Monday, March 17, 2008

If This Is "Sunshine Week," Will SEWRPC Be Allowed To Pick A New Director With Zero Public Input?

This is "Sunshine Week," when reporters and editors focus attention on closed government.

Great. So let's throw open the curtains.

Where is the reporting, other than on this blog, here, about the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission's apparently closed, fast-track process to hire a new Executive Director for this crucial public agency?

Yes, public agency.

It was created by, and operates under guidelines established in, state statutes.

The agency's entire budget comes from taxpayer dollars - - federal, state and local property taxes from seven counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, Kenosha and Walworth.

All its 21 commissioners are named either by county officials, or the Governor.

Major highway projects in its seven-county region cannot go forward without SEWRPC's recommendation.

It plays a key role in housing, transportation, land use and water planning for a region that includes most of the state's urban, low-income and minority residents, as well as much of the state's industrial and commercial infrastructure.

Its planning activities, and its disinterest in transit expansion as well as broad urban action agendas have made SEWRPC's decisions and operations extremely controversial; its off-the-beaten path location in a Pewaukee industrial park, as well as its total absence of City of Milwaukee representation, continually sap its credibility.

If there ever was the need for transparency at SEWRPC, and an opportunity to attract new talent into the agency to make it more relevant and cutting-edge, the time is now.

Bottom line:

The public should be involved in, and far better informed about, the planning for a new SEWRPC executive director's search and approval.

The entire subject, with the direction of the agency going forward, should be the subject of a public hearing, at a minimum.

One obscure reference on a SEWRPC committee's online agenda that references the possible Executive Director's appointment following a closed meeting - - information here - - in no way meets a state agency's public obligations.

On Friday afternoon a little after 2:00 p.m., I emailed Phil Evenson, SEWRPC's current executive director, with basic questions about the process.

So far, nothing back, and the clock is ticking towards this coming Thursday's meeting.

How about a little more sunshine this Sunshine Week on what SEWRPC intends to do?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why does SEWRPC even exist? They often duplicate or completely contradict planning efforts of local municipalities.

I say either disband the group completely, or change the structure so this is an elected group and responsible/accountable to the people who pay their salaries. - THE TAXPAYERS!