Friday, February 22, 2008

Waukesha's Penchant For Secrecy Continuing

The City of Waukesha apparently has procedural manuals and dictionaries in which the word "transparent" does not appear.

It has decided to keep secret an appraisal of the cost of acquiring 42 acres near the Vernon Marsh in the Town of Waukesha to meet some its near-term water supply needs.

Granted that the plan is a controversial one, as experts have said the drawdown of water could harm the marsh and other resources.

And no doubt acquiring 42 acres through condemnation is a pricey move, since conceivably a developer, under some scenarios, could put a lot of half-million dollar homes on quarter-to-half acre lots there.

Not to mention the additional costs of drilling wells, adding pumps, pipes, monitoring equipment.

And, of course, the inevitable litigation that will ensue, either from neighbors, Waukesha taxpayers, the Town of Waukesha, some, or all.

But keeping the details under wraps again slaps the local taxpayers in the face, as the Waukesha City Council and the Water Utility have a history of closed meetings that has inflamed some residents.

And it feeds the impression that Waukesha prefers closed-and-back-door policy approaches.

That impression has made Waukesha look like a less-than-honest broker and player in the water debates ever since it twice confidentially (unsuccessfully) sought a Lake Michigan diversion from Gov. Doyle in 2006 while various commissions and committees were working in the open to write diversion rules and agreements.

Diversion requests that completely bypassed all the procedures in place for reviews, analysis and approvals.

I found those documents among files provided by the water utility through an Open Records request - - hardly the way for a community still seeking a Lake Michigan diversion to let the public know that 24 millions of water was being sought, and without any guarantee of its return to the Great Lakes basin.

It's hard to break old habits, but this love of closed meetings when doing the public's business, spending the public's money and impacting resources held in the public domain is completely counter-productive, and costs Waukesha credibility every time it is repeated.

1 comment:

CJB said...

Perhaps the word transparency IS in their dictionary, but it's just . . . . . transparent!

So, what should not be public? The independent appraisal that is being paid for by City of Waukesha taxpayers? The attorney's time--also paid for by city taxpayers? The Common Council's and Mayors time--again paid by taxpayers? Certainly, as it seems the City continues to pursue the eminent domain, attorney's fees, as well as the purchase price of the land will be paid by taxpayers.