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Greendale Supports Referendum to Let Public Weigh in on County Board Reform

The Village Board of Trustees agreed to support an advisory referendum to be placed on the spring ballot.

Joe Sanfelippo was making the rounds to city and village meetings Tuesday night to talk about a referendum that might be placed on the April ballot that calls for County Board reform.

Sanfelippo, the 17th District Milwaukee County Supervisor, is one of a handful of supervisors seeking County Board reforms that would reduce the number of supervisors from 18 to nine and make the position part-time rather than full-time.

The referendum would pose two questions to the voting public:

  • Do you support compensating the position of Milwaukee County Supervisor at a level that reflects the position being considered part-time in nature?
  • Shall the size of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors be reduced from its current number of 18 supervisors to nine supervisors?

Sanfelippo was at the Greendale Village Board Trustee meeting requesting support for the advisory referendum regarding the reform of County Board.

Sanfelippo says County Board seems unlikely to make a decision on this.

“The board will not pass to add the referendum,” Sanfelippo said. “This is just a way to let the public go on record… of exactly what the wishes are of the citizens of Milwaukee County.”

Sanfelippo said he also brought an idea to County Board that would switch meetings to the evenings so that more people are able to attend. He said the board shut down that idea.  He also went on to say that there are some serious financial issues in the county.

“In four year if we don’t do major reforms every nickel of tax levy will go to pay for employee benefits, pension and healthcare,” said Sanfelippo. “We’re paying $200 million right now just for those two issues.”

Greendale Village President John Hermes sought input from the Village Board of Trustees to take back to the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council, a group of Milwaukee County mayors and village presidents.

Five trustees said they support the referendum and one trustee, Jim Birmingham, did not support it.

Birmingham said that with all the elections and recalls this is not something that should be put out there right now. He also said it was not “not our problem.”

Hermes said that he would have agreed with Birmingham two years ago, but the actions of the County Board have changed his mind. He said that County Board did not seek municipalities’ input on the redrawing of the district boundaries.

“This referendum has been put forth as an advisory and it gives people their say and I think they want their say,” Hermes said. “I think it’s time for the people to weigh in.”

Trustee Carl Genz agreed that the county board does not need that many members. He cited Los Angeles County, that has five board supervisors, as an example.

“I see no reason why the county board should be as large as it is,” Genz said. “Maybe nine might be too many. Los Angeles County has less than nine. Imagine how much politics and work is involved in running a county the size of Los Angeles county.”

Sanfelippo believes that the referendum will pressure the board to take some action.

“Not asking a municipality to take an official position…..Put the referendum out there and allow the public to voice their opinion and hopefully that will put some pressure on the board to do some reform,” Sanfelippo said.

The Greendale Board of Trustees did not vote on adopting a resolution to add the referendum to Greendale’s ballot, however, five of the trustees did verbally state they agree with adding it. 

Some municipalities, like Greenfield and Whitefish Bay, have already voted to adopt the resolution.

Hermes said that was not the intent of presenting the resolution to village and city boards.

“The intent was to come back to all the respective bodies and get a consensus of whether you support this or not,” he said.

JM December 08, 2011 at 01:49 AM
I like Joe (Sanfelippo). There is some common sense there. Reduce the board.
Bren December 08, 2011 at 11:40 PM
According to goMilwaukee.gov, there is currently 1 County Executive for 50,000 people and that is an adequate ratio of representation at this level of government in my opinion. For that reason I would not respond favorably to either referendum question. http://county.milwaukee.gov/AboutCountyBoard
M.S. December 10, 2011 at 05:20 PM
I like the idea of efficient government . But am concerned about the level of service. Currently my supervisor has been responsive to issues in a short period of time. A part time small board will prevent that from happening. How good is the service in LA? How big of an impact will this have on my taxes? Will it be worth it?

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