Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Political Move - - To 'Keep Politics Out Of It' - - Waukesha Bars Mayor From Its Water Team

[Thursday update]

Waukesha's Common Council for the second time voted Tuesday night to keep Mayor Jeff Scrima off the city's negotiating team when it goes into discussions for Lake Michigan water with potential selling communities including Milwaukee - - the favorite - - plus Oak Creek and Racine.

The Council did this by overriding Scrima's veto of a resolution that had established a three-member Waukesha team made up only of appointed officials, including Lake Michigan water diversion proponents Lori Luther, the city administrator, and Dan Duchniak, the water utility manager.

The 11-3 vote followed a public comment period during which many citizens said they wanted Scrima on the team - - which I had blogged from the meeting before the vote.

And at 9:45 p.m. added this comment:

Looks like council will continue to.exclude him and stick with three unelected staff, while Milwaukee is bringing seven, including Barrett and Hines and Atty. Langley.
The vote was another statement by the Council that on this important matter, it is in control of City Hall and of the application, and is behind the water utility as the application's drafter, which means it needs to continue the politics and power plays in which some Council members continually put down and hamstring Scrima, a diversion skeptic concerned about the project's cost.

A number of citizen speakers reminded Council members in public comments before the vote that Scrima's surprise election in 2010 was, in part, a vote against the diversion plan pushed by Larry Nelson, the former incumbent, as his signature issue.

One pro-Scrima activist said he would move forward with a plan to downsize the Council if it rejected placing the Mayor on the team.

Speaking of politics - - some council members said they thought it was wise to leave all elected officials off the negotiating team because that would "keep politics" out of the process.

Elected officials eschewing "politics?"

"Politics" as a negative, in this context, I guess, must mean the opportunity to show-boat or gain publicity/election/score-settling advantage, because a negotiation for and conclusion of a precedent-setting, internationally-significant water diversion deal, most likely with Milwaukee and all its conditions, plus selling the diversion application to the Wisconsin DNR and then to the other seven Great Lakes states, plus financing and constructing the most costly public project in Waukesha's history - - all of this is profoundly political.

And by the way, the selling community will face plenty of political issues, too, as will the other states.

I can say, having been a member of two Mayors' staffs - - Paul Soglin's in Madison and John Norquist's in Milwaukee - - that whom you send to major meetings is filled with meaning - -  tangible, practical, symbolic  - - and the choice of players has a great impact on the outcome.

Going into that process without elected officials when the other side has lined up its heavyweights is strategically questionable, and, at best, procedurally naive.

I'll also emphasize that it's Waukesha's right to set its lineup as it chooses, regardless of the questions it raises and the statements it makes to others in the process and outside - - say, in the other Great Lakes states.

Talk about political.

I'll write a little more about this later Wednesday.

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