Dane County Board Elections – Why it Matters – Beware the Gang of Ten by Al Matano

Posted January 29th, 2014 @ 7:07 AM by

Earlier I wrote about filings of candidates for the 37 seats of members of the Dane County Board of Supervisors. With only 7 contested races, the dominant majority of the liberal-progressive coalition will remain in place. At present, the split between those members and conservative members is 29 to 8. See table below. Party affiliation is not listed on the ballot.

Elections are non-partisan. The top two vote getters, regardless of political beliefs, win a primary if more than 2 candidates file. Where there are two candidates, the top vote getter wins. While there is a partisan split to the members of this non-partisan body, there are shades of gray among the 37 members.

During the 2010 to 2012 term of the County Board, there were 14 conservative members. Ten of those members banded together to defeat a bond issue to prevent the County from doing its business. This gambit resembled that of the current U.S. House of Representatives in shutting the government down because of their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. The County Board members opposed the purchase of open space through capital expenditures of the Conservation Fund. The two situations differ in that the current U.S. House of Representatives is composed of a majority who chose to shut down the government. Here, a group that composed just over 25% of the body’s membership caused the crisis.

Here’s what happened. On September 15, 2011, the County Board considered authorizing the County to issue bonds in the amount of $27.9 million. All of the projects were in the capital budget approved by the County Board and signed into law by the County Executive. Typically these votes are fairly routine. However, the more extreme conservatives, frustrated at their limited role in shaping policy, came up with an idea. A three quarters majority is needed to approve bond issues; 10 is the minimum number needed to prevent a 3/4 majority. They found 10 members who were willing to vote to stop the bond issue.

At the September 15 meeting, it became apparent that there were 10 votes in place to block the issuance of the bonds. To preserve the bond measure, a motion was made to postpone action on the Resolution authorizing issuance of the bonds. For three weeks, this package of $27.9 million was held hostage by the minority. County government remained in a state of limbo.

This was of no minor import. As the table below indicates, there were critical investments in County operations at play. Building renovations were cast in doubt. Public safety needs such as radio system replacement – $10.4 million for that alone – could not proceed. And the Conservation Fund expenditures which was at the heart of this group’s ire – $800,000 for land acquisition – was held up.

In the intervening 3 weeks, negotiations took place. In the end the result was to cut the borrowing package by about $1 million ($951,300), from $27,859,304 to $26,908,004.

So, it all worked out? No harm no foul? Well, not really.

First of all, the real issue is that they blocked adoption of the bond issue at the September 15 meeting. The outcome at the October 6 meeting was a negotiated settlement. In the interim, the fate of spending on essential county projects was held hostage.

As a former member of the County Public Works Committee, the author of this essay used to hear tales of how only hard work and ingenuity on the part of County workers allowed aging vehicles to continue running. At all times we are playing catch up to keep facilities in adequate repair. So these are not expenditures on luxuries.

The Conservation Fund itself is of critical importance. The most recent expenditures on open space preserve a valuable section of the Sugar River north of Paoli. The lands will provide excellent recreational opportunities. They will also ensure that we have clean water and a viable ecosystem. As we look to the future with increasingly extreme weather conditions, we also see a need to protect watersheds like this one to protect our citizens from catastrophic flooding conditions.

As a matter of government process, it is just not okay for a small band of extremists to hold government hostage. Attempting to sabotage essential government functions to hold government hostage because of displeasure at an initiative – whether that of providing health care to those who need it, or protecting our natural environment – is not the way to go.

So the end result of the 2011 gambit was to hasten the departure of the extreme right wing flank of the County Board. Of the 10 members of the “Gang of Ten,” 4 returned to the current County Board. One, Kurt Schlicht, is not seeking re-election – and has line up a like-minded individual to run for his seat – while another, Mike Willett, is attempting to return to the County Board. The Gang of Ten were Supervisors Bruskewitz, Clausius, Ferrell, Gau, Imhoff, Jensen, Martz, Schlicht, Wiganowsky, and Willett. If conservatives won all contested races in April 2014, there would be 12 members of that philosophy. However, that would include the 4 moderates who did not participate in the votes against bond issues. Nonetheless, the moral of the story is this. Elections have consequences.

