Thursday, July 9, 2009

SEWRPC 's Think Tank Approach Limits Its Value

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) took great and public umbrage a little while ago when several environmental and civic organizations said SEWRPC's guiding Land Use Plan was outdated and inefficient.

Among the criticisms: the groups said the plan had enabled sprawl in the region, and because SEWRPC's draft water supply study was based on the Land Use Plan, the water supply study was similarly flawed, alleged the groups.

SEWRPC's website contains a four-page summary of the recommendations in the most recent iteration of the Land Use Plan. Here is a link.

Read through it, and answer me this:

What is the value of a set of policy recommendations about land use, environmental and ag land preservation, housing patterns, development and density and other related issues if the final document makes not one suggestion about getting the recommendations implemented other than to say that kind of work is up to other units of government.

In other words: SEWRPC has no plan or strategy or inclination to enlist the public to a) embrace the recommendations, and b)push for its recommendations' approval.

That, in fact, would require real, grassroots participation in setting SEWRPC's work plans, agendas, schedules and output - - and that is not where SEWRPC is coming from.

It works with a small group of consultants, advisory committees with many repeat members, and closed processes (no video or audio recordings, no streaming even) that leave the public out - - until the studies are completed, and pro forma comment sessions are tacked on at the end.

No: SEWRPC does not get involved in the heavy lifting of policy creation and approval.

It defines itself as a think tank, a two-story ivory tower tucked away in a Pewaukee office park, with real-world political (not partisan, but political) and organizing and outreach and public relations efforts left to others.

Ideas can be nice.

Studies done earnestly, over years, can have merit, too - - but without a plan to involve the public in a meaningful way from the beginning and then to get studies and reports off the shelves and into ordinance, statute or budgetary formats - - it's all just so much cotton candy.

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