Rice, Cooked.

Milwaukee County Supervisors have cut Whitefish Bay's County Supervisor, Joe Rice, out of his district.

In Milwaukee County government, the elected Supervisors and County Executive positions are "non-partisan," but one can easily split the Supervisors into two philosophical camps:  Those that represent City of Milwaukee residents, and those who represent suburban interests.  Since the population of the city outweighs that of the suburbs, the city enjoys a perpetual majority on the County Board.  Like him or not, former County Executive Scott Walker's suburban bias helped keep some semblance of balance, although his vetoes were often overturned. Such is life in the minority.

Last week, city Supervisors decided to make their majority a little bigger. County Supervisors gerrymandered one more seat for the city and will slice our 6th District out of existence in 2012. Previously, the 6th District was the northeast corner of Milwaukee County, starting with Whitefish Bay, Fox Point, Bayside, River Hills and a small part of Milwaukee.

The North Shore suburban voice will now be silenced as Whitefish Bay will be added to Milwaukee's East Side district. Fox Point, Bayside and River Hills will be added to Milwaukee's northern district. This move effectively merges two city and one suburban "seat" into two city seats. The redistricting passed the County Board by a vote of 11-7, and newly elected County Executive Chris Abele decided not to sign nor veto the legislation, explaining "I strongly considered vetoing this measure, but it appears that a veto would not be sustained."

Since a veto could only be overturned with 13 votes, Abele is either really bad at math, or he used a pretty sloppy excuse for his actions. 

Either way, Whitefish Bay's Supervisor Joe Rice, will be out of a job in 2012.  A suburban voice has no chance of winning a district dominated by Milwaukee's downtown and East Side residents.

Of course, the policy effect before and after the 6th District is erased, is zero. City Supervisors have a perpetual majority and the suburban Supervisors have little ability to win important votes.

As a note, the 19 municipalities that make up the County, excluding the City of Milwaukee, accounted for 37% of the population, yet pay 53% of the County tax levy.   

To recap: Milwaukee County, where most services are delivered in the City of Milwaukee to their own residents, while most of the funding comes from suburban taxpayers, has voted to further reduce suburban representation. Thanks, Milwaukee. You're a pal. 

Dear Ozaukee County,

You lookin' to expand? 

Signed, The North Shore.

Bob McBride May 04, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Kevin, I don't have the details on this off the top of my head, but wasn't there a proposal to eliminate 5 or 6 (or possibly more) County Supervisors, in order to save some bucks? Oh, and as far as Abele goes, either explanation would fit the bill.
Kevin Buckley May 04, 2011 at 06:23 PM
There have been various proposals through the years to eliminate 2, 5, 10 positions, and get down as far as 5-9 Supervisors. Since two Supervisors announced they were not running for re-election in 2012, it seemed a no-brainer to eliminate those two, and just enlarge all other districts. -- But that would have increased Suburban influence, so that got tossed out.
Paul Hunter May 05, 2011 at 01:13 PM
Kevin, While your comments about redistricting cutting the North Shore out of Milwaukee County Board representation makes sense, I would like to present an alternative way of looking at the fact that "19 municipalities that make up the County, excluding the City of Milwaukee, accounted for 37% of the population, yet pay 53% of the County tax levy". The questions for me are, "What is our responsibility to ameliorate the economic disparities in our larger community?" and "How does addressing the economic disparities benefit those of us are more well off?" For me these questions need to be answered on a regional level, especially including Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties. If we who are well off decide that we have no responsibility to help lift up everyone in society, then we need to face the negative health, social and political consequences that maintaining or widening the economic inequities in our region.
Kevin Buckley May 05, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Paul .. I'm good with that. Clearly, the suburbs' ability to pay is higher, and I believe in a progressive tax system. The 37% to 53% population to taxation ratio is what it is. What is highly irritating is the *reduction* in suburban representation. At some point, we're not partners, we're just treated like a piggy bank.
Jen Langfeld-Jeffrey May 05, 2011 at 11:16 PM
I just moved here, and this is very disturbing. My parents live in a small town in Nebraska, paid insane taxes for the quality of life they enjoy, and were suddenly annexed by Omaha to get the tax money. The town fought it in court and tried to recall the FORMER Mayor of Omaha (Fahey) and there was nothing they could do. The taxes have not changed, but the public services are in the toilet. It has completely changed the landscape of their town. I am just sayin......this is not a good thing for those of us who pay the majority of the bills for the minority of services.


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