Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No matter how many secret meetings get called, there's always a slip up....

The Waukesha Water Utility Commission held a meeting really early this morning that required anyone who wanted to see what was going on to get up before dawn.

After some criticism last year--that they they appeared to take to heart--the Commission began holding their meetings during the supper hour, as opposed to their practice of having them before breakfast. Was it just a coincidence that the day they want to have a secret session they go back to the old practice of meeting when most people are brushing & flossing or commuting to work?

Item # 5 on the agenda was a secret meeting. Item #1 was an opportunity for residents and customers to make public comments. So, your blogger requested that the four (out of five) members in attendance--seldom-seen Gerald Couri, Commission Secretary, was missing AGAIN--to defeat the motion to go into secret session. Mayor Nelson, it should be noted has in the past gotten quite irritated by my calling them "secret sessions". But, when I ask him to tell me what they talked about, he refuses. Why? Well, it's a secret.

So the Commission voted unanimously to kick out the spectators and meet in secret. Commissioner Zinda: "Aye". Commissioner Bull: "Aye". Commissioner Mayor Nelson: "Aye". Commission President Warren: "Aye".

State Law requires a pro forma notation in the motion to close a meeting that invokes one or more of the permissible exemptions from the Open Meetings Law.

Today's motion:

Pursuant to Sec 19.85 (1) (e) & (g), Wisconsin Statutes, to discuss strategy relative to our long term water options, as well as radium compliance, with legal counsel.

So they met. And the public doesn't get to find out what they're up to.

But, they gave us a hint. More than a hint. Here's how it happened: Their downtown lawyer from Reinhart Boerner, Mr Gallo, hadn't arrived by the time agenda item #5 came up. So, they skipped ahead to a truly mind-numbing review of budgetary stuff. Spread sheets full of abstruse although occasionally interesting stuff about how things look for the future. For example, the Utility had budgeted for the placement of around 300 new meters (new houses, new customers) in 2007. The number, six weeks from the end of the year is closer to 150. That'll put a small nick in revenue. But we're guessing that the Commission sees this as a minor glitch--real estate development should be going full tilt by next year.

But here's the biggie, conveniently tucked into dozens of pages of figures: Under a heading called "2008 Significant Budget Items," part of an executive summary provided by the Commission's accountant, Peggy Steeno, we read:

New Water Supply Investigation/Plan:
Included in this item are the consulting services to continue to assist the Utility with its investigation into a new water supply. The assumptions with this item are that an application for Great Lakes water will be submitted for review in early 2008. This item includes the support necessary to achieve development and approval of the application and initiate the negotiations with a wholesale provider. The current estimate for these services in 2008 is $300,000.
Looks like a done deal. They'll be assuming that the Great Lakes Compact is forever dead, and that the Water Resources Development Act is toothless. They'll probably sue on grounds that that the WRDA--which has been the only deterrent to wholesale diversions from the Great Lakes for the past several decades is subject to challenge on constitutional grounds. Then, they'll make a claim that Chicago's diversions of Lake Michigan water, with no requirement that diverted water be returned to the Lakes (virtually all of it goes down local rivers to the Mississippi), is a precedent that will allow Waukesha to tap Lake Michigan and send the water down the Fox, also to the Mississippi.

Last week, Jim Rowen at Political Environment talked about how John Norquist viewed the process of getting public input into the "work" of planning agencies. The public wants to know when there will be opportunity to see--and react to--the planners' "work".

The planners' answer involves a series of responses: Not yet....not yet....not yet....not yet...............Oops, Too Late.


1 comment:

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.