Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Milwaukee County's Intergovernmental Cooperation Council to Look at Service Sharing

Service sharing by city, suburbs takes first step. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 4/11/2011).

  Driven by concerns over state funding cuts, municipal leaders from Milwaukee County on Monday unanimously endorsed taking a first step toward broader joint service arrangements.

Members of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council backed a review of "the possibility of sharing, merging, consolidating, downsizing, right-sizing or rethinking the operations of local government." The mayors, village presidents and county executive who make up the council membership unanimously favored the move, which includes help from the nonpartisan Public Policy Forum.

Forum president Rob Henken said he'll convene a meeting in a week or so with representatives of all the local governments to decide what services should get first consideration for joint efforts. The forum will pay for the coordination effort, he said.

If in-depth research is needed on a particular idea, the Greater Milwaukee Committee has offered support, Henken said. The GMC, a civic group made up of local business and nonprofit leaders, is lobbying for local government efficiencies, with a particular focus on reforming Milwaukee County.

The committee favors an aggressive pursuit of ways to share a broad array of municipal services, from public health to snow plowing, policing and firefighting

Seize the moment.  (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial, 4/12/2011)

Excerpt:  But the state has to do more than simply cut shared revenue and promise "tools" in the form of curtailed collective bargaining. The Legislature should provide grants or loans for studies or to cover upfront costs of collaborative efforts. It should consider using the formula for local aid to reward good behavior. Cooperation often pays off, but it doesn't always pay off right away, so the Legislature and Walker administration should give it a kick-start.

Given past experience in Wisconsin, taxpayers may be skeptical. The Kettl Commission report in 2001 took a deep dive into Wisconsin government and made sound recommendations on how to do it better. The report was given a place of honor on the dusty community shelf. There have been other more recent efforts from other groups, among them the Local Government Institute and Wisconsin Way.

But there is cause to believe this time will be different

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