Spring Election 2014: County Board pay cut referendum easily passes
Stamper, Biddle advance in primary to succeed Hines on Common Council
Voters Tuesday, April 1, 2014 overwhelmingly approved a referendum on cutting Milwaukee County supervisors’ pay by half and eliminating their future health and pension benefits.
With all of the votes counted, the measure easily won with 71 percent for the move and 29 percent against.
The strong backing for the cuts matched many predictions that voters would jump at the chance to enact the reductions. An advisory-only referendum on the topic in 2012 conducted in a dozen suburban communities resulted in strong support for converting Milwaukee County supervisor to a part-time job.
County Executive Chris Abele said, “I’m happy the voters of Milwaukee County had their voice heard on this important issue and I look forward to continuing to work with the board.”
Supervisor Willie Johnson Jr., who opposed the pay cut, said the strong voter support was the culmination of a decade of effort to push conservative reforms.
“I still think the idea is to get conservative-minded people, fund their campaigns, get them on the board and try to rubber stamp the conservative agenda,” Johnson said.
The changes from Tuesday’s binding vote don’t go into effect for two years — after the 2016 county supervisor elections. Supervisors’ pay then will drop from $50,679 to $24,051, effectively forcing part-time status on them. The chairman’s pay will go from $71,412 to $36,076.
In other election news, a current and former Milwaukee County supervisor easily survived a crowded five-person primary Tuesday in the race to replace Willie Hines, the former 15th District alderman and Common Council president.
With 96 percent of the votes counted, Milwaukee County Supervisor Russell W. Stamper, II, led former supervisor Eyon Biddle, Sr., 41 percent to 35 percent.
Stamper said he would resign his County Board seat should he win in the general election on April 29.
Biddle is a former supervisor who previously ran for Hines’ seat. Hines had been alderman in the district since 1996 and served as Common Council president since 2004.
He resigned Feb. 1 to take a job as associate director of the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee. He had been a member of the Housing Authority Board. Hines was forced to resign from the job, however, because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said he had not obtained the necessary conflict-of-interest waiver.
Under HUD regulations, Hines can’t be a paid employee of the Housing Authority for a year after he is no longer a member of the Housing Authority Board.
In Milwaukee County’s only contested judicial race, Court Commissioner Laura Gramling Perez on Tuesday defeated fellow Commissioner Cedric Cornwall to succeed Circuit Judge Michael Guolee, who will retire from Branch 32 this summer.
With 92 percent of the votes counted, Gramling Perez was leading Cornwall 59 percent to 41 percent.
Both candidates entered the race early, with similar credentials and backing of other judges.
Each is married with two children, lives in Wauwatosa and is active in community and professional organizations.
But Gramling Perez, 45, daughter of retired Milwaukee Municipal Judge Jim Gramling, amassed the larger endorsement list, and raised more than $95,000 for her campaign, compared with a little more than $60,000 for Cornwall, according to state election reports.
As of the latest report, Gramling Perez’s campaign spent about $45,000, Cornwall’s about $40,500.
Cornwall, 53, spent his entire legal career in Milwaukee after graduating from Marquette University Law School, and most of it was in public service, including the past eight years as a commissioner.
Gramling Perez began her law career at a large New York City law firm and continued doing commercial kinds of civil law at another firm when she moved back to Milwaukee.
She touted the breadth and complexity of her legal experience as a greater asset to the bench.
Though she has not been a court commissioner as long as Cornwall, Gramling Perez acts as supervisor for 10 commissioners in Milwaukee County, including Cornwall.