OUR Milwaukee County: Where Are The Next Listening Sessions?

Here is an excerpt for the February 8th Milwaukee County Board press release announcing the OUR Milwaukee County initiative:

“We are delivering on the promise of government reform discussion that is local and inclusive,” said Chairwoman Dimitrijevic. “We are eager to listen to our constituents – the people who live throughout Milwaukee County – to hear their ideas for efficiency and effectiveness.”

The initiative, which includes a consistent agenda designed to spark discussion and debate, is set to include a series of town hall meetings in all 18 Supervisory districts throughout the months of February and March as well as a nighttime public hearing in March.

I am only aware of four listening sessions so far and tomorrow is the last day of March 2013. There were rumors of one more and Supervisor Taylor has been heard to say he wasn’t going to hold one since he knows how his constituents feel…but I think we are owed 13 more listening sessions…or better yet a county convention!

OUR Milwaukee County: Supervisor Deanna Alexanders Listening Session

I would like to thank the friends of Blogging Blue, Cory Liebmann and Matthew Finnell for both forwarding the link to this video from Wisconsin Jobs Now from the OUR Milwaukee County listening session held recently by County Supervisor Deanna Alexander. Now the video is heavily edited reducing what was probably an hour or ninety minute meeting down to under six minutes.

And this meeting was far more vocal and more antagonistic than the two that I attended. This might partly be because both Supervisor Haas and Supervisor Schmitt used a facilitator to run their meetings and moderate the speakers. From the video it seems as if Supervisor Alexander wasn’t able to control the meeting quite as effectively.

Representative Joe Sanfelippo attended the two other sessions that I attended and although he talked with constituents afterward much like the conversations shown here, he didn’t actually address the sessions…and that may have brought out he worst in the audience here…he is after all, as the author of the bill AB 85, the target of most of the hostility.

The video does bear out what I found at the previous two sessions…the house looks nearly full…and county residents are upset and passionate about defending county government. I just wish I could have been there…and that we had more video…and the crowd could have been more civil.

And I am surprised that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn’t have a front page article about how disrespectfully Rep Sanfelippo was treated…or maybe not! LOL!

OUR Milwaukee County: Rep Sanfelippo’s Bill Attacking County Government Scheduled for Committee

Representative Joe Sanfelippo’s bill (AB 85) to destroy county government is set for the Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing on Thursday April 11, 2013 at 9:30 AM, room 225 Northwest.

The committee members are Representatives Tyler August (R – 32 and chair), David Craig (R -83 and vice chair), Daniel Knodl (R – 24), Dale Kooyenga (R -14), Rob Hutton (R – 13), Brett Hulsey (D – 78), Christine Sinicki (D – 20), Janis Ringhand (D – 45) and Stephen Nass (R – 33).

Feel free to contact them and let them know how you feel…and include missives to your own representatives and senators as well.

There is a public hearing scheduled for April 10th…but I haven’t found the time and location information yet..I will publish it when I get it.

OUR Milwaukee County: MKE County Board To Seek Permission to Downsize

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.

OUR Milwaukee County: Groups Opposed to Corporate Take Over of MKE County

From the email:

Broad Cross-Section of Milwaukee Groups, Representing Thousands, Oppose Introduction of County Takeover Bill

MILWAUKEE –Local community groups representing thousands of Milwaukee county residents issued statements in response to the introduction of Assembly Bill 85 Rep. Joe Sanfelippo and Sen. Lena Taylor’s bill to eviscerate Milwaukee County government.

Michael Lauer, Executive Director of Wisconsin Jobs Now:

“This plan will drastically weaken the representation of communities of color and effectively remove the community voice at the county board level. Instead of attempting a power grab poorly disguised as reform, business leaders and politicians should be focused on creating good jobs and solving the real problems facing our city.”

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera:

“Shifting all of this power into the County Executive’s hands would tokenize representation at the board level – both in terms of elected representation, and racial diversity.”

