Community Coalition Announces Support for Legislation to Reform Milwaukee County Governance
Reform would protect critical quality of life services, empower citizen legislators and give voters a direct voice in how they wish to be represented.
Local business, community and civic leaders joined state legislators in endorsing proposed legislation to reform Milwaukee County governance. The legislation, co-authored by State Representative Joe Sanfelippo and State Senator Alberta Darling would restore the position of Milwaukee County Supervisor to a part-time service position, in line with best practices in Wisconsin, save millions of dollars annually and protect critical quality of life services.
The legislation is supported by the Make it Your (MY) Milwaukee County Initiative, a broad-based coalition of local businesses, community organizations and individuals spearheaded by the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) who have joined together to advocate for real reform of Milwaukee County.
“After encouraging the creation of the elected comptroller position in 2011, we have identified this legislation as the most critical next step in reforming Milwaukee County,” said Julia Taylor, President of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. “We need smarter, more effective and more cost-efficient government if we are to protect and enhance the key services that make our community a great place to live, work and play.”
The overhead costs of the county board, including costs of pension and employee/retiree healthcare benefits have fallen on a declining base of county agencies that are struggling to provide services with fewer dollars. If passed, the county reform legislation would save millions of dollars annually, freeing up much-needed resources for transit, parks and other key County services.
“This legislation will have a lasting positive impact on the future of our families, our businesses and our community,” said former state legislator Jason Fields. “It will help make Milwaukee County a place we can be proud of, the kind of place that becomes a destination for new businesses, young professionals and tourists.”
Additionally, the legislation would focus the board’s attention on broader policy issues and foster a healthier division of responsibilities between the legislative and executive functions of county government. It would also allow for people from all walks of life to bring new ideas and energy to Milwaukee County government.
“Making the Milwaukee County Board part-time will empower a broader and more diverse group of citizens to serve our county,” said Maria Monreal-Cameron, President and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “I support this legislation as a way to foster good governance, improve community representation and effectively meet the needs of Milwaukee County taxpayers.”
Milwaukee County citizens are ready for change of this magnitude, having repeatedly signaled their discontent with the current structure of the county board. Most recently, in a non-binding referendum on the spring 2012 ballot in 12 of Milwaukee County’s 19 municipalities, an overwhelming 84% of voters supported making the board part time.
“I’ve heard from my constituents and they see this change as a move in the right direction for Milwaukee County,” said Franklin mayor and chairman of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council Tom Taylor. “With these changes, Milwaukee County supervisors will be able to focus on broader policy issues, fostering a healthier division of responsibilities between the legislative and executive branches of county government and better serving their constituents.”
The legislation will be considered by the State Legislature later this month, with an anticipated February vote. If passed, a referendum would be included on the April 2013 ballot in Milwaukee County.
ABOUT THE LEGISLATION
According to materials distributed by co-authors of the legislation, it will bring Milwaukee County in line with best practices in Wisconsin and the nation by:
Empowering Citizen Legislators: Restoring the position to part-time status will enable a more diverse group of residents to participate in board governance. It will also focus the board’s attention on broader policy issues, fostering a healthier division of responsibilities between the legislative and executive branches. The legislation would limit board compensation to $15,000 annually for the part-time position (down from $50,679 currently) and eliminate health and pension benefits.
Ensuring Effective Representation: By eliminating health and pension benefits, voters can be confident that supervisors’ interests will be aligned with the people they represent.
Reigning in Board Costs: Currently, the Milwaukee County board spends $6.5 million annually on its operations, nearly three times as much as other counties in the state and peer counties nationally, whether measured as a percentage of the overall budget or on a per capita basis. The legislation would reign in board operational costs, restoring parity to the county’s legislative and executive functions.
Free Up Resources for Transit, Parks: If passed, the legislation would save Milwaukee County millions of dollars annually, freeing up much-needed resources for transit, parks and other key county services. It would also bring the cost of board governance closer to its statewide and national peers.
Giving Citizens a Direct Voice: The proposed legislation would empower citizens to choose how they want to be represented on the Milwaukee County Board through a binding referendum on the April 2013 ballot.
ABOUT THE MAKE IT YOUR MILWAUKEE INITIATIVE
The Make it Your (MY) Milwaukee County Initiative is a broad-based coalition of local businesses, community organizations and individuals that have joined together to advocate for real reform for Milwaukee County. The Initiative outlines recommendations to address the fiscal and structural challenges facing Milwaukee County in a way that will make the community a better place to live, work and play. To learn more about the coalition and the recommendations of the Initiative, visit www.MakeitYourMilwaukee.com.
ABOUT THE GREATER MILWAUKEE COMMITTEE
The Greater Milwaukee Committee is a private sector civic organization whose mission is to contribute to the cultural and economic base of the Milwaukee metropolitan area. The organization was formed in 1948 and is comprised of the top leaders in business, the professions, labor, education, philanthropy and nonprofit community development. For more information, visit www.gmconline.org or call 414-272-0588.