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See: Resolution 107. An Initial Resolution Authorizing General Obligation Corporate Purpose Bonds and Promissory Notes. October 6, 2011. Adoption fails, 26-10-1.

http://danedocs.countyofdane.com/webdocs/pdf/coclerk/minutes/CB20111006m.pdf
p. 153 – 158

The vote at the September meeting can be found at:

http://danedocs.countyofdane.com/webdocs/pdf/coclerk/minutes/CB20110915m.pdf

________________________________________________________________________

Amounts to be borrowed – as introduced

Project Amount
Conservation Projects (Approx.)
Conservation Land Acquisition $800,000
Water Quality Projects 48,750
Lake Management Equipment 120,000
Streambank Easement Purchases 102,000
Stormwater Controls 200,000
Streambank Protection 30,000
Total $1,300,750
General Government Projects
Building Renovations $338,000
VOIP Phone System 150,000
Computer Equipment 227,000
Vehicle Replacement 91,000
Total $624,000
Public Safety Projects
Morgue Equipment $28,500
Medical Examiner Vehicles & Equipment 138,000
Emergency Siren System 521,250
Computer Aided Dispatch 1,200,000
Radio System Replacement 10,368,000
Sheriff Vehicles and Equipment 115,000
Sheriff Vehicles 911,556
Sheriff Building Improvements 147,800
Total $13,430,106
Public Works Projects
Ramp Renovations $ 980,000
Highway Construction Projects 3,968,000
Landfill Equipment 225,000
Total $5,173,000
Recreation and Education Projects (Approx.)
Exposition Center Improvements $969,400
Partnership for Rec 1,000,000
Parks Vehicles 576,400
Zoo Improvements 160,000
Park Improvements 749,400
Total $3,455,200
Project Total: $24,165,056
Refunding $3,694,248
Grand Total Including Project and Refunding: $27,859,304

Amounts to be borrowed – As adopted

Project Amount
Conservation Projects (Approx.)
Conservation Land Acquisition Down 189,000 $611,000
Water Quality Projects 48,750
Lake Management Equipment 120,000
Streambank Easement Purchases 102,000
Stormwater Controls 200,000
Streambank Protection 30,000
Total $1,111,750
Down 189,000
General Government Projects
Building Renovations Down $75,000 $263,000
VOIP Phone System 150,000
Computer Equipment Down $107,000 120,000
Vehicle Replacement 91,000
Total $806,000
Down $182,000
Public Safety Projects
Morgue Equipment $28,500
Medical Examiner Vehicles & Equipment 138,000
Emergency Siren System 521,250
Computer Aided Dispatch 1,200,000
Radio System Replacement 10,368,000
Sheriff Vehicles and Equipment 115,000
Sheriff Vehicles 911,556
Sheriff Building Improvements Down $112,800 147,800
Total $13,318,106
Down $112,800
Public Works Projects
Ramp Renovations Down $175,000 $805,000
Highway Construction Projects 3,968,000
Landfill Equipment 225,000
Total $4,998,000
Recreation and Education Projects
Exposition Center Improvements $969,400
Partnership for Rec Down 113,300 886,700
Parks Vehicles 576,400
Zoo Improvements 160,000
Park Improvements Down 180,000 569,400
Total $3,455,200
Project Total: Down $951,300 $23,213,756
Refunding $3,694,248
Grand Total Including Project and Refunding: Down $951,300 $27,859,304

 

 

Current makeup of the Dane County Board of Supervisors

District Liberal/Progressive (29) Conservative (8)
1 Mary Kolar
2 Heidi Wegleitner
3 Nick Zweifel
4 Kyle Richmond
5 Leland Pan
6 John Hendrick
7 Matt Veldran
8 Carousel Bayrd
9 Dianne Hesselbein
10 Jeremy Levin
11 Al Matano
12 Paul Rusk
13 Chuck Erickson
14 George Gillis
15 Ronn Ferrell
16 Dave de Felice
17 Jeff Pertl
18 Melissa Sargent
19 Bill Clausius
20 Dennis O’Loughlin
21 Dave Wiganowsky
22 Maureen McCarville
23 Shelia Stubbs
24 Robin Schmidt
25 Tim Kiefer
26 Sharon Corrigan
27 Dorothy Krause
28 Kurt Schlicht
29 Dave Ripp
30 Pat Downing
31 Jerry Bollig
32 Erika Hotchkiss
33 Jenni Dye
34 Patrick Miles
35 Carl Chenowth
36 Cynda Solberg
37 Bob Salov

 


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