Dana Schultz, State Director of 9to5:

“If current efforts to centralize county governance are implemented, this initiative would diminish representation of diverse communities and make low-income communities and communities of color even more removed from policymaking process, while concentrating power with county executive and the wealthy businesses backing the initiative. 9to5 is opposed to such efforts.”

Mike Wilder, African-American Civic Engagement Roundtable:

“The proposed legislation is nothing more than a power grab that aimed at silencing the voices of underrepresented communities, including communities of color while giving the corporate elite more power to control Milwaukee County Government.”

Jennifer Epps-Addison, Economic Justice Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin:

“Milwaukee County residents want state lawmakers to focus on creating jobs and opportunity for hard working Wisconsinites, not partisan power grabs.”

Mike Thomas, President of the SEIU Wisconsin State Council:

“This bill not only oversteps traditional lines between state and local governments, it strangles the potential for Milwaukee County to improve its education, economic development, and health and social services.”

Candice Owley, President of Wisconsin Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals:

“The proposal is in effect the dismantling of another Milwaukee democratic institution. It is the County Board that is the closest to the citizens, so by reducing the board’s effectiveness, the voice of the people is also diminished.”

Dian Palmer, President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin:

“Milwaukee is the largest and most diverse county in Wisconsin and a vital part of Wisconsin’s economic growth. We have full-time problems that require full-time supervisors who seek proactive solutions to get our citizens back to work.”

Mary Laan, Chair of Move To Amend Southeastern Wisconsin:

“Rep. Sanfelippo’s bill is an anti-democratic act, a corporate takeover by the Greater Milwaukee Committee. The law actually would increase County Executive Abele’s power to more than that of a typical CEO.”

Help Wanted: Next OUR Milwaukee County Listening Sessions

The next two OUR Milwaukee County listening sessions are tonight…and I need you to go and voice your opinion…and I can’t make either one of them because I have a fund raiser for a certain Cudahy aldermanic candidate to attend…so if anyone can attend and wants to write about it…I’ll accommodate you here!

Here is tonight’s schedule:

Tuesday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m.
North Shore Library, 6800 N. Port Washington Rd., Glendale
Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb, Sr.

Tuesday March 19 at 6:30 p.m.
Evangel Assembly of God, Chapel area, 9920 W. Good Hope Rd., Milwaukee
Supervisor Deanna Alexander

Whither MKE County: Sanfelippo Introduces His Bill To Micromanage County Government From Madison

Despite showing up at the first two OUR Milwaukee County listening sessions in a semblance of wanting to know what the citizens of Milwaukee County actually want for county government, State Representative Joe Sanfelippo today introduced his bill to mirco-manage Milwaukee County Government from the state house in Madison…he’s decided to attack Milwaukee democracy and take our future out of our hands. Later tonight I will find the link to the actual bill, Assembly Bill 85 and post it here…but for the time being I will post the list of sponsors and the analysis by the LRB below from the pdf that I was provided:

March 18, 2013 − Introduced by Representatives SANFELIPPO, KOOYENGA, HUTTON,
CRAIG, KUGLITSCH, KNODL, STONE, J. OTT, HONADEL, PRIDEMORE, WEATHERSTON,
STROEBEL, BROOKS, LEMAHIEU, BERNIER and TITTL, cosponsored by Senators
DARLING, L. TAYLOR, VUKMIR, LAZICH and FARROW. Referred to Committee on
Government Operations and State Licensing.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Under current law, in a county with a population of at least 500,000 (presently
only Milwaukee County), county board supervisors are paid an annual salary that
is set by the board. In general, county board supervisors may receive other benefits
such as life and health insurance, and supervisors in counties other than Milwaukee
County are paid a per diem by the county for each day that the supervisor attends
a county board meeting. Current law provides a maximum number of days for which
a supervisor may receive such per diem payments, ranging from 20 to 30 days, based
on the population of the county.

