Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Waukesha Water Diversion Preparation Is Aggressive, Multi-Faceted

Waukesha's lobbying and communications efforts in pursuit of a Lake Michigan diversion are leaving no stone unturned.

Read along, thanks to Waukesha records released to this blog that show:

* Face-to-face meetings at Waukesha's behest with various Milwaukee officials;

* Additional media, governmental, union and business sector meetings and organizing under discussion to help win a precedent-setting diversion of Lake Michigan water to Waukesha with Milwaukee being the water-seller most desired by Waukesha.

In summary: Waukesha is thinking strategically and resources behind it.

Milwaukee's strategy?

Not so clear.

The emails and other records reveal busy communications among Waukesha officials and contract lobbyists in October and November to schedule and prepare for the Milwaukee meetings.

Waukesha officials have also been meeting with outside groups and agencies, including staff at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, records show.

The meetings with the Milwaukee officials were to include one or more of the following: Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson, Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Daniel Duchniak, and two lobbyists from Martin Schreiber & Associates, a lobbying and PR firm under a $10,000+ monthly contract to the Waukesha Water Utility: Schreiber firm partner Bill McClenahan, and former Milwaukee Ald. Michael D'Amato.

Meetings were set up initially as early as Nov. 4th with Milwaukee Alds. Robert Donovan, Council Pres. Willie Hines, James Witkowiak, Willie Wade, and more followed.

Ald. Joe Dudzik was scheduled for Nov. 10th, with Ald. Ashanti Hamilton and Comptroller Wally Morics on Nov. 20th, though some times and appointments changed, as the records show.

One later email indicates that Morics, and Alds. Hamilton, Hines, and Robert Bauman were scheduled or rescheduled on Nov. 20th, along with Ald. Terry Witkowski "at the South Shore Yacht Club for lunch."

Ald. Tony Zielinski was set for a meeting at Alterra Coffee on 1st and Pittsburgh on Nov. 23rd, and Alds. Dudzik and James Bohl on Nov. 25th.

McClenahan asked D'Amato by email on October 28th, at 1:33 p.m. what sort of materials would be best prepared for the Milwaukee officials.

D'Amato replied later that afternoon:

"3 things as an intro

"One, the need for water in 2 bullets. Radium, stipulation

"Two, who needs water. Service area map including % of developed land. Who is city of Waukesha? Income, housing value, wrking class, growing diversity. Do not use latino # alone. Roll into growing "people of color." [the abbreviations were D'Amato's]

"Three, what are options and what's in it for Milwaukee. Indicate all 4 options, unique circumstance that makes diversion possible (map). Discuss approx amount of $ that will go to city for next 20 yrs. Use modest escalator to boost amount.

"That should do it for most people," the email concludes.

Another interesting document that shows Waukesha's attention to detail is a proposed work plan drafted by McClenahan for discussion among the Waukesha contingent at a Milwaukee Athletic Club lunch on November 4th.

This is the text, records show, with bold-facing in the original:

"Additional needed meetings with Mayor Nelson (or for Mike solo): [Mayor] Barrett, [Alds] Murphy, Bauman, Puente, all other council members

"Additional other meetings: Wauwatosa, West Allis, New Berlin? Racine? Oak Creek? Governor Doyle? Local Legislators?

"Discuss public meeting and hearing schedules and locations

"Other action items:

"Respond to enviro letters

"Consult with DNR on process

"Finalize application by for [sic] Dec. 8 release

"Op eds, letters to editor (Journal Sentinel, Business Journal, Freeman, Daily Reporter)

"MMAC, other business meetings

"Union supporters - how best can they help? Also contact additional unions

"Revise or prepare additional handouts."

My bottom-line analysis:

Waukesha has an array of lobbyists, staffers, elected officials, lawyers and consultants who are focused on obtaining the Lake Michigan diversion, which Waukesha has said it would prefer to purchase through the City of Milwaukee.

The Waukesha approach is multi-layered, with experts brought on board as needed.

In a recent posting, and by contrast, I quoted another document from Waukesha expressing satisfaction with the City of Milwaukee's decision against hiring an expert adviser to help calculate the true value of water.

