Monday, June 23, 2008

Letter Writers Call Out SEWRPC

The Journal Sentinel's Sunday Crossroads section carries a brace of letters on the growing debate about SEWRPC's value to the City of Milwaukee. Most writers agree that the agency is a bad deal for Milwaukee.

Here is a link to the letters.

I'm glad to see the ratio of letters, and even more happy with the discourse.

SEWRPC - - with its obfuscatory acronym, inaccessible Pewaukee location, and similarly remote website, publications and processes - - has been little known to the general public, but certainly less so these days.

SEWRPC is a 100% taxpayer-financed public agency authorized by the state legislature.

It spends millions of public dollars annually, and as I argued in the Crossroads piece of June 8th that got this discussion going, those dollars are often spent in ways that undervalue Milwaukee, a big city's needs and the best way to consider those needs in a regional context.

Without votes on the SEWRPC board, city property taxpayers this current year who sent more than $400,000 to SEWRPC - - a larger contribution than made by five of SEWRPC's seven entire counties - - are taxed without being represented.

None of the senior, so-called SEWRPC "core staff" are minorities, or even live in the City of Milwaukee, SEWRPC records indicate, thus perpetuating an anti-city, pro-suburban/exurban orientation in the commission's workforce, hence its management and its work products.

Look no farther than its failure to start, let alone study and publish, a recommended housing plan for the region since 1975.

Or the fact that more highway lanes are being designed for the region with SEWRPC's encouragement, but transit in the same region is shrinking even as gas prices spike.

Or that of 32 people on the important SEWRPC water supply advisory committee, where hefty recommendations are coming for Lake Michigan diversions that will push sprawl farther from Milwaukee - - along the widened highway corridors that are often transit-free - - there is but one City of Milwaukee representative, and no people of color, and none representing low-income citizens or communities from which employment might depart and follow the fresh supply of Lake Michigan water.

SEWRPC has been around since 1960, so I think it's time for basic changes there - - and that needs to begin with a restructuring of either the board makeup, or of the commission itself - - to give meaningful voice and fair value to City of Milwaukee residents, priorities and tax dollars.

I appreciated the Journal Sentinel publishing my June 8th op-ed, and the letters chosen June 22nd - - make sure you read Patricia McManus' letter that ties it all up as the last of the letters published - - indicate that I am not the only one in these parts who thinks SEWRPC is a bad deal for Milwaukee.

(Numerous posts on this blog about SEWRPC are available through the search box at the upper left. Just enter SEWRPC.)

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