Last month the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to redistrict Milwaukee County’s 19 current supervisory districts into 18 districts, a plan that was attacked at the time for the speed with which it was approved by the board. County Executive Chris Abele allowed the redistricting plan to go into effect without his signature, and the plan has now come under fire from municipal leaders across Milwaukee County. At a meeting yesterday of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council, that group unanimously endorsed a measure calling on the county to show how it complied with a state law requiring input from municipalities before approving last month a once-a-decade redrawing of boundaries for electing Milwaukee County supervisors.
County Executive Abele voted in favor of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council’s measure questioning the County Board’s redistricting plan, and as an example of how politics sometimes makes for very strange bedfellows, Tom Taylor, the conservative Mayor of Franklin and Tom Barrett, the obviously not conservative Mayor of Milwaukee, were in agreement in questioning the County Board’s redistricting plan.
County Supervisor Joseph Rice, who stands to lose his seat on the County Board due to the redistricting plan passed by the board, has refused to directly address why his district was being divided out of existence, however he did characterize the County Board’s redistricting plan as the result of a “backroom, backdoor deal.” Having had an opportunity to hear some of the players involved in the County Board’s redistricting proposal speak about the proposals and the “benefits” of the proposal, it’s pretty clear some on the County Board want to redistrict Supervisor Rice out of office in order to cement a liberal/progressive majority on the County Board, with one County Supervisor going so far as to brag about that the County Board’s redistricting proposal would put Supervisor Rice out of office and secure a progressive majority on the County Board, especially when coupled with the retirements of Supervisors Lee Holloway and Lynne De Bruin.
While I’m obviously no expert in redistricting and the inner workings of the County Board, I will say the redistricting proposal put forth by the County Board doesn’t seem to make much sense as anything other than a blatant attempt to redistrict Joe Rice out of office. Putting aside the fact that it makes little to no sense to reduce a voting body to an even number of seats, the retirements of Supervisors Holloway and De Bruin would seem to give the County Board an excellent opportunity to reduce the size of the County Board by at least two seats, with the districts currently represented by Holloway and De Bruin being redrawn and resulting in no current County Supervisors losing their seats.
In fact, County Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo offered a redistricting plan that would have trimmed four supervisory districts in part by merging four districts – the districts currently represented by Holloway, De Bruin, Jason Haas, and Nikiya Harris – into two districts. While I don’t necessarily support the idea of reducing the size of the County Board by four seats, I do think reducing the size of the board by only one seat doesn’t make much sense at all.