Not because the Milwaukee expert would have been too expensive. Money had already been earmarked for the contracting. Milwaukee said it could handle these possible water sale valuations on a case-by-case basis.

So, I'd say: advantage Waukesha. It knows how to play the game.


The Big Bopper said...

Thanks James. Interesting to read how things actually get done at City Hall. So it looks like Waukesha hiring Ald. D'Amato to lobby the Common Council was pretty smart. I wonder if they bought his pitch that Waukesha is a glorious workers paradise full of "people of color" who are just trying to get by and not worry about radium in their agua. So much for the hope that the former Alderman (Damato) will be helping Milwaukee get the best deal...what a joke. So now if you're a Milwaukee official against selling water to Waukesha you're heartless for forcing them to drink poisonous water and possibly a racist? Really? I can't imagine the really intelligent guys on the Council like Bauman or Murphy buying that argument.

Jim Bouman said...

Check this morning's Freeman for the Belling column. Doesn't focus on the water issue, but makes a big stink about the Waukesha School Board President and the stupid "investments" he was involved in on behalf of the retired teachers health care funds.

Who would that be?

Dan Warren, who is also the President of the Waukesha Water Utility. He's been on/controlling the Utility Commission for 23 years.

Belling's last line in the column:

"The president of the Waukesha school board is somebody named Daniel Warren. He is the walking personification of everything wrong with government in this country. He is a bum."

I wouldn't, personally, go that far. Warren--while not a bum-- has made some colossal mistakes; he's smug in his conviction that he's smarter than the rest and deserves to have been elected School President after the disastrous financial jiggery pokery Belling writes about.

Extra tidbit: Warren's day job involves his being one of the key people developing Pabst Farms. He's still not a bum; but for this community to entrust him with those two critical jobs is definitely bone-headed.

Really interesting is that none of the consultants' quoted from the FOI material mentions Dan Warren. He's no-doubt seen by the Mayor and the consultants as a liability, a pariah, who should be unseen and not-heard in making the case for the diversion.

James Rowen said...

Jim - - I heard Belling on the radio really take off after Waukesha and its school board on this issue.

Along with the water cost out your way - - and yes that's a ratepayers' issue but most ratepayers are also taxpayers, too - - the regular taxpayers could be facing another major hit if and when this failed investment scheme results in a dead credit rating, legal costs, and education funding shortfalls.

I'm also wondering it the plans to annex a lot of land to the west and south for the diverted water distribution (along with the city as it is constituted now) will strike the newcomers as a bad arrangement if they will then have to pick up their piece of the education funding mess?

Jim Bouman said...

I believe most of the land slated for development is already within the Waukesha School District boundaries. Developers already control much of this land with options or outright ownership. Some of it is built-out, with individual residences on large lots--typically 3-5 acres. Developer mentality, however, demands that they get lots of houses on a little bit of land, typically three houses per acre, with well and septic and limited other (Township-supplied) services.

The whole annex/develop theory is based on a blue sky notion that has been doctrine in the Waukesha City Council for years. Growth by annexation is only supposed to be good for Waukesha IF each new residence that is built on annexed land registers a value for taxation (assessment) of AT LEAST $360,000. Mayor Nelson has stated that only under these conditions will land be annexed. And he says that it requires that level of projected tax receipts to cover the cost of providing new city services to the expanded area AND have enough left over to fund burgeoning expenses in the older parts of the city.

All this talk was in the air before the recent real estate/sprawl unpleasantness (eg. Pabst Farms) that--in the eyes of knowledgeable and realistic observers--killed the prospects for upscale development on the edges of the city of Waukesha.

But, you are right about the school finance mess. They are already paying hundreds of thousands in legal fees to press the lawsuit against Stifel-Nicholas. If they had hired legal teams under contingency terms, even a win would be costly--perhaps a third, or more, of what is recovered to the lawyers.

I have paid taxes in the City of Waukesha for 35 years. I have always thought the essence of wisdom on taxes are the words of the immortal Bob Overs: "Pay your taxes cheerfully and ALWAYS, ALWAYS vote".

To my regret, I supported Larry Nelson last time, on the theory that his opponent was immeasurably worse, that Larry was the least-worst of a bad lot. But, I've never voted for Dan Warren. Between the two of them we are cruising toward big financial trouble.