Sunday, July 19, 2009

Restructure Milwaukee County Government: Good Idea

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway is proposing structural changes in government there, including eliminating the position of County Executive.

Set aside the ongoing war for control between Holloway and incumbent exec Scott Walker, and the overall power struggle between the board and the executive.

Others have suggested major changes in the county government, ranging from business leader Sheldon Lubar to former Mayor John Norquist.

And a new grassroots organization - - Milwaukee County First - - wants to redo County government with public purposes in mind. Check it out, here.

There is duplication galore between city and county services, including police and sheriff duties, parks and street construction, management and maintenance, health-related services, economic development, and more.

The county's inability to quickly package its share of the Park East Freeway corridor property, rather than turn it all over to the city's Department of Development, and Redevelopment Authority shows what duplication or inattention produces.

I remember when ( was working for Mayor John Norquist) Milwaukee County spent $6 million to widen Lincoln Memorial Drive a few years ago - - over the objections of the city.

When I asked a key supervisor on the county's parks commission why the county was so hell-bent to do a project that would remove some trees and park land (the roadway, bordering Lake Park, was county land), the response was:

"You [city] guys always get to build things. We never get to."

The county is in perpetual financial crisis due to its disastrous pension deals, and shrinking property values county-wide, along with diminished state shared revenue, will put more and more pressure on the county to rein in spending.

The Public Policy Forum has discussed and research this issue dispassionately, and at length.

Every county government function should be carefully examined, and starting at the top, rather at the bottom, is a good idea.


Dave Reid said...

Jim, I definitely believe a serious look should be taken at the duplication of services that happen between the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, but simply saying eliminate the County Executive position strikes me as all politics right now. Personally I think we should shrink the County Board again, there are still too many.

James Rowen said...

Plenty of things to trim. Milwaukee County First can supply context and a credible approach.

Anonymous said...

"Milwaukee County First can supply context and a credible approach"


Oh, my...that's funny. There are at least two Milwaukee County Employees that started that group. They are all extremely liberal and love tax increases.

There would be absolutely ZERO credibility from Milwaukee County First.

Retired MKE county said...

Remove politics from administering MKE government by eliminating position of County Executive and hiring a professional adminstrator.