Is it time to dissolve Milwaukee County government?

In a short answer, no. But there’s plenty of room for change.

Before we start this discussion, you may want to review a map of Milwaukee County. Notice that only about half of the county is colored yellow which indicates the City of Milwaukee. The other communities have fought hard for years to maintain an identity separate from the city. There’s a reason. Who wants to be associated with Milwaukee’s violence, drug, poverty, and education trouble?

Also, take some time to read Sheldon Lubar’s comments of a year ago which have just been reprinted by a Marquette newsletter.

I’m trying to do the right thing in writing this piece. I’ve called Mr. Lubar’s office to confirm he still considers the remarks current. Also, I’m trying to delve into the inner workings of the County’s daily government structure. As I noted before, I’m trying to gather information on compensation. I found a 2008 salary – $50,679 – but have yet to confirm my suspicion that this is a full-time position with health care and pension benefits. (I did find a document for the 2009 budget which shows Employee Fringe Benefits two-thirds of salaries.) I’m also curious as to the office structure – do supervisors hire assistants or office staff?

Hold back on a fully ripped discussion on this topic until I’m able to finish it in the next couple of weeks. If you can answer any of the questions above with authority, though, I’d be happy to have the information.

Time to dissolve it? No. But it’s really time to scale back. I’ll get the how and why to you soon.


  1. BrkflfDad says:

    Well, if you know the name or want a global search, this still works…

  2. Cindy,

    You ask a valid question, and one that there could be an informative and productive debate about, but with all due respect, it’s hard for the question to be taken seriously in this case from someone who doesn’t – by her own admission – understand anything about County government to begin with.

    I could argue for positions on both side of that question, and that’s because it’s a complicated subject!

    But I wouldn’t write on my own weblog that Catholics and Lutherans should just merge together because it seems like a nice idea, but then admit I don’t know if women are allowed to preach in one and I think I heard that in one of them you have to eat fish on alternating Saturdays in September or something.

    Half joking there, but I think you get the point. It’s hard to advocate for one position or the other in cases such as this. Milwaukee County is complicated and provides services to hundreds of thousands of people from thousands of different service points, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who understood everything it does with 100% certainty.

    For the record, Supervisors in Milwaukee County do get health and retirement benefits, do make approx. 50k/year, and do get to hire a legislative aide.

    Again, with respect, it’s hard to take someone with the high degree of seriousness that asking questions this big requires when they’re saying, “This sucks” and don’t have the full story.

    Look forward to reading what you come up with in the future. For future reference, the best place to start is probably with your own Supervisor. You can find out who that is within 2 clicks at

  3. Bdad- thanks! I remembered that as I saw a news brief showing the database had been updated for the city. I’ll play with that later tonight.

    Dan – Thanks for news on the legislative aide. While I didn’t have the particulars as to Milwaukee County government, make no mistake that I’m well aware of what makes a government function. There are, however, variations from place to place. It’s precisely those variations that hold the key to revamping Milwaukee County.

    I don’t live within the county, Dan, so I can’t click my supervisor. You can rest assured that I’ve given the county site considerable traffic today. Unfortunately, the clues are buried rather deeply.

    And it does suck that bureaucracy is so deep within Milwaukee County that I’m expected to make an open records request to gather such general information. I get the full story by asking questions, but I can’t get answers unless I file the paperwork. (I meant that word to catch your attention. Did it, by chance, work?)

    I think you’ll eventually find you can take my effort with reasonable seriousness. When I put my mind to it I’m very thorough and rather studied in the ways of governments. Thanks for agreeing to hold out for the final product.

  4. policywonk says:

    For all you ever wanted to know about the county, see the non-paritsan Public Policy Forum’s recent analysis of county finances:

  5. Someone sent me that yesterday, actually. Yippee! Bedtime reading.

    I’m really more interested in the government structure and how that drives costs. Also, if the argument is to merge the governments, is it not fair to mandate the same analysis on the City of Milwaukee? Something tells me we’d be looking at the same issues there, too.