Thursday, December 3, 2009

Still Needing Transparency, SEWRPC Reauthorized To Spend Federal Dollars

So the quadrennial kabuki known as the federal government's review and renewal of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission power to spend major transportation funds ended Wednesday afternoon when the agency accepted at a full commission meeting the reviewers' relatively bland and heavily bureaucratic findings.

Earlier Wednesday, I posted a link to the report, and also posted the executive summary.

At the meeting attended by only one reporter from traditional media - - Sean Ryan of the Daily Reporter - - the feds praised SEWRPC for certain activities, especially its coordination of transit planning in the region.

Also spelled out were the areas where SEWRPC needed to make improvements.

Most remedial efforts will be in agency communications and outreach - - echoing findings in the 2004 recertification review that pointed to insufficient agency work with low-income and minority communities.

SEWRPC's Executive Director Kenneth Yunker said the agency was close to meeting one of the federal recommendations - - hosting and presenting an improved website.

Three things struck me at Wednesday meeting:

1. SEWRPC and the lead reviewing agency - - the Federal Highway Administration - - work closely together all the time, so there was little likelihood that the review would be hard-hitting, or could threaten SEWRPC's certification.

All parties to the process have too much at stake and in common for that to have been in the cards.

2. That SEWRPC could be told in December, 2009 that its studies and formats needed to be better presented in "plain English," and that the agency's outreach to low-income and minorities still needed attention were stunning commentaries on SEWRPC's half-century of insularity.

3. This means that SEWRPC still does not understand or champion transparency, and this reality speaks volumes about an agency funded 100% with public dollars.

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