Friday, October 28th, 2016

The sacrifice move


The Executive Committee of the Waukesha County Board meets on Monday, and one of the items under discussion is the possible small sacrifice of one or two members to forestall any effort to shrink the county board down to a reasonable size. The “Politician Protection Act” as proposed by County Supervisor Patricia Haukohl of Brookfield would “short-circuit” (her word) the movement to shrink the size of the county board because the law only allows one time other than at the decennial census to change the number of members serving on the board.

Which token politician they are willing to toss to the lions to save themselves is an open question, though it’s easy to guess it would be one or two of the few supervisors in support of shrinking the county board. Once the idea passes the executive committee it would have to be approved by the full board before going to County Executive Dan Vrakas. If he vetoes the proposal, then the fight begins to sustain his veto.

There are currently eight county supervisors on record as supporting the shrinking of the county board. There are seven more supervisors waffling on the issue. We need four of the wafflers to support a Vrakas veto in order to give time to those who will attempt to reduce the size of the board via petition and referendum. The wafflers are: Karl Nilson, Jean Tortomasi, Bonnie Morris, David Swan, Andy Kallin (candidate for mayor), Barbara Roncke and Joe Marchese. (But I suspect if enough people call Kathleen Cummings she’ll flip like a pancake and support a real reduction, too.)

Supporters of reducing the size of the Waukesha County Board will only have sixty days to get the signatures necessary to shrink the size of the board without the County Board taking action. But if the County Board does make a token reduction in their number, supporters of the petition and referendum route may not have enough time to counter them.

County Board members should be asking themselves if supporting such a Machiavellian approach is worth the wrath of the voters. Granted, few of them are facing a challenge this year, but if this rally cry is any indication, more challengers will be pop out of the woodwork for the next time around. And the longer this issue drags on, voter anger will only increase over the amount of bureaucratic support the supervisors need, the canceling of board meetings and committee meetings, and supervisors hiding from their constituents.

But if supervisors think this issue will just go away, they should keep in mind that it was a winning issue for the current county executive who campaigned on shrinking the size of the Waukesha County Board when nearly everyone thought the issue was dead.

It’s not a coincidence that one of the boldest proposals (by State Representative Ann Nischke) in the City of Waukesha mayoral race is to shrink the size of the common council. From Dane County to Sheboygan County, from the size of county boards to the election of technical college boards, voters are beginning to rediscover the heritage of Wisconsin as the “Laboratory of Democracy.”

On Monday, residents of Waukesha County begin to learn who are the rats.

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