Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Those Who Left Justice Issues Out Of SEWRPC Study Now Get To Advise On How To Add It Back

You want to know how dysfunctional it's gotten at SEWPRC - - the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission?

Let me reduce it to ten simple steps.

1. In December, 2005, SEWRPC selects a 31-member, all-Caucasian advisory committee to write a plan to address regional water supply issues.

2. The committee, with participation and direction by and from SEWRPC senior staff, drafts a study work plan focusing on engineering and scientific data, cost-benefit analyses, and other parameters that do not include potential socio-economic consequences of various water supply solution alternatives - - like sending Lake Michigan water to fast-growing suburbs west of Milwaukee and into Waukesha County.

3. A clamor of opposition to SEWRPC's exclusion of minorities and low-income communities from various committees and other SEWRPC activities and policy-making (and payrolls) leads to SEWRPC establishing an Environmental Justice Task Force.

4. After a protracted fight, SEWRPC accedes to the Task Force's desire to add to the water study - - and all future SEWRPC studies - - an independent analysis of socio-economic consequences.

As if you need to force a regional planning commission that such an analysis need be done - - underscoring, again, why Milwaukee is ill-served by the current planning commission structure..

5. Anyway: the water committee is all but done with its study, sends out , for comment its preliminary recommendations that include moving Lake Michigan water to Waukesha and other communities - - where there are relatively few minorities and low-income residents compared to Milwaukee.

6. At the 11th hour, SEWRPC agrees to hire a consultant - - an economic development institute at UWM - - to somehow add a socio-economic analysis to the water study recommendations.

The consultants at UWM will get 90 days to do their work, though the rest of the study has taken about four years.

And how the new relatively-short new study gets added intelligently and meaningfully to the pending recommendations - - which have already had a round of hearings and comment periods - - is anyone's guess.

Will it become an add-on? An appendix? Or a genuine guide to policy-and-decision-making that will require revisions to the water supply recommendations?

7. Today - - Tuesday - - the water supply committee met and got an update from current executive director Ken Yunker on the 90-day socio-economic study that is supposed to start soon.

Committee chairman Kurt Bauer, SEWRPC's first executive director going back to the late 1960's - - and now executive director emeritus and a paid SEWRPC consultant - - grumbled about yet another delay to concluding the study.

But this has to be said:

Had Bauer or other SEWRPC staffers encouraged the committee to look broadly at the issues at hand - - if SEWRPC had taken socio-economic issues seriously over the years and decades - - none of this would be needed now.

8. Carrie Lewis, Milwaukee's Water Works manager and the city's lone representative on the committee, said aloud at the Tuesday meeting that she hoped this new wrinkle wouldn't add another five years to the committee's work.

9. Lewis asked Yunker if the committee could make suggestions for the scope of work that the socio-economic consultants at UWM are negotiating with SEWRPC.

10. Yunker agreed, and said the committee would also receive the consultant report (along with the Justice Task Force) - - meaning that the very committee that overlooked the entire environmental justice issue in the first place now gets to help tell the consultants who are going to fix that omission what the study scope should include, and then will be in a position to review those findings.

How backwards is that?


crackbaby said...

Are there ever any committees or study groups on major issues that include non-whites? Not so much in Wisconsin.

WIth the right-wingers in Waukesha county having used up most of their groundwater resources or polluted them, etc., it goes to show that the sprawlers would want to steal water from Lake Michigan's basin.

If Milwaukee reps were smart, they would refuse to let any water from Lake Michigan leave the basin (e.g. move to Waukesha Co.). Water is the new gold and Milwaukee's lifeblood; letting the white-flight repubs in collar counties steal this water from the Great Lakes basin is the policy lever that has teeth. Use it.

Finally, these regional planning commissions, with their corporate ideologies, are not good for our state or elsewhere. Planning is important and necessary but when most actors are left out of the play, then how good can the play ever be, really?

The result of these planning outcomes is too often destructive highways bisecting neighborhoods, massive sewage treatment plants that actually spur development and sprawl, or other ass-backwards projects that result in the need for more sprawl, etc.

Perhaps it would be better to have regional environmental planning commissions that lay out what the land can handle, ecologically, and then the rest of the folks can figure out what to do with the areas open to development. Or not.

Anon Jim said...

Are there any governmental / public sector committees or study groups that are not a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money?

Specifically in the case of Sewer-pac a $7 miilion per annum waste of taxpayer dollars.

Not so much ever.