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Whitefish Bay Voters to Weigh In on Size of County Board

Village Board approves two referendum questions asking voters about the size of the board and whether the supervisor position should be part-time or full-time.

Whitefish Bay officials did not have a voice in the Milwaukee County Board redistricting plan that divided the village, but they are hoping the vilage's voice will be heard by state legislators in the spring election, when two referendum questions about the size and scope of the County Board will go before voters.

Whitefish Bay trustees have unanimously approved two non-binding referendum questions for the  the April 3 election ballot: one asking voters whether the County Board should be cut from 18 to nine supervisors, and the other asking if supervisors should be . Supervisors currently earn a salary of $50,679 per year.

"If enough municipalities can send a message to our state legislators then there is some recourse at the state level to implement some changes to the County Board," Trustee James Roemer said.

Several county supervisors introduced the referendum to County Board Chairman Lee Holloway as a resolution for the County Board to consider, but in a memo, Holloway said he would not refer the matter to the board.

"At this time, as leader of this County Board, I am not going to refer any resolutions that are personal in nature or that pit supervisor against supervisor," he stated.

Both issues on the ballot began in recent months with discussion over the impact of the county's , which will eliminate one supervisor seat from the 19-supervisor board — the seat currently filled by Supervisor Joseph Rice of Whitefish Bay. The plan will divide the village into two separate districts for the first time since 1970, placing Rice's home in Supervisor Gerry Broderick's district.

"It's time for us to have a voice after being railroaded," Roemer said.

Resident Harry Anderson agreed, calling the redistricting plan "despicable" and "unconscionable" because it disconnected 900 people in the southwestern portion of the village from their Whitefish Bay neighbors. He said it was “imperative” the board take action to endorse the referendum.

"This redistricting affects the relationships of the residents that live in the community with the county government through a supervisor who really will not represent us in the matter that we've been used to in the past," he said.

The issue at large was taken up by the county's Intergovernmental Cooperation Council, a group that represents Milwaukee County municipalities, but the ICC did not take formal action at its last meeting. River Hills has already approved the referendum, and Shorewood trustees . The majority of other ICC communities are expected to follow suit.

Rice authored the resolution for the referendum questions passed by Whitefish Bay trustees Monday night. In the resolution, he says it is unclear in state statutes and county ordinances whether the supervisor position is part-time or full-time. He states the position should be part-time because county government jobs are being cut, the county is facing budgetary pressures, and, in contrast with more rural counties, Milwaukee County does not have any unincorporated areas that rely solely on county services.

According to the Wisconsin Counties Association, the national average size of county boards is 6.23 members.

Nearly 200 local residents voiced their opposition to the redistricting plan during a at the Whitefish Bay Women's Center in June.

The Whitefish Bay Village Board opposing the change in local districts at a June board meeting.

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