The Wauwatosa Common Council voted unanimously Oct. 4 on a resolution stating they would like to open a dialogue relating to the Wauwatosa School Board's decision to discontinue using Wauwatosa District schools as polling places.
In May, the school board voted to move voting out of the schools, citing safety concerns for students and staff and possible disruptions to the learning environment. The change in polling sites is effective in 2017 and will not be in place for the upcoming Nov. 8 elections.
The council members expressed concerns about the relocation of the voting sites, including citizen confusion as they go to the polls, the difficulty the city will face in finding new sites and the costs associated with changing venues.
The resolution, which states the council's opposition to the school board's decision, seeks to open a dialogue between City Administrator James Archambo and Superintendent Phil Ertl "to work toward a mutually acceptable solution to ensure the safety of school children and maintain suitable polling locations." It states that the council members on the committee believe that there is not sufficient reason to relocate seven of the fourteen polling stations.
"The resolution lets them know that we are paying attention,” Alderman Joel Tilleson said. “The school board is increasingly becoming a frustrating partner for us.”
With polling slated to be held in its present locations, the school board decided to hold an inservice day Nov. 8, which leaves the classrooms empty of students. This addresses the security concerns raised by the board and allows the voting to take place without the need for additional measures by the individual schools.
The motion to address the voting location change was made by Alderman Matt Stippich. He expressed his disagreement with the school board's actions due to what he said was a lack of dialogue from the board to the common council.
"There could be voting going on and not have it be a contradiction to what is going on in the schools," Stippich said. "I want to make a strong statement on this."
Prior to the council's meeting, the resolution was approved unanimously by the city's Government Affairs Committee.
School board president Mike Meier made an appearance at the committee meeting to say the board is willing to listen to what the city has to say.
"I am here to express our openness to continuing a dialogue," Meier said. "If there is some basis for agreement then we would ask the city to direct (city administrator Jim) Archambo to set up something with Dr. Ertl to discuss if there is some overlap of interest where we can come to some agreement."
Alderman Tim Hanson said he is concerned that the voting station relocation is taking place without the knowledge of the citizens of the city.
"A lot of people don't know this is happening," Hanson said. "There are ways to address the concerns of the school board in regards to voting location issues. We are not appreciative of this move. I don't think there should be changes made for the what if."
Mayor Kathy Ehley said she is pushing for further discussion and is concerned for the taxpayers who will bear the costs of the relocation.