Monday, February 23, 2009

Unlike Its Chicago Counterpart, SEWRPC Is Oblivious To The Economic Crisis

Do you think that the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, with a regional economic development mission, responsibility for transportation plans and some federal spending, and a staff of 49 professionals, is an active partner - - perhaps a leader - - in aligning incoming stimulus funding to benefit the "highly urbanized" area of the state its website says is its turf?

Think again.

I looked at the agendas for next week's meetings of the agency's key executive and administrative committees, and there's nothing listed on the subject.

Also nothing about the stimulus on the agenda for the 2/10 meeting of SEWRPC's Planning and Research Committee, and those minutes won't be published for a long time. More about that desultory process in a few paragraphs.

And SEWRPC's Intergovernmental and Public Relations Committee? It last met in November, 2006, and has convened only twice since 2005, though with stimulus funding passing from the feds, to the states, to local governments, and some directly to regional planning bodies like SEWRPC, you'd think this committee or some other SEWRPC arm would be thinking and working and planning along these lines.

I'm not making this up: work you way through the meetings and agendas, here.

Now log onto the Chicago Metropolitan Area Planning Commission's (CMAP) website - - something I have suggested on this blog - - for further proof that in Chicago, the regional planners are anxious for, and genuinely seek, public participation, feedback, communication and action.

Item number one on the CMAP site:

Regional response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

"At a new CMAP web page about the federal economic recovery package, our staff are posting frequent updates and analysis. Among the highlights are CMAP's draft recommended criteria for evaluating and reporting on projects eligible for funding. Check back often for new additions, or subscribe to the RSS Feed. "

The new CMAP webpage referenced is updated every week.

In fact, I'll save you the trouble of finding the 2/20 update. Here it is:

"ARRA upate. Since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed on Tuesday by President Obama, we have been working closely with local partners to prepare for the infusion of stimulus funds for infrastructure, including transportation, water projects, housing, economic and workforce development, energy, brownfields, and more. Don't forget to watch our Regional Response web page for updates. (You can also subscribe to the page via RSS feed.) According to FHWA, the highway funds for each state from the ARRA are distributed as follows: 67 percent for allocation to any area of the state, 30 percent for suballocation to areas based on population, and 3 percent for Transportation Enhancements. In Illinois, this will result in distribution of a total funding amount of $935 million, broken down as $626 million to any area of the state, $280 million for suballocation to areas based on population, $28 million to Transportation Enhancements. We are in continual contact with IDOT and other CMAP partners to help ensure that our region and its residents benefit to the fullest extent possible."

Alot of information there - - CMAP even sent the public and community groups suggested criteria for stimulus spending and asked for feedback 28 days ago.

Why isn't SEWRPC doing this sort of work - - even some modest, risk-free convening? - - and posting it, and encouraging people to read and join in, as the Chicago organization is doing for and with what it calls its "partners?"

Partners? SEWRPC does not even think that way.


It didn't even follow the recommendations of its own Environmental Justice Task Force when the EJTF sought a role in the pending hiring of a new SEWRPC Executive Director, and, later, when the EJTF asked that the regional water supply study and all future SEWRPC studies contain an independent socio-economic analysis.

And urging people to tap into an RSS feed of its work?

Don't make me laugh: I am not sure if SEWRPC's management even knows what an RSS feed is, and if it does, the instant public communication by RSS feed of work-in-progress would be seen in the agency's second-floor, buttoned-up management offices as a threat.

SEWRPC still hasn't even bought a digital tape recorder at the local Radio Shack to capture and post verbatim meeting minutes and proceedings on its stodgy, monochromatic and barely interactive website - - the internet equivalent of an eight-track tape deck or a black-and-white analog television set.

The taxed-but-unrepresented City of Milwaukee on the SEWRPC governing board- - heck, the entire seven-county structure created in a misdirected 1960's brainstorm that includes Walworth, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, Kenosha, Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties - - suffers every day that this anachronistic, unresponsive and disconnected agency burns through $7 million tax dollars annually without a real-life, street-level mission, and a sense of urgency.

I've said it before, and I repeat it now because it's more necessary with every passing day:

The City and County of Milwaukee, on behalf of the tens of thousands of residents and taxpayers for whom stimulus plans could be the difference between life and death - - and a region, the difference between more stagnation or a fighting chance at some growth and employment - - absolutely must extract itself from this sonambulant and self-perpetuating irrelevancy.


Anonymous said...

Not too surprising.

Cahya said...

That's an interesting article.

Anonymous said...

Yes frustrating isnt it, but I have noticed you mentioned Southeastern Wisconsin and economics in the same sentence. After 44 years and half those in Milwaukee, economic development and Wisconsin dont belong in a sentence and most of the time, not even on the same page.

Anonymous said...

Chicago machine politics has given its citizens nothing but crooks like Blogo and Burris. Crooked incompetents are well represented on Chicago's planning commission.

Mayor Daley promises a video camera on every corner. Chicago is becoming a leftist police state.

I'll take what we have at SEWRPC anyday.


James Rowen said...

Pretty cynical.

Anonymous said...

That's your opinion, sir.

Obama is a Chicago pol... draw your own conclusions.


James Rowen said...

First cynicism: now generalizations that are flat wrong.

Obama was not a Chicago machine politician.

Don't confuse geography with politics.