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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Southwest Milwaukee County Will Elect a New Supervisor

Five challengers run in Devine’s district

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Dan Devine, who represents the 17th District on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, is leaving that position to run for mayor of West Allis. Five challengers are vying to replace him. All say that property tax relief and fiscal responsibility are top priorities for voters in the southwestern suburbs. The five who are on the Feb. 19 primary ballot are (in alphabetical order):

Bruce Elliott is a residential property manager who says he wants to hold the line on taxes while maintaining the parks and services for seniors and teens. Elliott, a former nursing home administrator, says that seniors should be able to afford to stay in their homes in the district, and that the county should continue to support services that aid them, such as public transit. Elliott said that the county can work with other organizations to support state-mandated programs, and that the solution isn’t always additional money, but perhaps using county facilities or other resources. Elliott would also like to attract more business development to the district. For more: bruceelliott17.com/index.html.

Robert Henning is retired from the financial services industry and said that property tax relief is the biggest issue facing the county. He said he would develop a long-term strategic plan for the county that would include its assets, obligations and responsibilities and then find ways to streamline services and find efficiencies. “We need to have a long-term solution, because [the county] balances the budget for 2008 or 2009 and ignores the problems that are looming,” he said. He added that his experience in the financial industry gives him a fresh perspective on the county’s problems. “There are going to be some very, very tough decisions facing the county,” Henning said. “We need out-of-the-box thinking.” Henning said he is fiscally responsible and would be a full-time supervisor.

Don Holt is a retired commander of the Wisconsin State Patrol who is concerned about the perception of ethical problems in county government. Holt said that the top issues facing the county are strong law enforcement, economic development, preserving the parks and “maintaining a responsible level of taxation while providing quality services.”

He said that taxpayers’ money should be spent locally. “What I’d like to see is less [money] going to the state by keeping it here in the county,” Holt said. He said he disagreed with Walker’s proposal to shut down the Downtown corrections facility, saying that “you can put ankle bracelets on [inmates] so you know where they are, but you don’t know what they’re doing.” For more: holtformilwcntysupervisor.com.

Karl Kastner, a Greenfield alderman who owns an independent insurance agency, said his experience in local government can be applied to the county. He said that “revenue can’t just come from property taxpayers,” and said that quality housing and jobs will help businesses to thrive in the area. Kastner said that the county has a lot of assets that residents should be proud of, such as the Milwaukee County Zoo, cultural attractions, the parks and quality services such as the paramedics and the library system.

Kastner said the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network, which brings the public and private sectors together to preserve the Root River throughout the district, is “a wonderful thing.” He would like to pursue similar partnerships as supervisor.

Joe Sanfelippo, who sold his landscaping business in 2005, says he is a “longtime critic of county government.” He said he would bring a businessman’s approach to government to make it run more efficiently, and said that the top issues are “the pension system, property taxes and the parks.” Sanfelippo said he supports Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s attempt to raise bonds to meet the county’s pension obligations.

He said the county could form a co-op with other municipalities to purchase health care at reduced costs. “There is strength in numbers,” he said. He noted that selling off parkland is “a touchy idea,” but said there are some areas that are underutilized that could be revitalized, perhaps with affordable housing units. For more: joesanfelippo.com.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com.

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