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Readers Blog

Reduction by Referendum

State Representative Joe Sanfelippo, a former Milwaukee County supervisor, is  preparing to submit a bill in the Wisconsin Assembly  for  a countywide referendum in   April  on whether the pay of  current  supervisors should be reduced from $50,000 per year to $15,000 and  the County Board staff reduced.  If passed by the voters,  the cuts would become effective  on January 1, 2014.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorsed the proposal  in an editorial on January 9.

Public confidence in the Milwaukee County Board  is probably below zero. In  2002,  the Board passed a huge pension  increase that allowed some senior county officials to retire with millions of dollars in cash. As  a result,  seven supervisors were  recalled, and County Executive Tom Ament  resigned while recall was pending.  (This opened the way for Rep. Scott Walker to become County Executive)  In 2012,  the County Board adopted a  vindictive gerrymander that protected most incumbents and favored minority groups. (1)  Supervisor Johnny Thomas was charged with accepting a bribe, but acquitted.  Although all incumbent supervisors who sought re-election in 2012 won, I believe that  the voters  would approve the proposed pay-cut referendum as a way to express dissatisfaction with the performance of the Board. 

County Executive Chris Abele, who was elected with the strong support of the Milwaukee County Labor Council and the Journal Sentinel,  has been feuding with the Board  about as much as  his predecessor, Scott Walker.   Maybe that is why he supports the referendum.  (Both Abele and the newspaper also support reducing the size of the County Board  from the present 18 members, but that  would not be  affected by the proposed referendum.)

The pay-cut would be a gross injustice to incumbents, who sought the office  with the reasonable expectation  of earning $50,000 per year for four years.   If the cut passes,  several of the older members would probably retire in 2014, and others would decline to run in 2016.  There will be plenty of candidates eager to replace them, even at the lower salary.
But future supervisors  will presumably engage in other occupations, such as law and real estate brokerage, and so have less time to devote to studying the issues on which they will vote.  Meetings may be moved  to evening hours to accommodate the work-schedules of  the supervisors.  

The net result of the reduction of pay and staff would be to shift  power from the County Board to the Executive, as Abele desires.  To see what this would mean to you,  call  your  county supervisor. Then try to call Executive Chris Abele, but don't hold your breath till he picks up the phone.

Gerald S Glazer

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(1) Supervisor Joe Rice of Whitefish Bay proposed reducing the size of the County Board, so the Board cut its size by one member and eliminated Rice's  seat.   Whitefish Bay was split among four of the new districts. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Talkbacks

solitarius | Jan. 10, 2013 at 1:09 p.m. (report)

So according to Mr Glazer your tax monies should pay $50,000/year for someone who spends a few hours per month on a job. County supervisors are probably one of the most highly paid government workers in the USA based on amount of money per hour worked. Now if their job was extremely difficult and if they did a great job, maybe it would be worth it, but it isnt and they dont.

Mr Glazer sees something wrong with elected officials working part time and having their own separate professions, but this is how the USA began. Our first elected officials were just that. Our government and Constitution was defined to just work that way and it did work that way for many years.

The era of the professional politician has not worked well for the USA and is one of the greatest problems with our system of government. All elected officials should be part time and have their own professions.

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