Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Suppose SEWRPC's Independent Water Consultant Gets Too Independent?

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission has an over-arching land use plan that it wrote decades ago, and that it updates from time to time.

SEWRPC treats it as something of a regional master plan, and snaps at anyone suggesting it is flawed.

And as you may know, SEWRPC has been writing for the last three-and-a-half-years a million-dollar regional water supply study that recommends major changes in how and where several communities in the region would get their water - - most notably, the City of Waukesha, which SEWRPC recommends obtain a diversion from Lake Michigan.

Which is great news for Waukesha, as it is preparing an application for that diversion for review by all eight Great Lakes states.

SEWRPC, however, has agreed to put the plan's formal approval on hold because SEWRPC's relatively-new Environmental Justice Task Force more or less demanded that SEWRPC add something the task force said was missing - - an analysis by an independent consultant of the socio-economic impacts of moving water around the region, as the draft water study is recommending.

Put aside questions like: why wasn't an independent socio-economic analysis an integral part of the water study from its inception in 2005; or why didn't SEWRPC's fifty years of internal policies, in or outside of the land use plan, call for independent socio-economic analyses as a routine part of any and all SEWRPC studies - - as SEWRPC has recently agreed to do, again at the strong suggestion of its justice task force?

Anyway...keep in mind that SEWRPC says (see slide of 17 of this SEWRPC presentation on the water supply study) that the land use plan is "the basis" for the water supply study, since in SEWRPC's world, everything emanates from, and is guided by, the land use plan.

And in its appeal for a consultant in the Request for Qualifications, SEWRPC enunciates clearly on pages 1 and 2 the primacy of the land use plan with regard to SEWRPC work.

With all that in mind, I again read through the "Request for Qualifications" appeal (RFQ) that SEWRPC has issued to find that independent consultant to write.

The deadline for consultants to let SEWRPC know that they are interested, and have the know-how to proceed if they are selected, is June 30, according to the RFQ.

SEWRPC wants the consultant to produce an analysis in 90 days - - something of a quickie, don't you think (and the RFQ doesn't contain a dollar amount the consultant would be paid), given the millions of dollars at stake throughout the region in water-assisted development, new infrastructure, and, who knows - - unforeseen costs/benefits/opportunities, etc. in re: socio-economic consequences, too?

Real analysis? Challenging the status quo, or the basic assumptions of the water study, to date?

Or will SEWRPC get something that can pass muster, so the water supply study can get back on track for its presumed approval - - unless that independent analysis documents a case that the whole thing needs a do-over.

So what would happen to the water study, or even to the bigger land use plan, for that matter, and to public policy across a seven-county region if the socio-economic consultant found serious fault with the crafting or the unfolding/updating of the land use plan?

Or with the wisdom and feasibility of inserting the water study, as drafted, into the land use plan?

Or with the adequacy of a land use plan, merged with a draft water supply plan - - without SEWRPC having written a regional housing plan - - certainly a key regional socio-economic element - - since 1975?

I can't imagine any consultant getting into these issues without examining what SEWRPC says is at the basis of it all - - the land use plan.

It will be very interesting to see how SEWRPC makes its consultant selection, what it offers as a fee, and more importantly, how independently this independent analysis is allowed to evolve.

Stay tuned...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


What you need is an independent analysis of the most recent SE WI regional land use plan.

Without it, no one in SE WI will know the real (or perceived) value of this so-called 'supreme' land use plan for ALL citizens. In your post, you reference something you wrote about SEWRPC's long-standing institutional arrogance; as a resident of SE WI, I think others should realize how their tax dollars are being spent on an institution that prides itself as some sort of think tank.

Someone in SE WI should ask Mr. Ken Yunker what he means by stating, " would agree that the regional land use plan and attendant water supply plans are in the best interests of the Region..."

In fact, someone should further ask, maybe like a highly-ranked public official in the City of Milwaukee, if it is accurate that one person at SEWRPC, the Chief Land Use Planner, William J. Stauber, exclusively wrote this updated land use plan based on so-called "...national and international [recognized] pioneering concepts...?, with little input from other staff members?

When this follow-up meeting occurs with environmental groups, someone should ask Mr. Yunker if his Transportation and Environmental Planning staff were involved in writing and/or advancing planning concepts based on contemporary and practical research?

Was SEWRPC's water expert, Robert Biebel, involved in writing the most recent regional land use plan?

From my background, this entrenched form of SEWRPC's closed-minded way of thinking is called piecemeal planning.

If he disagrees, someone ask Mr. Yunker to provide (on the spot in the follow-up meeting) at least five examples of pioneering concepts in the most recent land use plan?

To make it more interesting, please ask Mr. Yunker not to use the term sustainability (because it virtually doesn't exist in the recent regional land use plan), mixed use, or transit-oriented development?