Halving the size of the Wauwatosa Common Council is now unlikely to go to binding referendum in April. But voters could still have the chance to share their opinions in an advisory vote.
Ald. Dennis McBride supports reducing the number of aldermen from 16 to eight. He , but feedback in committee and from the city attorney persuaded him to reconsider.
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"In listening to comments in committee, it seemed there was a sentiment to let the voters decide," McBride said. "At the same time, I could tell there was a lot of difficulty with moving so fast.
"This would give us a chance to take the temperature of the electorate and see if there's a clear sentiment one way or the other."
Tight time frame for binding referendum
McBride said that the process outlined by City Attorney Alan Kesner for passing a charter ordinance with a two-thirds majority in order to put a binding question to a vote was tenuous, given the time frame. The full council might get to consider the matter only once, on Jan. 17.
"He said that it was a much simpler matter to do a non-binding question," McBride said. "We can easily accomplish that with a single vote.
"If there is support, then we can decide how to do it. It gives us more flexibility."
McBride noted that an advisory question would allow the council to consider alternatives other than cutting the number of aldermen by 50 percent. He referenced Ald. Don Birschel's suggestion that the council be cut to 12 serving six districts instead of eight.
Another advantage, he said, is that it would give more meaning to public hearings and general comment that could occur between now and the April 3 ballot.
Wauwatosa aldermen are paid $4,200 a year, and the city contributes 6.2 percent more to the Wisconsin Retirement System toward pensions. Reducing the council to eight members would save the city about $35,500 a year.
Tosa question unrelated to County Board
McBride also said that he was not interested in associating his proposal with any effort to force a referendum on the size of the Milwaukee County Board.
It has been proposed by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council that municipalities in the county use resolutions or referendums to try to force the hand of county supervisors, who have refused to put a new referendum on the ballot to further cut their numbers.
Ald. Linda Nikcevich has already indicated a willingness to pursue such a measure in Wauwatosa.
"I want everyone to know that my proposal for the Wauwatosa Common Council is not a stalking horse for any plan to cut down the County Board," McBride said. "I don't think that's the place of the Wauwatosa Common Council.
"Others might think so, and that's up to them. I'll just put it this way: In the words of Johhy Mathis, 'It's not for me to say.'"