Wednesday, September 17, 2008

SEWRPC Hit With Second Civil Rights Complaint

First there was complaint number one - - keyed to transportation spending.

Now there's a second about hiring, and more - - and both allege discriminatory action and federal violations by SEWRPC, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

SEWRPC was the subject last month of a civil rights complaint alleging discriminatory support for suburban highway spending over transit that serves low-income taxpayers.

The complaint, filed in August with federal transportation officials, also cited a lack of minority representatives on SEWRPC's key advisory committees. (In 2007, SEWRPC data showed that of 126 members on its advisory committees at that time, three, or 2%, were minorities.)

Details of that complaint are here. It also seeks an investigation and remedies.

SEWRPC recently said the August complaint had no merit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which filed the August complaint, has now filed a second complaint - - this time with federal labor and contracting officials.

Here is a link to the news release:

The full complaint is here, and I will post it separately later Wednesday.

It alleges that SEWRPC, a governmental body that receives 100% of its funding from public sources, improperly named an Executive Director-designee without an open hiring procedure and consideration of diversity in the process.

This complaint seeks an investigation into SEWRPC hiring and promotion practices, and a variety of remedies.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has a long history of prodding officials and agencies to include minority and low-income persons in public planning and spending decisions.

This new complaint was filed on behalf of the Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

I have been long critical of SEWRPC's affirmative action shortcomings and its relocation from downtown Waukesha to a more remote Pewaukee business park that is not served by transit and is thus distant and disconnected from Milwaukee and the region's minority job pool.

Additionally, the commission structure statutorily leaves the City of Milwaukee without representation on the Commission's 21-member governing board.

Milwaukee is the largest city in the SEWRPC seven-county region and has most of the region's minority residents.

Yet mostly-white counties with as little as 15% of Milwaukee's population have three seats on the commission's governing board, contributing to SEWRPC's suburban orientation.

Among the remedies sought in the new complaint is the opening of a Milwaukee office by SEWRPC.

I had summarized many of these issues in a June op-ed piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Crossroads section in which I suggested Milwaukee withdraw from SEWRPC, stop sending it about $400,000 annually for operations and create a separate planning commission that would put the interests of the city and minority taxpayers first.

That piece is here.


Anonymous said...

I didnt know that Milwaukee is the largest city in the SEWRPC seven-county region and has most of the region's minority residents. You know, this post was really interesting to read. i learned alot


James Rowen said...

Thanks for being a reader.