Monday, November 20th, 2017

Scrima raises false issue on Great Lakes water application


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

Scrima raises false issue on Great Lakes water application

I often wonder how hard it is to pick up the phone and call someone. Or even to walk a couple of hundred yards to talk face-to-face. Is it really that hard?
While Mayor Jeff Scrima’s office was getting a facelift, you would have thought he would have been looking for an excuse to get out for a while. He could have walked over to Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak’s office the other day rather than send a memo to the media.

Scrima could have cleared the air and gotten some fresh air in the process.

Instead, the mayor endured the paint fumes and sent a memo to the media – and to Duchniak after he went home – criticizing the water utility manager for not bringing Waukesha’s application for a diversion of water from the Great Lakes back to the Common Council a second time to approve some minor technical changes even though when the application was approved by the council they also approved the water utility making the minor changes before sending it to the Wisconsin DNR.

Perhaps if Scrima had picked up the phone to call Duchniak and asked him about the minor changes, Duchniak could have explained that the council already gave prior approval of the minor changes. If Scrima was still unsatisfied, he could have asked Duchniak to make a 15-minute presentation to the council.

That would have been the civilized, responsible way of handling things.

Instead, as we know, Scrima sent the memo to the media, called the decision to send the application with a couple of minor changes a “public policy mistake” and raised a false issue of transparency.

It’s a false issue because the application is publicly available. It’s a false issue because the process has been completely open so far, and I encourage everyone to contact their alderman if they have questions. It’s a false issue because the DNR is going to review the application and ask for public comment. It’s a false issue because the whole issue will come back to the common council for approval again if the application is approved by the DNR and the Great Lakes governors. It’s a false issue because there won’t even be negotiations with any community along Lake Michigan for water until the application is approved.

What struck me as bizarre about the memo was the way Waukesha’s mayor was echoing many of those who do not have the best interests of Waukesha at heart. Scrima’s complaint was almost word for word the rhetoric of Milwaukee environmental writer Jim Rowen, a writer who has absolutely nothing but contempt for our city. Rowen and other environmentalists think our city is the greatest bastion of modern sin – urban sprawl – and our continued existence is killing Milwaukee.

Which raises the question of just who are these supposed “smart people” to whom Jeff Scrima claimed he was listening prior to the election. They certainly do not seem to have the best interests of the city at heart, or even Scrima’s best interests, if they are encouraging the mayor to send out silly memos to the press rather than talk like an adult to the city staff. They certainly do not have Waukesha’s best interests in mind if they are encouraging the mayor to raise false questions rather than encourage him to actually learn something about the water issue before he makes himself look silly.

So Scrima continues to look for the miracle no-cost cure for Waukesha’s water problems under his bed while the serious professionals that work for the city continue to press on for a real, lasting solution. Meanwhile, Scrima continues to alienate the city staff and drive the Common Council nuts.

I realize that Scrima is still new on the job. I realize that his supporters will complain that everyone is picking on him, or that it’s somehow sour grapes over the results of the last election.

Guess what. The voters assumed they were voting for an adult. They did not like the last mayor because they did not think he dressed like a responsible adult. It would be nice if the current mayor behaved like one.

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


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