Friday, November 24th, 2017

Scrima’s drama on water more like science fiction


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Jul 8, 2010; Section:Opinion; Page Number:10A

Scrima’s drama on water more like science fiction

Waukesha residents got more than they had bargained for in April’s election. As the local blog Spring City Chronicle commented recently, a vote for Jeff Scrima was a vote for less drama in the mayor’s office. They were sadly mistaken.

What drama! The mayor had the sense of it when he delayed for an entire week making a decision on whether to sign a letter to the DNR. It said Lake Michigan was Waukesha’s only option for a long-term solution to Waukesha’s water problems.

Surely when Scrima’s op-ed appeared in The Freeman, after a conspiracy-filled two-part interview, it was inevitable that Scrima would not sign the letter. But the mayor clung to the dramatic moment a couple of days more until he could release his own letter to the DNR saying that somehow, someway Waukesha would find an alternative to Lake Michigan water.

I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what he will do next. Will he invite the press along on a nature hike where he will somehow divine a new source for water? Will he strike a rock at a quarry causing water to spring forth? Perhaps he will call a psychic hotline?

We know he has no actual science on which to base his decisions. All of the relevant people with expertise in this field have looked at Scrima’s proposed solutions and dismissed them entirely.

Ah, but we do have Mother Goose to comfort us, tales of Little Red Riding Hood to scare the children of Waukesha to stay away from an evil cabal of business interests and city bureaucrats. Throw in a few interested elected officials such as Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas and the members of the Waukesha Common Council, and we have nightmares aplenty for young and old alike.

It’s hard to take such a man seriously but unfortunately we must. So long as Scrima is in office as mayor he will oppose Waukesha’s application for Lake Michigan water. So long as the mayor of Waukesha opposes the city’s application for Lake Michigan water, the Department of Natural Resources and the Great Lakes states will not accept Waukesha’s application, even if the Common Council renders Scrima’s office as impotent as Mayor McCheese.

Give the council credit for trying. City Administrator Lori Luther controls costs as much as the Common Council will let her. She’s even negotiated zero increases with the city’s unions two years in a row. Given a choice between a good city administrator and an increasingly erratic and irrational mayor, the Common Council chose the city administrator.

Contrary to what some believe, the city administrator has always been more important than the mayor. The argument that the mayor should be more important was lost three years ago when Luther was hired. The Common Council merely codified it last week, and in doing so revealed their assessment of our new mayor.

Scrima’s remaining supporters tell us that expressing his “grassy knoll” visions are really an articulation of his electoral mandate.

Election results are nebulous things to read. It’s a bad year for Democratic incumbents. If Scrima’s predecessor was identified with anything for four years, it was close ties to the Democratic Party. It’s worth noting that while Scrima won in a landslide, his landslide was not nearly as great as the other Republican vs. Democrat contest, Mark Gundrum’s victory over Richard Congdon for judge.

It’s also worth remembering the other issue in the race was the perceived lack of professionalism by the incumbent. If only a referendum could be held on the mayor’s professionalism now.

The drama! We forget now but Scrima actually supported the council’s decision to approve the application for Great Lakes water. That followed a campaign that saw a gradual weakening of his stance against Lake Michigan water.

It might be worth asking Scrima what sudden vision revealed to him the great water conspiracy and how it caused him to renew his opposition.

How much time can we spare for the play? The city’s water commission told us they only had an 18-month cushion built into the plan, a blink of an eye in government work.

We need fewer nursery rhymes, fewer boogeyman stories, and more adult leadership – soon.

Unfortunately, the adults aren’t in charge, Scrima is.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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