Wednesday, September 27, 2006

County Board does end-run around citizen activist group in cutting board size

Whether you think the size of the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors at 38 members is too large, too small, or just right, what the majority of those board members did last night was deplorable.

An offshoot of Progress Oshkosh – a citizen activist group calling itself Citizens Unite to Transform the County Board, or CUT – had begun a petition drive one week ago to place a referendum on the April 2007 ballot, asking voters to decide “yes” or “no” on cutting the size of the board in half, to 19.

Ideas by opponents of such a measure were floated at the Progress Oshkosh meeting on Sept. 20 and last night county board supervisors considered three separate resolutions to reduce the board size: one to 36 members; one to 32 members; and one to 25 members.

After citizen input and much discussion of the floor, supervisors voted 22-13 to cut the board size by a mere two members, meaning that in 2008 – when all county board seats come up for re-election – the board will be reduced to 36 members.

I have favored a smaller county board for some time but, like many people, was not sure what that magical number should be. I don’t necessarily know that 19 was the best number in the world to come up with, but for the board to cut itself by two just to stave off efforts by CUT, was nothing short of arrogance on its part. With their vote last night, board members who rarely are challenged for their seats essentially thumbed their noses at voters by disenfranchising them from having a say in how large or small the board should be.

State law allows a county board, or citizens through a referendum, to reduce the size of the board once between each 10-year U.S. Census period. So, by cutting the size on its own, the board has prevented any other individual or group, including CUT, to bring forth an effort to reduce the size until the next U.S. Census is taken in 2010. Rep. Gregg Underheim, who helped draft that board size-reduction legislation, believes that county executive Mark Harris should veto the board’s vote. And because there may be some redistricting issues with 36 members, CUT and Progress Oshkosh may be contemplating legal action against the county board.

As well they should, in my opinion. The supervisors were brazen with some of their comments. Harvey Rengstorf, for example – who also serves on the county’s Judiciary Committee – actually said, “We’re in a bind here…It’s to stop the others from doing what they are doing.” He and those who voted with him should be ashamed of themselves. They may have effectively stopped voters from having a say in this matter for another four years. But one good turn deserves another and in 2008 voters can, if they so choose, take away the voice of those good-old-boys and -girls who voted for this disingenuous, and meaningless, attempt at board size reduction.

Here’s how the county board supervisors voted…

Voted IN FAVOR OF Reducing Board Size to 36
David Albrecht, Steve Arne, Nancy Barker, Patrick Brennand, Connie Drexler, Bernard Egan, Thomas Ellis, Ben Farrell, Chuck Farrey, Donald Griesbach, Joe Hotynski, James Koziczkowski, Susan Locke, James Lauson, Donna Lohry, Joseph Maehl, Patrick O’Brien, Harvey Rengstorf, John Schaidler, Joanne Sievert, Robert Warnke and Tom Widener.

Voted AGAINST Reducing Board Size to 36
Kenneth Anderson, Jef Hall, Alfred Jacobsen, Stan Kline, Kathleen Lennon, Michael Norton, William Pollnow, Shiloh Ramos, Kenneth Robl, Arlene Schmuhl, Claud Thompson, Forrest Weber and Bill Wingren.

Paul Eisen abstained from voting

Jerold Finch and Jeanette Diakoff were not present at the meeting.


Post a Comment

<< Home