Monday, August 23, 2010

The Public is Cheated When SEWRPC Plays Obtuse

This blog had extensive coverage of the efforts by the justice task force arm of the regional planning agency (SEWRPC) to initiate, and finish, an independent assessment of whether there are socio-economic consequences of the agency's draft water supply plan to support the diversion of Lake Michigan water by the City of Waukesha - - and if so, what should be done about it.

This struggle for the work, and, initially, against SEWRPC's leadership, began nearly two years ago.

The Lake Michigan diversion application drafted by Waukesha relies, in part, on SEWRPC draft diversion recommendations whose adoption in the near future are a foregone conclusion:

SEWRPC and Waukesha have had a neat little tag team going these last few years, as each backs the other's parallel work (Waukesha's water utility manager, Daniel Duchniak, remains a forceful member of the SEWRPC's advisory committee that is drafting the agency's regional water supply plan.)

When it appeared in July that the task force {full name: Environmental Justice Task Force, and a short primer on EJ, is here) might complete its work by email, and not in an open meeting, the ACLU of Wisconsin urged the agency - - SEWRPC - - not to go that route, and I had an exchange of emails with SEWRPC officials about my concerns, too.

After some delay, the agency said it would hold another meeting of the task force on 9/2 where the socio-economic work would be discussed.

[Well, here we are at 11:15 p.m. on Sunday night, August 22nd, and the SEWRPC web page set up for the task force still says, as it has all week, that there are no meetings scheduled.]

But I see that SEWRPC, while not scheduling the 9/2 meeting, had gone ahead and scheduled a separate meeting this coming Tuesday, 8/24 for its water supply advisory committee to take up the task force work.

The water policy advisory group is the one that SEWRPC treats like a real advisory committee - - while the justice task force is on the receiving end of SEWRPC's long history of indifference to criticism and transparency.

So I again asked SEWRPC what was happening, and was it not putting the cart before the horse having the advisory committee meet prior to the task force and consider the task force work?

At first I got no reply, so I re-sent my query also to Ken Yunker, SEWRPC's Executive Director - - after which i got a response from Gary Korb, the SEWRPC outreach manager who had not answered my first email.

Since I said I would post any and all responses, I'll do so below with the entire exchange - - but note that while a question about the task meeting was addressed, there was no answer to the larger question of how it is that the task force work could be on another committee's agenda when the task force work was not completed, and not completed in an open meeting?

[Update Monday: SEWRPC provides an answer about the water committee scheduling, but, again, no explanation about whether the justice task force work is considered done. This is like pulling teeth. I will put that Monday email exchange below the earlier one, below.]

An agency that is 100% financed by taxpayers, and which was basically forced by federal monitors and civil rights activists to create the justice task force, is not doing itself or the public any favors by becoming obtuse and opaque when public policies and procedures are at stake.

Better outreach and connections to the region's under-represented, minority and disadvantaged communities are supposed to be SEWRPC priorities, according to both the agency's 2004 and 2008 evaluations by the feds.

This entire episode tells me SEWRPC's compliance and commitment to environmental justice are charades.

[For the record, here we are at 8:25 p.m. on Monday night, August 23rd, and the task force meeting is not yet scheduled. So clearly the water committee meeting, which is Tuesday at 9:30 A.M. is SEWRPC's priority. As for the justice task force, that pesky thorn in SEWRPC's side - - it can wait.]

The email exchanges:


Ken asked that I respond to you. I have not had time to look at your blog posting, but plans are moving ahead for the September 2nd meeting. The Task Force has been reminded of this next regular meeting date, as also noted during the July 8th meeting, but an agenda has not yet been distributed. An agenda will probably be distributed within the next several days.


Gary Korb

Regional Planning Educator

UW-Extension working with SEWRPC


From: James Rowen []
Sent: Friday, August 20, 2010 11:14 AM
To: Yunker, Kenneth R.
Cc: Korb, Gary K.
Subject: Fw: I put this up today, Gary

Hi, Ken;

Can you answer the question I posed in this blog posting and that is based on an earlier email from Gary about the EJTF meeting of 9/2- - basically why the EJTF meeting of 9/2 has yet to be scheduled, but an 8/24 meeting of the water supply advisory committee has been scheduled, with an agenda item to approve the SEI that the EJTF still has under discussion?

I have not heard back from Gary on this matter.

Thank you.

James Rowen

--- On Thu, 8/19/10, James Rowen wrote:

From: James Rowen
Subject: I put this up today, Gary
To: "Gary K. Korb"
Date: Thursday, August 19, 2010, 12:06 PM

I'll post any response from the agency.

James Rowen

Monday email exchange:

The water committee meeting was set and materials mailed before members of the EJTF requested an additional EJTF meeting to discuss the UWM-CED report. The water committee will be informed of the additional EJTF meeting to be held.


Gary Korb

Regional Planning Educator

UW-Extension working with SEWRPC


From: James Rowen []
Sent: Friday, August 20, 2010 12:46 PM
To: Korb, Gary K.
Subject: RE: I put this up today, Gary

Thank you, Gary. Can you also address the question of why or how the water advisory committee can be taking up the SEI from the EJTF on August 24th prior to the EJTF finishing its work on 9/2? For want of a better phrase, isn't that putting the cart before the horse?

James Rowen


Anonymous said...

SEWRPC is ignoring and delaying response. It is disrespectful and outright a slap to the face. I would bet it is not Korb who even handles the responses to you or any other person or agency. Korb needs to get the almighty ok and final edit from Yunker before he sends "off" his e-mail to you.

Thank you for your persistence in this matter as it is bringing to light how the agency (SEWRPC) operates and has operate since it's inception.

(I apologize for being anonymous, but it is for the best at this juncture.)

Anonymous said...

It has never been about smart growth with SEWRPC. These bozos knew about the water issues years ago but that didnt stop anything out there from being built. They dont listen to anyone or answer to anyone. How do I get a job there?