Subject to approval by the electors in a referendum to be held in Milwaukee
County in April 2014, under this bill, county board supervisors in a county with a
population of at least 500,000 may be paid an annual salary that may not exceed the
annual per capita income of Milwaukee County, as determined by the U.S. Bureau
of the Census, beginning with the term that commences in April 2016. Currently, the
county’s per capita annual income is approximately $24,000. Under the bill, a
Milwaukee County supervisor may not receive any additional compensation or
benefits, including health insurance and pension benefits, that are not authorized
or required by law, although the bill authorizes the board to provide the board
chairperson additional compensation, such that his or her salary may be up to 150
percent of the salary paid to a supervisor. The board may also provide the
chairperson of the finance committee additional compensation such that his or her
salary may be up to 125 percent of the salary paid to a supervisor. The board may
increase a supervisor’s salary by the rate of inflation or, subject to approval by the
electors in a referendum, at a rate greater than the rate of inflation. In no case,
however, may the salary of a supervisor, other than the board chairperson and
finance committee chairperson, exceed the annual per capita income of Milwaukee
County, as determined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Currently, Milwaukee County employees are covered under the Milwaukee
County Employee’s Retirement System (MCERS), a retirement system established
for a county having a population of 500,000 or more. MCERS is not part of the
Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), but is a separate retirement system.

The bill provides that no individual who is receiving an annuity under an
employee retirement system of a county having a population of 500,000 or more and
who is reemployed by the county may continue to receive the annuity if a similarly
situated individual who is receiving an annuity under WRS and who was reemployed
by a participating employer under that system would be required to terminate the
annuity. This provision first applies to individuals who terminate employment on
or after the bill’s effective date.

Under current law, the term of a Milwaukee County supervisor is four years.
Under the bill, beginning with the spring election in 2016, the term of such a
supervisor is two years.

Subject to a number of exceptions, the bill also limits the Milwaukee County
board’s expenditures for expenses related to the county board, such as salaries and
fringe benefits of county board members, costs for staff, and certain items related to
the functioning of the board, to no more than 0.4 percent of the county portion of the
property tax levy. Items not subject to this 0.4 percent limit are costs related to
pension and health care payments for retired county employees, officers, and their
families; salaries for supervisors and the county board chairperson for a term that
begins before April 2016; and certain costs related to duties performed by the
Milwaukee County clerk.

Generally under current law, a county executive has the authority to direct all
administrative and management functions of county government that are not vested
by law in other elected officers. The Milwaukee County executive is further
authorized to appoint and supervise the heads of all departments, unless otherwise
provided by law, and the department heads are generally authorized to supervise the
administration of their departments. Current law also generally authorizes a county
board to exercise any organizational or administrative power that is not given to a
county executive or administrator, or such a person’s subordinate. The bill makes
a number of changes which clarify or increase the authority of the Milwaukee County
executive and limits and clarifies certain authority of the Milwaukee County board.

With regard to the powers of the Milwaukee County executive and board, the
bill does the following:

1. Except for a specific statutory provision which states otherwise, authorizes
the county executive, exclusively, to administer, supervise, and direct all county
departments, including any person who lobbies for, or negotiates on behalf of, the
county.

2. Authorizes the county executive to establish departments and subunits of
the departments, subject to the approval of the board, that the executive believes are
necessary for the efficient administration of the county. This authority is subject to
board approval of the county executive department budget.

3. For a contract with the county to be valid, requires the county executive to
sign all contracts on behalf of the county to the extent that no other county officer or
employee is required to sign them, and the county executive must countersign all
other contracts. Under current law, and under the bill, contracts with the county
must also be countersigned by the comptroller and corporation counsel.

4. The county executive may introduce proposed ordinances and resolutions for
consideration by the board, call a special meeting of the board with the approval of
the county board chairperson, and hire and supervise the number of employees that
he or she believes are necessary to carry out his or her duties, subject to compliance
with hiring policies set by the board.

5. The county board is prohibited from creating a county department or subunit
of a department, and may not exercise day−to−day control of any county department
or subunit of a department. Such control may be exercised only by the county
executive.

