Thursday, March 19, 2009

SEWRPC gets ready to decide: no public input, thank you

A SEWRPC committee is meeting at 9:30 a.m. in downtown Milwaukee tomorrow (March 20) to start deciding how to spend federal stimulus money to the tune of $38.7 million in Federal Highway Administration surface transportation program funds and $28.5 million in Federal Transit Administration formula funds.

You would think, given President Obama's emphasis on transparency in this process, that SEWRPC would go to great lengths to let people know what it is up to with this particular $67.2 million. As usual, however, public outreach and involvement is not the SEWRPC way.

As of yesterday, if you knew that the SEWRPC committee to debate the spending priorities was the Advisory Committee on Transportation System Planning and Programming for the Milwaukee Urbanized Area, you could go to the SEWRPC web site and find the agenda by clicking on the "Meetings and Agendas" link and then clicking on the committee name. The fact that the chances of you knowing all that are just about nil did not figure into SEWRPC's calculations.

SEWRPC, as far as I know, made absolutely no effort to publicize this critical debate, or invite public input. How about this for SEWRPC's stimulus motto? "It's your money -- now shut up about it."

Sometime between yesterday and today, after CASH inquired about it, the meeting notice was added to the front page of the SEWRPC web site. This means that if you happened to be perusing the front page of that particular web site in the past 24 hours, you could find out the time and location of this meeting.

You do read the SEWRPC web site on a daily basis, don't you?

I asked Yunker specifically what efforts SEWRPC was making to get public input, but Yunker didn't answer the question when he responded to my email. I asked again Wednesday, but did not get any answer at all.

The meeting, by the way, is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in the Milwaukee County Downtown Transit Center's Harbor Lights Room, 909 E. Michigan St. The agenda does not include any time for public comment or input.

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