Tuesday, December 1, 2009

After Long Delay, Feds To Announce SEWRPC Certification Decision Wednesday

Federal highway authorities have delayed its release for close to a year, but tomorrow will disclose their decision about whether the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission gets another four years to approve major project spending in the Milwaukee area.

The signal that the recertification will be renewed - - and that the regional planning substance and procedures will remain in their narrow, status quo format - - is that the report's release at 3:00 p.m. at the War Memorial on the Lakefront will take place at a meeting of the full commission.

Details here.

The most recent review, in 2004, produced in 2007 the commission's Environmental Justice Task Force, a citizen body, along with commission pledges to work more closely with low-income and minority communities.

When things change at SEWRPC, the pace is glacial, and the process can be brutal.

Yet the Task Force had to engage in a public struggle with SEWRPC to get the agency to understand that its crucial regional water supply study - - nearly five years and a million dollars in the drafting - - was fundamentally flawed without a socio-economic analysis that had to be done by an outside, independent consultant.

SEWRPC recently hired an outreach manager, too, but the agency's staff, commission membership and goals are still heavily-weighted towards the suburbs and exurbs.

There are seven counties in the region comprise the boundaries of the agency, and each county gets three commission seats that are passed out by county, not population.

The City of Milwaukee, with a population greater than any of the six counties other than Milwaukee County, gets no seats on the commission.

For the last year-and-a-half, I have written and blogged extensively on the need for the City and County of Milwaukee to withdraw from SEWRPC and participate in a new, more urbanized entity that would put cities first.

I would expect the feds Wednesday to generally praise SEWRPC's performance while also offering the critics a few morsels by calling on SEWRPC to work more closely with more minority and low-income communities and citizens.

Or to work harder hiring more minority staffers, given that there are federal civil rights complaints pending against SEWRPC.

Here is one posting with links to both pending complaints - - one about transportation planning and one regarding employment and other personnel matters.

But I'm not expecting any blockbuster findings or recommendations.

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