6. Except for making an inquiry, referring a specific constituent concern, or
using legal services of the corporation counsel, the supervisors may deal with county
departments solely through the county executive, and no supervisor may give
instructions or orders to any subordinate of the county executive, although the board
may require any county employee or officer to attend a board meeting to provide
information and answer questions.

7. Although the board may generally set the salary and compensation level of
county employees, the bill prohibits the board from lowering the salary, terminating,
or eliminating the position of any county employee who works in the office of the
county executive, unless such changes affect all county employees in all county
departments. This prohibition does not apply after the supervisors who are elected
in the spring 2016 election take office.
8. Permits only the county executive to bargain collectively with county
employees.

The bill creates a new approval process for contracts to which a populous county
(a county with a population of at least 750,000) is a party. Under the bill, a contract
with a value of between $100,000 and $300,000 is subject to passive review, meaning
that the contract may take effect unless the board’s finance committee votes to reject
the contract within 14 days of the county executive signing or countersigning the
contract. If the finance committee rejects the contract, it may still take effect if the
entire board approves the contract within 30 days of the committee’s rejection. A
contract with a value of more than $300,000 may take effect only if it is approved by
the entire board.

Under current law, a county board may schedule an advisory referendum or a
referendum on the question of ratification of an ordinance or resolution of the county
board. This bill prohibits the Milwaukee County Board from scheduling a
referendum on any matter that is subject to the approval of the electors of a county
under this bill to be held concurrently with the election at which the question of
approval is presented to the electors.

Under current law, the state, regional planning commissions, federally
recognized Indian tribes and bands, and local units of government, including
municipalities, counties, school districts, and other special purpose districts, may
enter into intergovernmental cooperation agreements for the receipt or furnishing
of services or joint exercise of powers. Under another provision of current law, a
county and a city, village, or town (municipality), may enter into a contract to
consolidate municipal services under which the county renders such services to the
contracting municipality, either exclusively by the county or jointly with the
municipality.

Under this bill, before such a contract, or before an intergovernmental
cooperation agreement, between a county with a population of 750,000 or more
(presently only Milwaukee County) and another local unit of government may take
effect and become binding on such a county, the contract or agreement must be
approved by an executive council. The bill defines executive council as a body that
consists of the mayor or village president of every city and village that is wholly
located within that county and is based on a current law provision that is used to
select four members of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Commission.
This bill repeals an obsolete provision of civil procedure governing judgments
entered before the first Monday in January 1962 in the civil court of Milwaukee or
in any court which ceased to function on that date, or in any court functioning under
ch. 254 of the 1959 Wisconsin Statutes.

This bill also removes certain authority currently possessed by the Milwaukee
County board. Under the bill, the board may no longer do any of the following:
appropriate money for planning or participating in a world festival celebration or any
similar program designed to promote international commerce and culture; own and
operate a professional baseball team, and maintain a nonprofit corporation for such
ownership or operation; require licenses for cats; and let a contract for the
design−build construction of a sheriff ’s department training academy.

Under current law, a county board has general authority to acquire, lease, or
rent real and personal property. Under this bill, in Milwaukee County, such
authority is exercised by the county executive, consistent with established county
board policy, although the sale or lease of property is subject to a simple approval or
rejection by the county board.

Because this bill relates to public employee retirement or pensions, it may be
referred to the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems for a report to be
printed as an appendix to the bill.

For further information see the local fiscal estimate, which will be printed as
an appendix to this bill.

UPDATE: here is the link to the entire bill!

OUR Milwaukee County: Second Listening Session

The second listening session for the Milwaukee County Board OUR Milwaukee County initiative was held in the 6th District (which covers much of Wauwatosa) this past Thursday night and was hosted by County Supervisor Jim Luigi Schmitt. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel finally found the time to cover these listening sessions and you can catch Steve Schutlze’s coverage here! My estimate of attendance at this meeting is between 85 – 90 although I got there a bit late and couldn’t sit totally in the back row as I would have preferred. And I will take some exception to his count on speakers…I have a total of 26 speakers but I lost track of the supporters of the board vs. the supporters of Representative Joe Sanfelippo’s legislation to micro-manage the make up of the board. Anyway I had 16 in favor and 3 against and 4 without an apparent position…and apparently I missed scoring a couple.

