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Whitefish Bay Not Giving Up Fight Over County Board Redistricting

Trustees vote to have village staff and attorney work with other communities to "explore all potential remedies."

As a group of Milwaukee County communities continues to battle the County Board's Whitefish Bay officials are making it clear that they plan to remain part of the fight.

After meeting in closed session Monday night, the Village Board agreed that it would "partner" with the county’s Intergovernmental Cooperation Council to challenge the plan, which would dissect the village for the first time in 40 years.

Does that mean Whitefish Bay would join the ICC if it decided to go to court over the issue? Village officials aren't saying.

But the village did issue a press release after Monday's meeting saying it would “explore all potential remedies to the plan." Village officials say the County Board violated state law by adopting the redistrict plan without seeking input from Whitefish Bay residents or representatives.

The redistricting plan calls for the number of county supervisors to be reduced from 19 to 18. Supervisor Joe Rice, who has represented most of the North Shore since 2004, would be the only supervisor to lose his seat, as the village would be split into two separate districts for the first time since 1970.

Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, who chairs the ICC - a consortium of municipal leaders from Milwaukee County -  joined the trustees in closed Monday's session to discuss the issue. Trustees voted in open session to authorize Village Attorney Chris Jaekels and village staff to partner with the ICC.

Village Manager Patrick DeGrave said trustees will be updated on the progress of the potential remedies to the plan and will have a voice in any future actions.

In an earlier interview, Taylor said the ICC was considering legal action, and the group has the capacity to expend up to $2,500 on legal counsel.

The county redistricting plan has drawn significant interest in the village, as evidenced by a turnout of more than 150 people at a at the Whitefish Bay Women's Club in June.

Whitefish Bay and other Milwaukee County municipalities have opposing the County Board's redistricting plan. The ICC itself also voted unanimously in opposition to the County Board's proposal.

"I don't recall any issue that went before mayors and village presidents that quickly gained that kind of consensus," Taylor said.

Taylor said the County Board basically ignored the resolutions, even though it collectively represents the same amount of constitutents as the entire county board.

The redistricting plan has also drawn opposition from the NAACP, the Hispanic community, the Greater Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

"They're apparently not listening," Taylor said of the County Board.

The board has approved the plan and sent it to County Executive Chris Abele for his signature.

At Monday night's board meeting, Taylor endorsed County Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo's redistricting plan, which calls for Rice's seat to remain in tact, while eliminating County Board Chairman Lee Holloway's 5th District seat.

"A population of about 8,500 individuals shifted south, and the population in the North Shore grew about 4.5 percent," he said.

Meanwhile, Rice has filed a motion and affidavit against the County Board and Holloway in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, alleging a violation of the state's Open Meetings Law.

Rice is asking that the board's action be voided, that his legal fees be paid and that Holloway be fined the maximum $300.

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