And worse, expressing contempt, again, for its very own Environmental Justice Task Force [EJTF], a body of volunteer citizens that was created against SEWRPC's philosophies and wishes to help it better communicate with and represent the region's diverse, minority citizens and communities.
But it seems as if SEWRPC prefers to pull the rug out from under the EJTF.
This is what happened:
Earlier this week a group of businesses and heavy-hitters that support Waukesha's stalled and flawed application for Michigan water sent a series of written and leading questions to SEWRPC about its stance on whether such an application met the agency's water supply recommendations.
Their goal: get that application on track.
But the correct answer from SEWRPC should have been, unequivocally:
'Our water supply study is not completed, because our EJTF has not finished its part of that study, and our consultant has not finished its research, either.'
Instead, SEWRPC - - inserting itself into a factional political fight over water supply alternatives in Waukesha between the new Mayor on one side and the Common Council and staffers in City Hall and the Water Utility on the other - - told the business group that its water supply advisory committee had preliminarily recommended in favor of a Lake Michigan diversion, enabling the group to run out with a misleadingly titled news release:
"SEWRPC Reaffirms Recommendation of Great Lakes Water as Future Waukesha Water Supply"
"June 28, 2010—(Delafield, WI ) Per an inquiry by the Sustainable Water Supply Coalition (SH2OSC), The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) has reaffirmed its late 2009 recommendation that Great Lakes water is the recommended option for the City of Waukesha’s future water supply needs."
Followed by online survey promo from the business group, including the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce that repeats the error that SEWRPC had recommended the diversion:
"Both the City of Waukesha and our regional planning authority (Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Authority [sic] have comprehensively reviewed all potential options, considering both environmental impact and cost effectiveness, concluding that Great Lakes water is the best option for Waukesha. "
A mischaracterization that SEWRPC has not corrected - - so now we have a narrative out there that says SEWRPC has recommended the diversion, when, in fact, it has not.
The message to the EJTF: you've been spinning your wheels.
Waukesha's diversion application says the City intends, should it get Lake Michigan water, to ship it beyond its current borders to open space or relatively under-utilized land to the west and south, including into portions of the Town of Waukesha, Genesee and Pewaukee.
In its application, the City includes a map of that expanded service territory drafted by SEWRPC, so it's a foregone conclusion that some of that land will likely be annexed to the City - - if the application is approved by all eight Great Lakes states.
The end result would be that with SEWRPC's blessing, businesses and residents will locate or relocate to that area, pulling the economy farther from Milwaukee - - a city landlocked by state law and home to many transit-dependent, people of color or lower-income residents who cannot afford to move to the Waukesha area and cannot get there easily due to poor transit connections.
There is in Milwaukee, however, ample Lake Michigan water, and existing pumping infrastructure, available without the legal, political, procedural and financial hurdles needed to send it over the subcontinental divide to Waukesha - - and on to the Town of Waukesha, et al.
Milwaukee continues to be ill-served by its inclusion in the seven-county SEWRPC territory, where the agency continues to diss the very City residents whose options are repeatedly circumscribed by SEWRPC hiring, planning and spending.
Two years ago, both the City and County seemed willing to take these matters head-on, but I haven't heard much about it lately.
The EJTF meets next Thursday at 4 p.m. at IndependenceFirst, 540 South 1st Street, Milwaukee.
Maybe SEWRPC's Executive Director Ken Yunker - - the author of the reply letter to the business group that has blown the water supply study and the agency's credibility into uncertain waters - - can further explain his letter at the Thursday meeting.
His text and the business group's letter are here.