Aldermanic Election: Sutton, Steinberg Debate Council Size, Frugality

Former municipal judge Dick Steinberg says he would be more fiscally conservative, but incumbent Dan Sutton said he has been a budget hawk and strong advocate for property owners.

With a formal complaint about illegal campaign literature and dueling opinions about the size of the Common Council, the has arguably been the most hotly contested of the council races.

Incumbent Ald. says he's seeking re-election because he wants to continue his work advocating for the residents and businesses of the northeastern 1st district and closely monitoring the city budget.

  • The election is Tuesday. See  for details.

Challenger , attorney and retired city municipal court judge, says he believes the city should be even more frugal and impose a "moratorium on non-essential expenditures," though he was short on details of implementation.

Sutton said he has been frugal, pointing to his efforts to cut aldermanic pay — a move that ultimately was blocked by the mayor in favor of freezing the salaries instead. Concern about aldermanic pay increases was the main issue that propelled Sutton to run for office.

A member of the council's Finance Committee, Sutton said he has offered among the most budget-cutting ideas during the city's annual fall budget reviews.

"I've proposed many budget cuts that I thought were areas we could save costs," he said. "I'm a numbers guy. I always spend the taxpayers money like it's my own. I don't spend things that I don't believe are in the best interest of the city."

Steinberg said as the city's municipal judge he took steps that saved money, such as offering to take a leftover table that about to be dumped and donating materials for municipal court operations. "I balanced 34 budgets; my opponent has balanced none," he said.

"It's all about money," Steinberg said. "A senior citizen, in order to have a reasonable standard of living, can no longer afford to pay the property taxes in the City of Brookfield. You just can not ask them to pay more."

Cutting size of council

In an issue that has not emerged in any other race, Steinberg has made his central campaign issue a push to hold a binding voter referendum on whether the number of city aldermen should be cut from 14 to 7.

The city of nearly 40,000 is divided into seven aldermanic districts, with two aldermen serving each district. Aldermen are paid $9,911 a year.

Steinberg said Menomonee Falls and New Berlin have smaller councils. Wauwatosa voters will weigh in on a proposed cut in aldermanic positions in a non-binding referendum Tuesday.

Steinberg said it would save money. "It's more efficient and effective that way. The more politicians you have, the more politics are going to be played," he said.

Sutton disagreed, saying the $70,000 savings (Steinberg put it closer to $100,000 with the cost of supplies and staff assistance) was not worth the down sides of lesser representation and input into district issues.

"Maybe if we were the City of Milwaukee and you're paying them (aldermen) total packages with salaries and benefits and staff," Sutton said.

Elections for the two aldermanic representatives per district are staggered every two years to give voters a quicker way to yank aldermen they don't like, Sutton said.

If the city had only seven aldermen, each district would have less chance that their aldermen would be assigned to key council committees where more debate occurs.

"I am much more in favor of having less power in more people's hands than more power in less people's hands," Sutton said.

Campaign literature disclosure

In another point of contention between the two candidates, Steinberg filed a complaint with the Waukesha County District Attorney's office over Sutton's lack of a required "paid for by" campaign finance disclosure on a flier he distributed.

Sutton said it was an oversight, apologized and purchased a stamp to use on additional literature. Prosecutors issued a warning to correct the disclosure.

Sutton said he has been a vocal advocate for residential and commercial property owners, working on issues such as abating flooding, reducing unsightly outdoor storage, promoting economic development and paving the way for outdoor dining.

"I'm business friendly until businesses aren't friendly," he said. "I'm constantly trying to improve the way our district looks and to add value to our district. I'm passionate about what I do. "

Steinberg, who has a local blog, said he would increase communication with a newsletter or website for constituents to keep up with district issues. "I offer competence, experience and sound judgement," he said.

Public access to quarry lake

Sutton said if re-elected he is interested in protecting the as the developer considers a condominium development plan that would include creating a public park with access to the lake.

"It's gorgeous," Sutton said. "It's the cleanest fresh water lake in southeastern Wisconsin. I will do everything in my power to keep it as pristine and pretty as it is today."

Steinberg said he was not aware of the development plans.

"All I know is there's a history of young people having drugs and sex there," he said. "Sorry, but those are the cases I got (in municipal court)."

"I think Sileno's Pit is a poor place to put a park," Steinberg said, saying it was too far off the beaten path to be safe.

Views on mosque plan

Whoever is elected Tuesday to the council will vote on a proposal by the Islamic Society of Milwaukee to .

Both men said they needed more information.

"I have some questions myself," Sutton said, "but I ask them in a public hearing. You should go into these things with a clear mind. I don't want to be swayed one way or another."

Steinberg said he wanted to hear whether traffic was an issue, saying short of that, there was little the city could do.

"We don't have a law that prohibits a church or any other group from being in existence," he said.

Sutton and Steinberg, along with , will be on the ballot Tuesday, with the winners serving four-year terms.

DICK STEINBERG April 03, 2012 at 10:05 AM
By reducing the size of the council to 1 Alderman for each of the 7 Districts will in the future save many thousands of dollars and meet the conservative view of smaller and less government.
DICK STEINBERG April 03, 2012 at 10:07 AM
By having Alderman dominate key committees there is more power in their hands. There are enough local residents who are capable and willing to serve.
Jim Bachmann April 03, 2012 at 05:13 PM
When Dick Steinburg was judge my 9year old daughter was attacked by a dog. In court he told my wife she could not speak on the matter and said that we should get along as neighbors. If Dick can't protect children or even let their mothers speak on such a terrible matter in his court, how do think he will treat the folks of Brookfield. Dick needs to retire DO NOT VOTE FOR HIM - HE DOES NOT CARE.
DICK STEINBERG April 03, 2012 at 07:24 PM
after several attempts to post i repeat. this sounds like a juvenile case conducted at a closed hearing. if mom did not see incident it is hearsay. was there a trial? the prosecutor controls his witnesses who will testify. Humane Society will take dog and impound it until they have a recommendation. mediation was available for disputes between neighbors. it is a frivilous statement that mothers cannot testify. Judges' follow the rules of evidence and determine the relevancy of testimony. what was the outcome ? this kind of statement with no supporting facts are rather typical on election day when there is no time to do any research. would need the name defendant, date of court hearing, type of plea and any stipulation with the prosecutor.
Concerned Citizen April 03, 2012 at 10:59 PM
In pursuit of the "one alderman plan," I fully expect Mr. Steinberg will vote to eliminate his own position if he's elected. Just like another elected official did elsewhere.


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