At yesterday’s board meeting, the Milwaukee County Board decided to seek permission from the state legislature to downsize. The final vote was 9 – 7 in favor of the motion which was introduced by Supervisor Steve Taylor. The board needs permission to voluntarily downsize because current law only permits the board to redistrict every ten years and they just recently downsized from 19 to 18 board members.
As reported by WUWM, the board would shrink from 18 to 13 supervisors and would take effect following the 2016 elections.
I am rather surprised that the board would make this move before the completion of the government wide county audit they fought so hard to secure, particularly since the public response at their first district listening sessions seem to be in support of the current board structure. And a number of people I have spoken with had expected a full bore proposal from the board on streamlining all of county government. But apparently the board is feeling the pressure from Representative Joe Sanfelippo’s proposal, which is now on the schedule in Madison, to restrict the board’s budget, reduce their salaries to $24,000 and take away their benefits. It should be noted that Supervisor Taylor is considered to be an ally of Rep. Sanfelippo.
But Supervisor Russell Stamper was pretty direct in his evaluation of the situation:
“This is like putting a gun to your head and saying you’re going to do this. It’s like a bully coming to you and saying you’re going to do this also. This is not about Milwaukee County. It’s about destroying Milwaukee County,” Stamper says.
Stamper believes the county board is already reduced to a bare minimum.
And Supervisor John Weishan Jr considers a downsized board an assault on democracy:
Supervisor John Weishan opposes the plan, saying the push is coming from the outside.
“It endorses the concept that somehow reducing democracy, reducing people’s representation is somehow a reform in the positive. What this is really about is how do you suppress the will of the people in Milwaukee County,” Weishan says.
I am not quite sure that downsizing the board somehow reduces democracy. But I am convinced that the imposition of changes to county governance from the state legislature certainly is an assault on local democracy…and the board is certainly far more representative of the areas, neighborhoods and municipalities of the county than the state legislature can ever be.
From he author Supervisor Taylor via the Milwaukee Business Journal:
Supervisor Steve Taylor, who authored the bill, issued a written statement saying a potential downsizing would ensure appropriate representation of minorities on the board.
“Its approval is a step in the right direction and should the state Legislature provide us with the tools to downsize, I hope that other members of the County Board who share my vision will not hesitate to proceed with appropriate steps towards meaningful reform,” Taylor’s statement said.
There are supposed to be additional listening sessions scheduled around the county and I thought that Supervisor Pat Jursik had one on the drawing board. One supervisor who won’t be holding one, is the aforementioned Supervisor Taylor who has been heard to say that he doesn’t need one…he knows how his constituents feel…after all they’ve voted for reforming the board before. He also implied this in his statements to WUWM as shown above!
So I guess next we see how the state legislature responds…if I was a representative or senator from out state I am not sure I’d want to get in the middle of this spat in MKE county…so they might be more disposed to allow the board to downsize than support Rep. Sanfelippo’s bill…we’ll just have to wait an see.