Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

Scrima still does not get water issue


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: May 19, 2011; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A    

Scrima still does not get water issue

What will council do about the mayor?


OK, confession time. When I saw Mayor Jeff Scrima with a shovel in his hands in last Saturday’s Waukesha Freeman, I thought the mayor was digging a new shallow well for our water supply. 

Turns out the mayor was filling in some potholes with a road crew and figuring out new ways to spend taxpayer money on equipment. At least he was not spending his time alienating aldermen and staff. He waited until Monday to do that. 

The occasion was the city of Milwaukee sending a follow-up on a letter sent to Scrima last year reminding the city of Waukesha of Milwaukee’s current bargaining position. 

Scrima reacted in the normal Scrima fashion. He lashed out publicly at Milwaukee for wanting to maximize their revenue from selling water to Waukesha and avoiding the costs of building the pipeline. 

Of course, nothing in Milwaukee’s letter is alarming. 

Milwaukee would like more money as economic compensation, but if they get too greedy Oak Creek and Racine may be better options. The Public Service Commission will control water rates. 

As for the non-compete clause, Waukesha is already part of the non-compete clause in the Milwaukee 7 agreement. If anything, Waukesha would benefit from the redundancy. 

Scrima also took the occasion to repeat his claim that Waukesha has options other than seeking Great Lakes water. He even claimed that those options are in the application now pending before the Department of Natural Resources. 

Of course, there are no real alternatives to Great Lakes water for Waukesha’s water future. As the application (and every presentation before the Common Council) makes clear, no alternative is as cost-effective, protective of the environment and protective of the public health. Also, every alternative suggested has the additional problem of pitting Waukesha against its neighbors in endless legal battles, and probably the DNR as well. 

What should the rest of the city think of a mayor so divorced from reality? What should the city do about a mayor with absolutely no ability to grasp even the basics of the most important issue confronting us? 

As the Milwaukee letter’s timing reminds us, Scrima has been in office for over a year. So far all he has been able to grasp is that the process is (hopefully) too far along for him to stop it. 

Of course, that’s assuming none of the Great Lakes governors listen to the Dr. Strangelove-like ravings of Waukesha’s mayor, who is afraid of Milwaukee infiltrating our precious bodily fluids. 

If Scrima has a plan for Waukesha’s water future, he should present it right now. But he doesn’t have a plan or else he would have brought it to the Common Council by now. 

If Scrima truly accepts that the city is moving forward with the water application process, then his responsibility is to support the application. That does not mean trying to undermine it at every turn, and it does not mean attacking staff publicly prior to negotiations with Milwaukee, Racine and Oak Creek. 

Give Scrima credit for recognizing an immediate opportunity to marginalize him on this issue. The Waukesha Water Commission will be picking the city’s negotiating team, subject to Common Council approval, at its scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. today. Scrima complained there is the possibility he will be excluded from negotiations. 

Is there anything in Scrima’s history as mayor that has demonstrated he belongs in the room? The repeated late-afternoon memos leaked to the press. The lastminute budget announcements. The inability to behave professionally toward city staff. The secret tape recording. The ethical questions surrounding his New Day in Waukesha Fund. 

Who would want such an immature, erratic, and irresponsible person in the room while the adults talk? What possible benefit would there be for Scrima to be there? 

Which raises a real question for the Common Council. What will they do with Mayor Jeff Scrima when the application process moves forward to approval by the Great Lakes governors? 

Whether it’s by resignation, recall or impeachment, Scrima cannot continue to serve as mayor if he is unwilling to serve the best interests of the city. The water issue is too important to let the Scrima issue just linger. 

What will the Common Council do? 

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


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