Wednesday, March 13, 2013

South Side Seniors Overwhelmingly Oppose County Board Downsizing

By Lisa Kaiser
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Last night was the first OUR Milwaukee listening session, organized by Milwaukee County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic and hosted by Supervisor Jason Haas. OUR Milwaukee’s goal is to get public input on how county government can be reformed so that it’s more efficient. Unlike the proposal authored by former supervisor and current state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, OUR Milwaukee is utterly public. No backroom deals among the city’s power elite, no closed-door meetings, just good old-fashioned listening sessions.

 

Sanfelippo attended last night’s meeting at the Wilson Park Senior Center, as did a handful of local electeds.

 

A notable no-show was County Executive Chris Abele, who supports downsizing the board so that he can grab more power.

 

It’s unfortunate that Abele didn’t attend, because he would have heard that the (mostly) seniors in attendance overwhelmingly oppose downsizing the board. Sanfelippo just took notes as he sat in the back of the room, keeping his expression neutral.

 

During the first hour of the discussion, I counted 15 people opposing downsizing and only four speaking in favor of it (one of those folks, of course, was CRG leader Orville Seymer). A few others spoke on other matters, like the reforms being made at the county’s mental health hospital and Sheriff Clarke’s crazy talk.

 

The next OUR Milwaukee listening session will be held on Thursday, March 14, at 6:30 p.m., in the Firefly Room of the Wauwatosa Public Library, 7635 W. North Ave.

 

Here’s a sample of the Wilson Park comments:

 

  • The referendums passed in favor of downsizing the board only included a minority of county voters and didn’t include the city itself.

 

  • Downsizing government in this manner “usually comes from a businessman.”

 

  • “We need a strong board and we need to get rid of the county executive.” [This line got lots of cheers and applause.]

 

  • “I believe completely different -- get rid of the county board.”

 

  • “This is a power play” by Abele.

 

  • “Be very leery of anybody who asks you to give up your democracy.”

 

  • “There are way too many supervisors.”

 

  • “The state should stay out of the county’s business.”

 

  • “If this goes through then Abele can hire anybody…. The board should take a 10% cut in pay and health care.”

 

  • “The state should not be telling our county what we need…. We need a check and a balance.”

 

  • “I fear privatization of the parks, land grabs, the degradation of green space and backdoor deals.”

 

  • “I favor the same size or larger board but a salary cut” … Use New Hampshire as a model, where there are 400 state reps. [This was Seymer’s comment.]

 

  • “We don’t need Madison telling us how to govern or the GMC telling Abele how to do his job.”

 

  • “County employees are overpaid.”

 

  • “We should consider a metro form of government and consolidate services.”

 

  • “I am extremely wary of the MMAC [and other groups] who want to set policy.”

 

  • “We don’t want corporations running our county…. The county executive doesn’t have listening sessions… He is going to be like a king if he gets this.”

 

  • “This is a corporate takeover… Part-time supervisors can’t do their jobs…. This is diminishing local control.”

 

  • “I’m really shocked…. This can’t be the United States of America.”

 

  • “We can talk to our supervisor. How do we talk to the GMC?”
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