Talk of downsizing council stirs debate

Discussion likely to begin in earnest this summer

July 6, 2011

The Common Council didn't consider reducing its number Tuesday, but the matter likely will be up for discussion in coming weeks.

Alderman Dennis McBride has suggested cutting the council by half so each aldermanic district has one representative. He said he believes there would be cost savings and increased efficiencies in having a smaller governing body.

This is not a new debate, but with a projected budget deficit of $8 million over the next five years all possible areas for cutting costs should be considered, McBride has said.

Jason Wilke let it be known that he sees a decrease in the number of council members as reduced representation for Wauwatosa residents.

"We have individual strengths and bring a lot to the council," he said.

He questioned whether a vote on redistricting should be held off to coincide with the discussion on reducing the council.

He said he sees McBride's suggestion as cutting back too far, but seemed open to considering shrinking the council by a few seats.

The redistricting decision can't wait because the city has a mandated 60-day window to accomplish that work, and that time is nearly up, City Attorney Alan Kesner said.

The size of the Common Council is established in the city's charter ordinance, and making a change would take quite a bit more time than the city has to set its new aldermanic districts.

Former Alderman Thomas Herzog did some research with an eye toward reducing the number of council seats from 16 to 10 during this redistricting effort, but that initiative failed to get a majority of council support at the time.

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