Waukesha Water Officials Keep Flunking The Open Government Test
Some Waukesha officials simply cannot do the right thing when it comes to transparency and water planning - - a disturbing reflex first seen in 2006 when the city's two secret written requests for access to Lake Michigan water were prepared, sent to (and ignored b ) Gov. Jim Doyle, and revealed through an Open Records request.
The game-playing over Lake Michigan water access continues - - but first, before a fresh set of records, some background.
You will remember that Waukesha cancelled a November 18th meeting with the Department of Natural Resources about the city's troubled application for a Lake Michigan water diversion because environmental organizations - - a "special interest," as Common Council President Paul Ybarra told the DNR by letter - - were going to sit in and observe.
Observers! Can't have that.
Remember also that earlier this year, the Waukesha Common Council had agreed unanimously that Waukesha water utility manager Dan Duchniak and Mayor Jeff Scrima would be joint points of communication on the water issue with the DNR.
That agreement calmed a political storm after Scrima, a Lake Michigan supp;y skeptic, won an upset victory in April over pro-diversion incumbent Larry Nelson and later wrote to the DNR expressing his concerns.
Some Council members wanted to cut Scrima out of communications with the DNR as the state agency wrestled with whether to begin a formal review of Waukesha's diversion application; the 'who-speaks-for-Waukesha' compromise created a communications and power-sharing arrangement - - but one drawn up by the Council which, along with the water utility, strongly supports the diversion and the diversion application and finds Scrima's opposition vexing.
Can't have that.
Documents I obtained under the Wisconsin Open Records statute indicate that Common Council Ybarra wrote the DNR - - his November 16th letter is posted at this DNR website - - to say that the meeting was off.
Duchniak told the Mayor of the cancellation and Ybarra defended the communications end-run to Scrima, the records show.
What does all this mean?
That the power struggle over directing Waukesha's still-stalled Lake Michigan diversion application very much continues, with Mayor Scrima still fighting others in Waukesha government for a role in the process, and thus advocating for a truly transparent process.
I cannot imagine any of this goes down well at the DNR, which must decide whether to process and move the application to the other seven Great Lakes states - - all of which must agree that Waukesha produced a sound application for the application to be implemented..
This application is the first under the eight-state, two-nation (US- Canada) 2008 Great Lakes Compact. That compact was approved by the US Congress and signed by the President of the United States. It's a very big deal.
For Waukesha, under a legally-imposed 2018 deadline to permanently fix decades-old water quality issues, this application puts the city at the threshold of The Super Bowl.
And pro-diversion forces in Waukesha City Hall want to keep playing flag football.
Here are the records obtained through an Open Records request to Mayor Scrima:
From: Dan S. Duchniak [mailto:DDuchniak@waukesha-water.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 12:47 PM
To: Jeff Scrima
Subject: RE: DNR meeting
I know you did not consult the Mayor’s Office on this letter.
You, as one alderman, also cannot unilaterally make decisions on how the City of Waukesha communicates with the DNR without prior Council and Mayor approval.
This flies in the face of transparency, the public trust, and the citizens of the City of Waukesha which we represent. This is also reminiscent of the closed-door meeting you held with City of Milwaukee officials related to water back in May.
Our diversion request is the first time the Compact is applied and must be done correctly, thoroughly and with utmost transparency.
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 4:28 PM
To: Jeff Scrima
Cc: email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; Joan Francoeur; Joseph Pieper ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; Paul Furrer ; Rick Tortomasi; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; Terry Thieme ; Vance Skinner; Ald John Kalblinger ; Al Roeker ; Bill Boyle ; Dan Warren (email@example.com); Greg Zinda (firstname.lastname@example.org); Joe Piatt ; Dan S. Duchniak
Subject: Re: Letter to Alderman Ybarra, regarding communication with DNR on water - November 18, 2010
What a two-bit operation!
Each screw-up like this one just sets them back further and further from their goal.
Reminder: In the first application, they forgot to send in the check!
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