Thursday, July 10, 2008

Its Own Data Give SEWRPC That Country Club Feel

I have just finished reading the 2006-2007 annual Affirmative Action report and accompanying minority hiring data compiled by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission - - it’s not available on line, so the agency provided the document and others - - and frankly, I am shocked at what I read.

SEWRPC has 83 employees - - 68 full-time, 15 part-time:

Of 42 so-called professionals - - engineers, surveyors, planners and other scientific positions - - there is only one minority individual - - an Asian-Pacific Islander male.


Let that sink in.

One of 42.

At a 100% publicly-financed governmental agency, authorized by a state statute. One of 42.

Of 33 so-called technical staffers (office equipment operators, “draftsmen,” research aides and others), there are nine minorities, including five African-American males, one African-American female, one Hispanic male, one Hispanic female, and one American Indian female.

Of eight clerical employees, there is one minority, an African-American female.

That's eleven of 83.

The report does not say how many of the minorities are full or part-time, but [update]: there are indications that the minority totals, principally in the "technician" category, may be influenced by the inclusion of part-timers, even interns, and if this is proven by additional information I have requested from SEWRPC, I will certainly post that.

In a June 8th op-ed in The Milwaukee Journal Sunday Crossroads section, I said SEWRPC's all-white 11-person senior management staff, along with structural and financial inequities in the agency's management and funding, were among the reasons that SEWRPC was a bad deal for the City of Milwaukee.

After some pushback from public officials support SEWRPC in its current configuration, I repeated my position and linked to the officials' statement, all here.

What is not in dispute is that City of Milwaukee taxpayers pay a disproportionate share of the agency’s operating budget without any representation on the 21-member SEWRPC board.

Milwaukee is a city of 602,000 people, and minorities make up the majority of the city’s population.

And after reading the agency’s Affirmative Action annual report (Affirmative? Action??) - - and knowing from other SEWRPC documents that these staffing patterns have remained relatively constant for years (in 2005, there were four African-Americans, two Hispanics, two Asian, Pacific Islanders, and 1 American Indian, or nine non-white staffers of 87 total) - - I am more convinced than ever that:

Milwaukee residents are institutionally dissed by SEWRPC management:

Milwaukee absolutely needs to withdraw from SEWRPC and put its annual tax dollar transfer to SEWRPC ($400,000 this current year through the county's budgeting procedures) towards a more representative, non-discriminatory and urban-focused policy planning agency.


SEWRPC says in the report - - and again, this language appears in much the same form in past years’ reports - - that its Waukesha location, and the lack of transit service there are among the probable reasons that there are so few minority employees on its staff.

Well, whose fault is that?

Did the region's minority residents fill in survey forms back in 1960 when SEWRPC was created and urge the agency to locate its offices in Waukesha County?

SEWRPC even moved a few years ago from its long-time offices in downtown Waukesha to an even more remote location in an office park in Pewaukee where, as I mentioned in my Journal Sentinel op-ed, and elsewhere, it isn't even located on a bus line.

As SEWRPC gets around to noting, too.

It's enough to make your head spin, because many of the employment and commuting issues that SEWRPC itself acknowledges would never have arisen, or would have been easier to correct, if the agency had been located in Milwaukee.

Here, verbatim, is the SEWRPC description of its “problem,” and the causes:

(I’ll have more to say later about SEWRPC’s intimation that there just aren’t enough trained minority professionals from which the agency might make some hires.)


“The Commission will make a concerted effort to increase the representation of nonwhites on the Commission staff in accordance with the previously stated affirmative action goals. Attainment of the nonwhite employment goals is constrained by several factors—factors which need to be considered in the formulation of the affirmative action program, set forth in the next section of this document, and in the evaluation of progress toward implementing the affirmative action plan.

“First, the Commission has found it difficult to recruit nonwhites for professional and technical staff positions owing to a lack of qualified minority applicants in the planning, engineering, earth science, and related fields. There appear to be relatively few young people of minority groups choosing these fields for their careers and securing the necessary higher education which, in many cases, involves masters degrees.

“A second factor regarding the difficulty of hiring nonwhites may be lack of public transportation. The time and expense of commuting to the Waukesha area could be a disincentive to potential job applicants from Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha Counties—particularly in view of the pay levels attendant to most of the Commission technical and clerical positions. The Commission worked with Waukesha County in 2005 to reinstate transit services between Milwaukee and Waukesha County to help fill this gap. Moving to Waukesha County in order to take a technical or clerical job at the Commission is an option which may be available to some.

“Thirdly, hiring for professional positions in general at the Commission has been limited in recent years owing to budgetary constraints, and is expected to remain limited over the next several years. This is reflected on Figure 1, which shows the distribution of the professional work force and the combined technical-clerical workforce of the Commission, by the number of years at the professional or technical-clerical level. As shown, the Commission professional staff has quite been stable over the years, with 31 professionals, or 74 percent of the professional work force, having at least five years of service; and 26 professionals, or 62 percent, having at least 10 years of service. Barring unforeseen staff attrition or a significant increase in the Commission work program, it is anticipated that the hiring for professional positions will be minimal—limited to perhaps one or two positions per year—over the next several years.”


By its own accounting, there is little staff turnover, there are few new hires, and there are significant barriers to bringing minorities to jobs and employment at SEWRPC.

Meaning that the odds of changing the 48-year-old agency, as currently located and managed, into a genuinely representative workplace seems as remote for Milwaukee's minority workers as is SEWRPC's offices in Western Waukesha County.

Which is not even on a bus line.

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