Half of the Milwaukee County Board held a press conference today to announce their own plan for reform in reaction to legislation from Madison to do the same:
Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and eight other supervisors announced their own county reform push Friday, with a heavy emphasis on gathering public input on such things as downsizing the board and cutting its budget, as well as finding a new way to pay for parks, transit and even a new basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The effort, dubbed "OUR Milwaukee," will include outreach to citizens around the county, as well as meetings with city and suburban leaders on potential service consolidations.
The OUR Milwaukee initiative will include a private audit of county government, which was approved Thursday by the board. Dimitrijevic said she hopes to hire a firm in the next week or two to review the board, the county executive and other areas of county government.
She said it's important to get a "data-driven, fact-based independent analysis in a timely manner" before rushing to judgment on changes. Though Dimitrijevic will choose the auditor, she said the study scope must be approved by Scott Manske, the county's elected comptroller. That will ensure the review isn't biased, she said. – jsonline
I haven't seen any of the details of the plan other than what's been reported although I'm sure a similarly worded press release is close behind, but I do have a few comments based on the report so far…
On the issue of public input and listening sessions, didn't the Chair just complete a well publicized series of public listening sessions across the County? How many sets of listening sessions do we need to have on the same subjects? Does the public input include the referendums that passed in 12 municipalities last year which called for a smaller part time Board and passed with between 73% and 92% support, even in places like liberally voting Shorewood?
I also think it's interesting about this new interest in "service consolidation". The last time this came up in the form of a proposed park patrol program supported by every other municipal body in the County, the Board shot it down and in the process became sudden BFF's with Sheriff Clarke. Unless the "consolidation" happens to land more control in the laps of Supervisors, they're not interested. Secondly, why did it take proposed legislation that would cut Supervisors pay to get this sudden interest in "service consolidation"?
It's frustrating to hear more rhetoric about things like, "new way to pay for parks". I've documented time and again that County governance has directly coincided with the downturn in our public parks. The County is responsible for providing funding for parks and transit. Yet for the past decade they've refused to make a commitment to a secure and dedicated funding source for our parks or to provide real property tax money (yes, increases!) when it comes to budget time. It's irresponsible for a governing body to try to blame their lack of commitment to funding on everyone except themselves.
To be clear, I think accountability and audits are great. But this will be the fourth audit of County Government in the past ten years. What happened to the recommendations of those past audits? Nothing for the most part. They're used, and continue to be used, as nothing but stalling tactics so press releases can be sent out with serious "calls" for reform while the people we elected to make tough decisions about reform kick the can down the road.
So color me a skeptic when it comes to the latest reaction from a group who've had the last year, the last 4 years and the last 10 years to reform themselves in meaningful ways. While this latest smoke screen might provide enough time for several of the more ambitious Supervisors to run for State or municipal office, those of us who rely on County services are left behind with the same issues we've faced for years. And nothing will get done.
Until the next audit.