Monday, September 29, 2008

Local water politics, with regional implications.

The Waukesha Water Utility has been the private fiefdom of Daniel Warren and Gerald Couri for decades. These two are (or, until recently, were) the private citizen members who, between them, have held the seats (and the elected officer posts of President and Secretary) for approximately thirty-five years.

Couri's three year term is up on Wednesday and Mayor Larry Nelson has replaced Couri with an unknown naif, who--as Nelson put it: "...volunteered to serve".

The new member showed up at the Thursday, Sept. 25 meeting and hesitated to sit at the table because he seemed to be unsure about whether his appointment had been ratified by the Waukesha Common Council.

Asked to respond to the welcome by the assembled Commissioners, Allen Roeker described himself simply as a mechanical engineer who "...has some experience with fluid mechanics...". That little resume tidbit is right up there with a candidate's claim to foreign policy experience a la: "On a clear day you can see all the way to Russia from Alaska".

It was pretty clear that he is a complete-blank-slate newcomer to the issues that face the Commission. He's never been seen at a commission meeting in the three years Water Blogged has followed water politics in Waukesha. He has no publicly-stated position on any issue that faces the commission. He's a prime candidate to be a new water-carrier for Daniel Warren.

I offer my sincere wish that he serve a useful term representing the interests of Waukesha rate-payers and citizens as he assumes the responsibilities of Water Utility Commissioner.

[Full disclosure: I offered my services to Mayor Larry two years ago; Mayor Larry declined. And, who could blame him? I told him that I thought the Commission needed some "loyal opposition;" Mayor Larry told me--in so many words--that he didn't need any opposition; he needed heavy duty conformity.]

Larry seemed, then, to need someone who would follow the Water Utility's custom: never dissent; always vote in the affirmative when a roll call vote is called. Ask no serious questions. Do everything Daniel Warren (Commissioner for the past 21 years, Commission President for most of those years) proposes. Meet in secret session whenever Warren says he wants a secret session.

Most of all: Maintain the Water Utility's virtually unbroken record of unanimous approval of every matter requiring a roll call vote for over three years. (I say virtually unbroken because once--just once-- a Commissioner did cast a lone dissenting vote over a non-issue, approximately a year and a half ago. Before the next meeting, that commissioner had been replaced by Mayor Nelson).

Commissioner Roeker may, perhaps, have a source of advice on how to be a good and useful citizen volunteer. His wife, is Chair of the Waukesha Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board and a member of the City Planning Commission.

Dynastic politics?

Roeker's first highly visible challenge will be to assess whether the coming (probably December or January) whopping rate increase is crafted in a way that serves the citizens or the outrageous development-forever-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see interests of Mayor Larry and Commission President Daniel Warren.

Stay tuned....

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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.