Thursday, July 12, 2007

The SEWRPC study

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, a publicly-funded planning agency for a seven county area where the biggest city is large and impoverished, needed a public relations firm to tell it that, really, it ought to do some planning in the large, impoverished city.

(Also, the PR firm said cynically, being nice to Milwaukee might make all those mean African-American Milwaukee county supervisors like SEWRPC more.)

That first part of the story should be enough to convince everyone in the world that SEWRPC needs a major overhaul in both structure and attitutude. Jim Rowen puts the issue into perspective here.

But there's more: once SEWRPC agreed to do a study of Milwaukee's 30th Street corridor, the agency's PR firm, Mueller Communications Inc., arranged a press conference for no significant reason other than to get some air time of lots of people from the city, county and SEWRPC promising to be nice to each other and cooperate. After all, the city's Department of City Development also is engaged in a major planning effort along the corridor, so why not play nice?

So after the camera guys packed up and went home, doubtlessly wondering where the hell the news was in that particular news conference, how much cooperation was there between the city and SEWRPC?

Well, judging from evidence available thus far, not very much.

A request to SEWRPC for records related to contacts with city officials has produced nothing so far, although that might actually be due to some confusion and SEWRPC is reviewing its records again. In addition, invoices submitted by its consultants on the project (and obtained under a different open records request) do list meetings with city officials.

The DCD records are far more telling because there are none. Nada. Zippo.

A request for any DCD record related to the SEWRPC study brought an adamant assertion from DCD that it did not have any such records.

Two public agencies are conducting similar studies of the same thing and one of the agencies doesn't have so much as an e-mail about what the other one is doing? No notes, no nothing?

Yowza. That's not the cooperation they taught us about in grade school.

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