Tuesday, December 8, 2009

SEWRPC Officials' Annual Dinner Bill: $995.47 In Public Dollars

At last week's quarterly meeting of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission - - the one where federal reviewers re-upped the agency for another four years of federal spending powers, but urged SEWRPC to do a better job in connecting with the region's low-income and minority citizens - - there was a little chit-chat at the end about who was planning on attending the annual dinner later that day.

So I asked Executive Director Ken Yunker by email how many people attended, and where, what the cost was and if SEWRPC picked up the tab.

He answered today: Fourteen commissioners, three staff; the University Club; $995.47, at the Commission's expense - - and let's not forget that the Commission's entire budget comes from local, state and federal taxpayers.

I have asked Yunker whether SEWRPC has a membership at the University Club, and for an accounting for the meals back another four years. I will post that information when I get it.

Yunker said the dinner is a way to welcome new members to the 21-person board, and to thank those that are departing.

But a thousand dollars of public funds?

In a recession?

And is a $60-per-person meal at a private club for senior staff and commissioners a good message about fiscal stewardship to send to taxpayers, and to low-income residents of the SEWRPC seven-region?

Some months ago, when I disclosed that SEWRPC gave away old cars and computers to staff members, rather I observed that in many ways, the agency is run like a private consulting firm and not a public, more accountable agency.

A plugged-in planner mentioned to me that SEWRPC was also like a family business - - perhaps a better analogy.

Whether it is hiring back departing senior staffers as consultants, or buying a headquarters building, without bids, from a frequently-hired consulting firm, SEWRPC pretty much does what it wants without any elected official being responsible to voters for what goes on there.

But taking yourself out to dinner at a private club with other people's money really takes the cake.


Uncle Hulka said...


Boxer said...


You've resisted the obvious so I'm going in:

SEWRPC to the taxpayer: "Let them eat cake!"

It's a perfect example of SEWRPC's obliviousness to public opinion, economic realities and the politics of perception. Where is the overpaid and under-utilized PR guy they recently hired? So far, he's had no visible impact.

Anon Jim said...

James - when have you ever been bothered by a public sector entity you like or agree with pissing away thousands, millions, billions of taxpayers dollars.

Try never.

At least you as consistent in your Disingenuousness.

Anonymous said...

the MJS was irate about WHEDA spending money on flowers for a holiday party. d'ya think any of them will pay attention to this?

Anon Jim said...

Case in point - it was $1,400 on just the flowers alone for WHEDA's holiday soiree.

And you just have to love the WHEDA bureaucrat's lame response, apparently the waste of $1,400 of out tax dollars is below his dignity to comment on


Anonymous said...

SEWRPC asserts its will upon us, they could give a shit about what people think.

Boxer said...

Anon Jim:

You can always be counted on to make some irritatingly inaccurate and unsupported comment. At least YOU'RE consistent in your knee-jerk reaction to just about anything James R. writes.

Instead of agreeing that the SEWRPC $1000 dinner was misspent taxpayer dollars, and pointing out that WHEDA also misspent a similar amount recently, you assume that James would defend WHEDA's actions and then attempt to ridicule him for a defense he did not make.

Then you accuse James of not being bothered when other "public sector entity (ies)" "piss(ing) away thousands, millions, billions of taxpayers (sic) dollars." Well, Anon Jim, just where are these millions and billions of dollars being spent, by whom, and why is James Rowen the only person responsible for exposing this waste? And why hasn’t he? Never? Most importantly, how do YOU know?

In fact, James has written nothing about WHEDA—good, bad or indifferent—because he writes about other subjects: drunk driving laws, water, the environment, Milwaukee City and County government, and SEWRPC. Lots and lots about SEWRPC.

If you did know James better and had read his writing for longer than a few months, you might know, for example, that he recently took the UW Board of Regents to task for raising the UW Chancellor's salary to a new and astronomical figure. And one might easily presume that James "likes" the UW system.

You fling names and accusations, Anon Jim, at an alarming frequency for having so few actual facts at your disposal. And then you generally fail to put them together in a cohesive argument. We open-minded liberals might give your well-supported and logically -argued points more consideration.

In the blogging forum, where we all can enjoy the freedom of making comment anonymously, your words are you.

James Rowen said...

I have to say that I appreciated Boxer's words on my behalf.

A great deal of what and how often Anon Jim posts on this blog baffles me, but I think I have posted nearly all of it since that's what the format is all about.

I don't respond too often because it would be time consuming without a lot of worthy outcomes.

So thanks to Boxer for the effort.