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County Supervisors Defend Jobs Under Proposed Downsizing

With state legislators calling for a part-time Milwaukee County Board, supervisors made their case in front of their municipal counterparts on the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council Monday afternoon.

The Milwaukee County Board has not always seen eye-to-eye with the county's mayors and village presidents.

But despite their past misgivings, supervisors were eager to meet with their municipal counterparts Monday and defend their jobs in light of a proposal by two state Republican lawmakers . The proposed legislation would ask all Milwaukee County residents about the downsizing through a binding referendum on the April 2 ballot.

At the request of County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, Supervisor Theo Lipscomb asked that he and three other supervisors appear before suburban officials and administrators at a Milwaukee County Intergovernmental Cooperation Council meeting Monday afternoon in Fox Point.

Speaking before the group, Supervisor Peggy Romo West said proposed legislation is a matter of local control.

"This is unprecedented," Romo West said. "You should be very concerned. If it happens to Milwaukee County, it could happen to municipalities as well."

But some proponents of the board's downsizing say that's not true. The scope of the Milwaukee County Board is outlined in state statutes, which suggests it is "a creature of the state", said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

The County Board wasn't always full time. Abele said the board was part time when the county employed 11,000 people, but is now full time with only 4,400 employees. Each supervisor has a staff member, and the board overall employs three public relations staffers.

County supervisors receive a higher salary than state legislators. If the referendum passed, Abele said Milwaukee County supervisors would still be the highest paid in the state.

The relationship between the county board and the municipal officials serving on the ICC has splintered over the years on everything from paramedic services to park maintenance to the exclusion of municipal voices in the board's redistricting plan. 

Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, chairman of the group, did say that the relationship between municipalities and the county board has improved since Dimitrijevic replaced Lee Holloway as the board chairman.

West Milwaukee Village President Ron Hayward was straightforward in his questioning, asking the four supervisors at the meeting directly: "Can you all honestly say that you work 40 hours a week as a county supervisor?"

When all of the supervisors nodded that they work 40 hours per week, Hayward said: "You better do your homework and let everybody know exactly what you do."

Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke said supervisors should have seen this downsizing coming, as it has been on the table for a long time. In the April 2012 election, voters in 12 suburban communities overwhelmingly supported a non-binding referendum proposing a downsizing of the county board.

In most communities, about 80 percent of residents voted yes to a smaller board living on a smaller salary.

"I can tell you as an elected official, there isn't anything I've ever said – either in my role as mayor or as a lawyer or at a cocktail party – where I've been able to get 80 percent of the people to agree on one thing," Neitzke said.

Taylor said those election results should have led the county board to address the voters' concerns. Instead, Dimitrijevic told the Journal Sentinel that the election results only speak for 20 percent of the county's residents.

"They had the control, but they acquiesced," Taylor said. "Now it's in the hands of the state Legislature."

After hearing from both supervisors and suburban officials at the meeting, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he would like to review the specifics of the bill before taking a position on the issue.

The Donny Show January 15, 2013 at 05:39 PM
NEVER? Why not just raise the board to 1000 people then? The boad is bloated and useless. Why can other counties get by with less?
The Donny Show January 15, 2013 at 05:40 PM
All of those qualified to do ANYTHING else have jobs. A few are not employable by anyone other than the dolts who elect them.
Greg January 16, 2013 at 04:25 AM
"A few bucks" "Under the proposal, the board's budget would drop from about $6.5 million to about $1 million, Abele said" This is just another case of a board run wild. A little common sense over the years would have prevented this action, but greed trumps common sense. Not only do these pigs not have 40 hours of work each week, they have staff to help them not do it. $6.5 million for 18 supervisors is a budget of $361,111.00 per supervisor.
John T. Pokrandt January 16, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Interesting that this proposal is floated by Joe Sanfelippo who really was a "part time" supervisor. Abele's claim about being the highest paid board even at part time status doesn't take into account population. If we used the Waukesha County formula a part time Milwaukee County supervisor would be paid $31,787 with benefits. This isn't about the money anyway, it's about consolidating power in the hands of the County Executive by weakening the board.This is bad for Milwaukee County and especially bad for minority representation.
GreenfieldParent February 06, 2013 at 03:23 PM
How?

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