Saturday, July 3, 2010

Letters From A House Divided: Special Delivery In Waukesha

Waukesha's internal struggle to sort out who speaks for the city when it comes to water planning - - and a potential commitment to spend $164 million on a plan endorsed by the Common Council to divert Lake Michigan water to the city - - led to a battle over letters of policy and intent for the state Department of Natural Resources to read.

The Waukesha Water Utility drafted this one for Lake Michigan diversion skeptic Mayor Jeff Scrima to sign.

Aside from its overly, overtly technical wording, there was no way Scrima could sign that letter of support, given his winning campaign during which he had raised questions about the Lake Michigan diversion.

So he balked, not taking the Joycean, "apologize, apologize" bait.

This is the letter Scrima sent instead.

Totally different, as he asks instead for clarifications from the DNR and restates his policy and fiscal concerns.

As the issue was gaining steam Friday, I posted this explanation and background.

The DNR' set all this unto motion a few weeks ago when it notified Waukesha that the agency had suspended review of the diversion application, pending the addition of more analyses and data, and also noted Scrima's stated interest in pursing more study of alternatives to the application's Lake-Michigan-or-bust choice.

By publicly announcing that it had drafted a letter for Scrima to sign in support of the application, the water utility, it seems to me, made it more likely that Scrima would resist and the letter would not get sent.

Elected officials don't like to be cornered or pushed around (actually, who does?) - - surely not by non-elected officials - - and don't forget that Scrima also has been getting an earful from a pro-diversion business coalition that includes the County Chamber of Commerce.

So was there really a chance that Scrima would capitulate, confess the errors of his ways - - and sign?

Did the utility expect Mayor Scrima to become Mayor Culpa?

So what was the point, really, other than to build a case against Scrima the way an employer
documents a case against a troublesome employee.

The DNR has Scrima's letter, and will reply. But I don't think it's the DNR's job to draft a roadmap for the political establishment in Waukesha to help itself out of the this thicket.

But the DNR will now also read the letter that didn't get sent; was it in the interest of diversion proponents for the DNR to see even more evidence of the internal divisions within Waukesha government over the application?

Who thinks the DNR wants to get between the factions in this house divided, let alone pick a side, and sponsor that kind of case before the other Great Lakes states?

I don't see the DNR volunteering for a no-win, suicide mission.

1 comment:

Betsey said...

Let's not forget: the DNR letter was sent to Mayor Scrima, not the Water Utility General Manager or the Common Council President, nor the City Janitorial Staff.