ELECTION 2008 - Ozaukee board rejects reduction Opponents objectto redistricting twice in 2 years

Dan Benson
January 3, 2008

Port Washington — The Ozaukee County Board voted 18-12 Wednesday against cutting its size, with many members saying that voting to do so would require two reapportionments within two years. 

If the resolution to shrink the board from 31 to 25 members had been approved, the board would have been required under state law to redistrict the county in time for the 2010 elections. The county would then have been required to redraw district lines again after the 2010 census in time for the 2012 elections. 

"It seems to me to be kind of silly" to have two redistrictings in two years, Supervisor John Hazelwood said. 

Proponents of reducing the board have said it would make the board more efficient and more responsive to constituents, create more competition at election time and save taxpayer dollars. 

Cutting the board to 25 members would save about $28,000, according to the author of the resolution, Supervisor Tom Richart. Supervisors are paid $4,500 a year and mileage for attending meetings. 

Seventeen other supervisors co-signed Richart’s resolution. Many of those co-signers dropped out, however. 

Besides objecting to redistricting twice in two years, opponents said reducing the board likely would result in pay raises for supervisors as their workloads increased. They also said it would reduce representation, especially in rural areas. 

Supervisor Rick Leach said spending and the board’s size are the two topics that his constituents most often mention. 

Supervisor Gerald Walker said he had difficulty explaining to his constituents why the Los Angeles County Board had only five full-time members but Ozaukee had 31 part-time members. 

When it was introduced Dec. 5, Richart’s proposal called for reducing the board by 2012, with redistricting after the 2010 census. But state law requires that such reducing be implemented by Nov. 15 after the vote. 

The vote on the proposal took on a sense of urgency after Supervisor Kathy Geracie said a constituent was planning to launch a petition drive to put a referendum before voters that would call for reducing the board to seven members. 

Residents may call a binding referendum on changing the size of their county board by collecting signatures equal to 25% of the turnout in the most recent board election. 

State law allows only one reduction of a county board between 10-year censuses. That means a board’s voting to reduce itself would preclude any citizen group from launching a petition drive to do so during that period.