Monday, November 20th, 2017

New Year will not bring big changes to council


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Jan 6, 2011; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A
New Year will not bring big changes to council
Waukesha water application should advance
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

Happy new year! As part of my New Year’s resolutions, it’s time to clean the desk of Post-it notes with column ideas. We’ll dispatch them blogging-style.

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So much for a revolution in the city of Waukesha. Despite all the revolution fever when Alderman Peggy Bull was recalled, the Common Council elections this spring promise to accomplish very little change.

Only one alderman is being challenged, and that’s by fiscal conservative Annette Kuglitsch. Two other aldermen are not running for re-election. That means a change of only three seats at most on the council.

Where are the environmentalists and the mayor’s supporters (not necessarily mutually exclusive) who were opposed to the city’s application for Great Lakes water? Where’s the promised shake-up of the council?

Mayor Jeff Scrima is likely to face a Common Council that is very similar to the current council. He will not have anywhere near a majority of aldermen supporting him.

When the water issue comes before the Common Council again, the mayor will not be able to veto the application going forward because there will not be the votes to uphold his veto. The only question that remains is whether he will have any say in the process, which has so far only been granted to him by the courtesy of the council.

The numbers would also indicate that there will not be any changes regarding the status of City Administrator Lori Luther. Given Luther’s track record in the last city budget cycle and the near universal praise of the aldermen, any effort by Scrima to remove Luther or make her position untenable will be doomed to failure.

Those who want the fighting to stop in City Hall are actually in a good position, as the mayor will have to reach out beyond one or two aldermen to be able to push any pet projects through. Hopefully this is the year when the mayor finds the maturity to actually engage other city officials like an adult, because he will have to. Then again, I’m not that much of an optimist. Meanwhile, there has been no movement on the sex offender issue, the issue that supposedly sparked the recall of Alderman Bull.

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Despite the complaining of WISN’s Mark Belling, residents of Waukesha County seem to be relatively happy with County Executive Dan Vrakas. For Vrakas it’s another election cycle – another election cycle without an opponent. “But he raised taxes” is the normal complaint. Yes, Vrakas raised taxes slightly, even as he collected another award for having the lowest taxes of any county in the state. By the way, we still do not have a sales tax in Waukesha County. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? If it isn’t, then where is the opponent? By the way, Vrakas has a lot of ideas about reducing the cost of government in Wisconsin. It’s almost a shame he doesn’t have an opponent so we could hear more of them.

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If I were to make one prediction in this space for the coming year, look for government consolidation of services to become more popular. It’s not a sexy issue, but one that will become even more important if shared revenue to municipalities is cut by the state.

It’s certainly not an unpopular issue. In the last election cycle, incumbent Sheriff Dan Trawicki trounced Tom Alioto in an election that centered on government consolidation.

Meanwhile the City of Pewaukee voted in a non-binding advisory referendum to support a possible merger with the village of Pewaukee, even though the city risks a slight increase in taxes. That’s because city residents recognized the long-term savings potential and benefits.

So much for voters only being able to think in the short term.

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One final note on Waukesha’s application for Great Lakes water: With the appointment of former state Sen. Cathy Stepp as Department of Natural Resources secretary, hopefully Waukesha will receive more cooperation from the DNR. After the election of a Republican governor in Michigan, the path to getting water from Lake Michigan looks a lot clearer than it did a few months ago.


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