Monday, October 5, 2009

Is UWM Open To Public Input, Or Will It Just Play The Game?

Unable to attend last week's UWM Campus Master Plan meetings, but hearing far and wide that the process left much to be desired, I pose this question:

Will UWM - - a public school with specialists everywhere in the fields of economics, planning, architecture and development - - genuinely incorporate ideas about where to locate its new schools of engineering and freshwater science?

Will it incorporate those informed opinions about sprawl, transit, local economic activity and community growth to a) bring the freshwater school to the Fifth Ward where the UWM WATER Institute already exists, and b) extricate itself from a campus-splitting County Grounds land deal for the engineering school that will undermine the Milwaukee/urban economy?

This area has had its fill of pro forma, insincere public planning sessions and meetings.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission's October, 2008 federal certification review was one such set-piece meeting: officials there, following the model for this region established by state and federal highway officials - - an exclusionary format recently lambasted by US District Court Judge Lynn Adelman - - weakens the impact of public comments.

And everyone knew why:

Because the outcome is already decided, and the officials running the meetings to approve after their in-house technical studies for whatver highway expansion is on the table, or plan to add lanes later, are using these public comment sessions to go through the motions.

UWM cannot lapse into a phony way of doing the public's business.

The UWM community and the larger environment need real public participation to keep the campus and its mission focused and productive.

The campus administration must show in deeds hat it takes the Master Planning process seriously and will treat the input it gets on school siting as an authentic piece of the process.

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