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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.

KHD January 15, 2013 at 01:05 AM
I say Reduce the board, they're overpaid and don't listen to the people that elected them. It has been a long time coming.
BassGreat January 15, 2013 at 01:59 AM
Doing unto others as you'd have them do unto you? How about these legislators take a percentage pay cut as they're asking of these County Supervisors?
George Mitchell January 15, 2013 at 02:22 AM
The headline says supervisors "defend" their fulltime status. The story provides no backup apart from the laughable claim that they spend 40 hours a week on the job.
KHD January 15, 2013 at 02:50 AM
BassGreat: County supervisors receive a higher salary than state legislators.
pupdog1 January 15, 2013 at 03:33 AM
You know you're in big trouble when you have something with a name like the "Intergovernmental Cooperation Council."
Joe Resident January 15, 2013 at 02:11 PM
Barret needs to review his position on this? So typical for the wienie that he is. The sooner the County Milkmen are downsized, the better.
Tony14 January 15, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Would like to hear from these supervisors how many hours they actually work not how many people they serve. So far they have not convinced me they are worth 50k a year
Irish Guy 53213 January 15, 2013 at 04:06 PM
I would be interested in knowing how many of the supervisors hold additional jobs in addition to their "full time" supervisor position? I make less than they do in a salery position, and I would need permission from my current employer to take outside employemnt and be able to demonstrate that it would not compromise my effectiveness. And, if you are able to hold an outside position without compromising effectiveness, that is probably the best demonstration that you do not have a full time job.
CowDung January 15, 2013 at 04:14 PM
From the article, it seems that the county supervisors are paid better than the legislators... "County supervisors receive a higher salary than state legislators."
Bren January 15, 2013 at 05:15 PM
Less government representation is never a good idea. No surprise that part of the brain trust that came up with this nonsense is the GMC. Business interests coupling with governance is not always in the best interest of the people either. Here's an idea: take away the pensions of every elected official in the state, make all of the positions part-time and pay them all $15k. No grandfathering in of pensions (sorry Papa Fitzgerald, no triple-dip for you!). Think of the money we'd save. Who cares that the only people who would run for these offices would be the wealthiest or the corrupt (receiving income from other means). Who cares if we limit our representation in government, saving a few bucks is more important than anything, right?
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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