last. We weren’t paying attention, I guess. And I wasn't among the 430 people who received invitations to the September 12 "open" house.

When you buy a property in a fully built neighborhood, you do it partly because you think you know what you are getting into. You think the parkway, a park, after all, will always be a park. You don’t think of it the way a power transmission company does: as a straight, open piece of land unimpeded by annoying home owners that is just waiting to have its trees replaced by 60-100 foot high, ugly, humming steel structures carrying enormous amounts of current.

Buyer beware doesn’t only apply to the time of purchase. You have to be ever vigilant. And even then, well, you can get screwed.

The Wisniewskis don’t want it in their Walnut Street front yard. And who can blame them?

The folks at St. Theresa’s and Milwaukee Montessori School don’t want it in their yard, either. And who can blame them?

The Monarch Trail and Riverkeeper folks don’t want it on the County Grounds, where it would wreck havoc with the butterfly migration and the elegantly restored portion of Underwood Creek. And who can blame them?

Who’s left without a chair when the music ends? According to blogger Eddee Daniel, it looks like “the off-road portion of the Oak Leaf bike trail between 115th Street and Watertown Plank Road”—my neighborhood parkway. There’s a school near here, too, in case you weren’t looking too hard.

We don’t want it either, and who can blame us?

Without going into all the reasons people hate powerlines in their neighborhoods, I’ll stick with ugly and destructive to property values. But the issues raised by our insatiable desire for more electricity and our willingness to sacrifice other people's neighborhoods to our own comfort  are deep and difficult.

Do communities have the responsibility to share the unpleasant burdens our lifestyle creates? Or do we just  move our trash and our transmission lines into someone else’s yard? Into poorer areas where people have less time to notice or to fight this kind of battle?

I want Wauwatosa to decide right now to resist letting any of its neighborhoods become the next poor neighborhood. It’s selfish, yes. But I bet most of you would agree. Bury the lines, even if it costs more--and it does, big time.

The question is, do our elected officials have the sort of will to stand up to the forces of community depradation? Do we citizens count as much as corporations?

 I’ll let Eddee’s words be the last:

It seems ironic to me that just months after announcing its new Innovation Parkway branding campaign, Wauwatosa might willingly sacrifice one of the parkways that give it meaning. Everyone at City Hall who supports the Innovation Parkway theme, as well as all the users of the Oak Leaf Trail should be pounding home the point – power lines do not belong anywhere near our parkway.

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