Friday, June 12, 2009

Waiting For That Delayed Evaluation Of SEWRPC: Is Godot Being Consulted?

November 10th was the closing date for the submission of public comments to the Federal Highway Administration's every-four-years certification review that allows the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to remain a federally-approved Metropolitan Planning Organization.

More than seven months have passed, and no report: what's the problem?
Why ask for public input - - and in this case - - go through with a highly-publicized public meeting in October - - and take testimony and bring a clutch of officials to Milwaukee to walk around the room at the Milwaukee County Transit Center to urge people to give their input if the report won't be released.

It's an important process: without renewed certification from the feds as on crucial public participation measurements, SEWRPC would not have MPO authority to approve certain federally-funded highway and transit projects in the SEWRPC seven-county area.

So a successful review maintains SEWRPC's power and prestige.

And the 2008 review came at a watershed moment for SEWRPC: the Milwaukee Common Council had just passed a no-confidence resolution calling for fundamental changes by the state legislature to SEWRPC's structure.

The city wanted changes to resolve some of SEWRPC's taxation-without-representation and exclusionary deficiencies that harm Milwaukee and its low-income residents, and often favor suburban sprawl development and highway expansion over urban development and transit.

Separately in the fall, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors had urged the state to carry out a performance audit of SEWRPC, and the ACLU of Wisconsin had filed two complaints with federal oversight agencies alleging discrimination in SEWRPC spending, hiring and committee operations.

I emailed the feds over the last few months asking about the report's release, as it was my understanding that the report was to be completed 90 days after the end of the comment period, or in mid-February, 2009.

So on February 13, 2009, I asked Carlos Pena of the Federal Highway Administration's Madison office by email about the report's release, and on the 17th, he emailed me and said "We expect to have the final report issued some time toward the middle of March."

When mid-March came and went, I emailed him again on March 22nd, and Pena said this in a reply on March 24th:

"The draft of the report has been distributed for review by all the
required channels. However, given the short period for implementation of the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the limited resources available to some of the reviewers we anticipate the final report to be ready for distribution sometime within the next two months.
OK - - I understood that - - so more than halfway through that two-months time frame, but with the earlier delay in mind, I checked in with Pena on May 5th.

This time: No response. And that was five weeks ago.

Now I'm wondering: Are the feds going to wait until the 2012 review?

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