This meeting avoided any discussion of our supposed sheriff. But there were far more speakers with concerns about the future of the county mental health programs and the citizens who rely on them for care.

Elected officials on hand again included Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic, County Supervisor John Weishan Jr (16th District) and State Representatives Joe Sanfelippo plus State Rep. Fred Kessler (who was the last speaker of the night).

I still owe those of you interested in county government a few of the quotes and they are coming…sometimes real life intrudes a bit.

But again I took away the concern voiced by a number of the speakers that they don’t understand the role of county government and don’t understand what our county supervisors do for us! Now isn’t the time for the county board to ignore this issue…for the moment the momentum is in your opponents court.

A couple of brief summations from the evenings speakers:

The county board works at the level of the community

The board should show leadership and put proposals on the table…they seem to be working in a vacuum

OUR Milwaukee County: County Board’s Press Release on the First Listening Session:

Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors

MORE THAN 100 RESIDENTS SPEAK OUT ON MILWAUKEE COUNTY REFORM

Supervisors Pleased with Response to First “OUR” Milwaukee County Session

(MILWAUKEE, WI) – (March 13, 2013) – More than 100 residents turned out for an OUR Milwaukee County session Tuesday night, with a resounding majority saying that they did not want to see any change at all to the County Board, and if there is to be change, that it be implemented locally, not on the state level.

Milwaukee County Board Supervisors said that they were pleased with the level of public participation at the first “OUR” Milwaukee County session hosted by Supervisor Jason Haas and held at the Wilson Park Senior Center.

“Last night’s turnout showed that people are really concerned and, in many cases, passionate about County government,” said County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitijevic. “The message was clear: The overwhelming majority of those at the session want to see improvements in county government, but they want it generated on the local level, not imposed at the state level.

“These OUR Milwaukee County sessions represent an inclusive process designed to get local input on County government reform, in contrast to the closed process on the legislative track in Madison. So far those in Madison pushing a bill to reform Milwaukee County government have yet to commit to public hearings in Milwaukee County.”

Haas said that the County Board is the branch of government closest to the people, and that the Board is committed to these public sessions to get residents’ input on improvements.

“I heard the residents loud and clear,” Haas said. “Many of them don’t want change. But they believe that they should be a part of creating any changes that take place. They don’t want Madison telling Milwaukee County how it should be governed. We on the board are committed to improvement, and I appreciate the input from the public on this issue.
“We encourage more citizen participation at the upcoming meetings”

Last night’s listening session was the first in the OUR (Outreach for United Reform) Milwaukee County series where Supervisors are seeking direct citizen input to discuss county governance, service consolidation, mental health, and funding for transit, parks and cultural assets.

The next meeting is at 6:30 Thursday at the Wauwatosa Public Library Firefly Room.

OUR Milwaukee County: The County Board Still Isn’t Proactive Enough

I brought this up a number of times in my Whither MKE County series and I am bringing it up again because two constituents brought it up at the 14th District OUR Milwaukee County listening session last night.

County Government has done an exceptionally poor job of selling itself. County residents don’t know the role of county government, are confused about the services the county provides, and they don’t know or understand what their county supervisors do. I have suggested that they spend time at town hall meetings explaining these issues. It has to be hard for someone who isn’t clear on what county government means to our area to make a good decision on any reforms in Milwaukee county.

TWO speakers at last night’s town hall made this painfully obvious once again. Questions voiced included: What do supervisors do? What are the responsibilities of a county supervisor? What is a supervisor’s typical day like?

If people interested and concerned enough to show up on a cold snowy evening in March have those questions on their mind, what about the general population of Milwaukee County???

If our county board actually wants to get a fair shake in the county reform game, they had better sell the value of Milwaukee County Government…or else they will find themselves on the losing end of another 82% to 28% Sanfelippo referendum!