Mayor Could Lose Control of Historic Preservation Commission
Bauman and council committee support council president appointing HPC members.
Milwaukee’s historic preservation regulations are anything but historic.
The City of Milwaukee has changed the ordinance multiple times in the past two decades, including switching the reporting structure for the full-time staff from Department of City Development control to City Clerk control.
For just over four years, the commission has operated with only six members. Multiple times Urban Milwaukee has witnessed meetings rushed because of quorum concerns, with at least four commissioners required to be present to conduct official business. Now it only has five members.
“If the Mayor’s not interested in historic preservation, we will basically make the complete switch over,” said Bauman to members of the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee on Tuesday. “We need a full seven, just as we need a full nine on the Fire & Police Commission.”
One vacancy has been outstanding for so long that the city’s online records system indicates that the vacancy’s term actually expired on April 20th, 2020.
Board members are paid a flat reimbursable fee of $20 per meeting, a maximum of $400 per year.
“It’s certainly not a full-time gig,” said Bauman. The commission meets once a month on Monday afternoons. Meetings often last less than two hours and the full-time staff provides recommendations on actions that range from the mundane, such as approving new railings, to the complicated, designating properties.
“I can’t imagine the current council president would not be in support; who doesn’t want some additional discretion?” said Bauman. He said other commissioners brought the idea to his attention.
The ordinance requires that the board consist of at least one registered architect, one historian or architectural historian, one person with experience in real estate development or finance, one Common Council member (which has been Bauman for over a decade) and three citizen members.
Owing in part to where the city’s historic properties are, the racial makeup of the commission does not match that of the city. Clendenen-Acosta was the lone Black member of the commission, and the lone south side resident. “With the exception of myself, everyone is from the East Side,” said Bauman, a Historic Concordia neighborhood resident.
“The all white, East Side residents is a challenge,” said Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. “We need to be more reflective of the community.” She said she wanted to roll up her sleeves and improve the situation.
“We could certainly do with representation from some of those central city historic neighborhoods,” said Bauman. “Grant Boulevard is a perfect example.”
The current commission members consist of Bauman, Sally Peltz, Matt Jarosz, Patti Keating Kahn and Ann Pieper Eisenbrown. The latter three members have terms that expire at the end of this week, but can continue to serve until replaced. The full-time staff members are Carlen Hatala and Tim Askin.
While the historic preservation commissioners are effectively volunteers, other board members receive compensation. Part-time members of the City Plan Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, Board of Review, City Service Commission, Fire & Police Commission, Employee Retirement System Annuity and Pension Board and Standards and Appeals Commission are paid between $3,000 and $6,600 depending on the board. Existing city employees are not eligible to receive additional pay.