Brookfield Alderman Scott Berg is asking city leaders to begin discussions on reducing the size of the city’s Common Council in an effort to provide better service to residents.
Berg is proposing the council go from 14 aldermen to nine. The number of aldermanic districts would be increased from seven to nine, so residents would go from having two alderman to one in smaller districts.
“I see it as a way of improving service,” Berg said.
According research Berg did on common council sizes in the state, Brookfield has a higher number of aldermen than other communities its size.
For example, Wausau is represented by 11 aldermen, while New Berlin has seven aldermen to represent them.
Wauwatosa has 16 aldermen, but voters there passed an advisory referendum in April that calls for reducing the size of the council.
By comparison, Milwaukee has 15 aldermen and more than 10 times the population of Brookfield.
Better for constituents?
Berg said he could see some advantages to having a smaller common council because it would reduce the resident-to-alderman ratio, giving better representation for residents at city meetings. It also would enable aldermen to do a better job of focusing on neighborhood issues.
Berg said there have been two aldermen per district since Brookfield was incorporated, and it’s time for the city to look at changing the system.
Although other communities have touted cost savings by reducing the number of elected officials, Berg said he’s not focused on cost savings, but rather he sees the advantages of better service, and more accountability.
Berg said he isn't sure how long the process to reduce the government would take and although he isn’t opposed to a referendum on the issue, it’s also not something he would like to do with the proposal.
“Referendums are a valuable tool for very critical items and I’m not sure that internal organization quite rises to that level,” he said. “I wouldn't oppose one, but I doubt it would happen.”
No enthusiasm from mayor
While Berg may think it's a great time to downsize the council, Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto isn't sold on the idea.
"The bottom line is, if it isn't broke, don't fix it," Ponto said. "It isn't broke. Things are going great in the City of Brookfield."
Ponto said Berg first brought the downsizing idea to him in the spring and he told him to wait on the idea. Ponto said the aldermen in the city are responsive to their constituents and the conversation is "an unnecessary stirring of the pot."
By having more aldermen, Ponto said there are more points of view on issues and residents are happy overall with the quality of life in the city. Ponto said Berg is the only person asking for a downsizing on the council and he expects little support if an ordinance moves forward.