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Election Preview: Milwaukee County Board - 17th District

Tom Anthony and Tony Staskunas are running for the the 17th District supervisor's seat on the Milwaukee County Board in a special election on April 2.

Two candidates are running in a special election April 2 to replace Joe Sanfelippo as County Board supervisor in the 17th District, which includes part of Greendale and Greenfield.

Entertainer Tom Anthony of Greenfield and former state legislator Tony Staskunas of West Allis will face off for the spot vacated by Sanfelippo, who left the board after winning a State Assembly seat in the 15th District in the November election (Click on links for profiles on each candidate).

To provide voters with the most information on where the candidates stand on the issues facing the county, Greenfield Patch asked each candidate to answer a few questions about the race. Here, in their own words, are the candidates' responses.

Why are you running for County Board? Tom Anthony It is time for County Board REFORM. The definition of insanity is doing
the same things over and over again and expecting different results.
That’s what we have been doing in Milwaukee County. We need to REFORM the Board. It’s time we think creatively to find new innovative solutions to our challenges.  For far too long, we have allowed career politicians to protect themselves from the types of shared sacrifices all citizens have been asked to make. They appear to be more concerned about protecting their pay and benefits then they are about being advocates for the tax payers they represent.
It’s time we get back to Citizen Legislators, especially on the local level as they have in all the other Communities in Wisconsin.
People from all walks of life, with a wide range of life experiences, who work regular jobs, and serve, to improve the community. I believe one can either sit back, complain, and be a part of the problem or stand up and become part of the solution. I am not doing this for personal gain, or out of ego, as I totally support the legislation to make the board part time, with no pension. 
I’m running because I know I can offer fresh new perspectives and Common Sense Solutions from the everyday working person’s perspective, to create real positive change. Tony Staskunas
I am running for Milwaukee County Board so that I can use my experience in State and Local government and as a small businessman to help make Milwaukee County a better place to live and work. Milwaukee County faces many serious challenges and I believe that my education, experience, and community involvement can make a difference.
What is the biggest issue facing the county and how would you address it, if elected? Tom Anthony Reforming the County Board. Change needs to come from the top down, not from the bottom up. Reforming the board will force the Board to shift its focus to the most important policy issues challenging the County. Jobs. Creating a more Positive Economic Climate. Transportation. Public Safety. Mental Health. Revitalizing our Parks.

The responsibilities of the County Executive and the County Board also need to be clearly defined.
Tony Staskunas
The biggest issue facing Milwaukee County are the ongoing legacy costs of the pension-backdrop deal. The way to handle this challenge is through an expanding tax base that produces more revenue and jobs. The answer is not increasing property taxes and I will oppose efforts to increase taxes.
Do you support a proposal calling for a referendum on reducing county supervisor salaries and cutting their budgets? Tom Anthony YES!. When given an opportunity to voice their opinion, 12 Municipalities voted overwhelmingly 84% in a non binding referendum to reform the County Board.  The Board’s reaction in response was to ignore the voters, and redistrict former supervisor Joe Rice, a strong advocate of reform, out of his district. With the exception of Supervisor Deanna Alexander, no other County Board member seems to be interested in even considering board reform. I would much rather see a solution come from the County Board, but their past history shows that they are unwilling to make such a change. What I like most about the legislation that is being proposed by Representative Sanfelippo is that it allows the Citizens of Milwaukee County to determine how much representation they want to have and how much they want to pay for it. Although the County Government is an arm of the State, this legislation is not dictating what should be done, instead it allows the citizens to determine the
scope of their government. It just makes Common Sense, in these challenging economic times. We should start to ask our elected officials to identify and correct inefficiencies in their own offices and make the same types of sacrifices they have asked the rest of us to make. Tony Staskunas
I agree with Mr. Sanfelippo's decision to delay the referendum to allow for more study and to allow Milwaukee County to hopefully reform itself. If the County does not pass significant reform on its own, I do support a binding referendum. If elected, I will be an active participant in advocating for reform.
Do you believe the size of the County Board should be reduced? Tom Anthony I think reducing the Board to 9 should be strongly considered. However, I believe that you would have a better diversity of representation and ideas and the same type of financial savings by having a part time board. My concern is that minority citizens and all the municipalities may not adequately be represented by 9 full time supervisors. Remember the County was growing an prospered when we had 25 part time supervisors! Therefore 18 are more than adequate. Meetings could also be held at night when regular working people could attend and participate if they choose. Another long term solution might be to shift to a Metropolitan style of government. An open minded discussion of this style of government for Milwaukee County should be strongly encouraged. Such a change could possibly produce dramatic savings and streamline local government, eliminating duplication of services and making local government more responsive and efficient. Tony Staskunas
I do agree that the size of the Board can be reduced. I don't know if there is any magic number, but the size of the Board should be designed for the Board to run efficiently. I do have concerns that reducing the size of the Board too far will allow the City of Milwaukee to dominate the Board and that the voices of Franklin, Greendale, Greenfield, and West Allis will not be heard. I will oppose any restructuring that would deny our suburban communities a voice.
How do you propose keeping county taxes in line without significant budget cuts? Tom Anthony We can start by reforming the Milwaukee County Board. It’s estimated that a savings of $850,000 could be obtained at a minimum. These savings could go back into our Parks, Transit or Mental Health services to improve them without raising taxes. We also need to look at other public and private co-operative ventures to raise money privately without increasing the tax burden. Wouldn’t it be nice if just once our County property taxes would not go up? It’s estimated that the county could save up to $103.5 million in health insurance costs if it stopped providing health insurance and paid the $2,000 per employee penalty that would be assessed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That money could go back into mandatory and discretionary services that our citizens expect, without raising taxes! Tony Staskunas
I would support more public-private partnerships similiar to the programs Sue Black implemented as Parks Director.. In this way, services can be upgraded and maintained at lower cost to the taxpayer. Also, aggressive economic development can expand the tax base and bring needed revenue to the County without increasing property taxes.
How would you rate the relationship between the county and local municipal officials, and how would you improve that relationship? Tom Anthony Things can always improve. In listening to constituents, they have expressed concern that suburbs like the 17th district feel that their voice and concerns are not addressed by the full board. This is a situation that has been recently recognized by the current County Board Chair through Community listening sessions in all the Municipalities.  In my positive conversations with the local officials, like Mayor Tom Taylor of Franklin, Mayor Dan Devine Of West Allis, Village President John Hermes of Greendale and Mayor Michael Neitzke of Greenfield, I have every confidence that I will have a strong relationship with each of them as we work together for the good of the communities we have the privilege to serve. Tony Staskunas
I can only base this answer on what local officials have told me during my time in the State Assembly and the last few months. It seems that the relationship has been poor for many years. It does seem that the relationship is improving and I believe that the new "Chat With the Chair" program is helping. Municipal and County government need to find ways to work together to improve service and reduce cost. With my experience in State and Municipal government I believe I could make a great contribution in this area.

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