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The Local Government Institute of Wisconsin and the Johnson Foundation hosted a forum for Racine area business and local government leaders on Thursday May 27, 2010.  The 36 people in attendance heard a presentation of the "Roadmap for Government Transformation" by Christine Smith and Dave Varana of Baker Tilly followed by comments and discussion from a panel of local government leaders experienced in intergovernmental cooperation.  Audience members were given an opportunity to pose questions to the researchers and panelists.  Concluding remarks were made by LGI Executive Director Gary W. Becker and Johnson Bank President Russ Weyers.

The Johnson Foundation has provided LGI with audio from the forum as well as photos.  We have uploaded the audio as mp3 files that can be downloaded and played on either a computer or any portable mp3 player, such as an iPod.  The mp3 files are embedded in individual Powerpoint slides for your access.  A summary of the points made during the forum is below as well as the presentation made by Baker Tilly.

Summary of Points Made During the Forum

Welcome – Carole Johnson, Director of Local and Regional Community Programs, Johnson Foundation
Listen to audio

  • Johnson Local Foundation dedicated to solutions to community and environmental issues 
  • Local government/municipal government – services to citizens

-Programs surrounding local government

  • Introduce Russ Weyers – President and CFO of Johnson Financial Group

-Has worked with Racine County municipalities – encouraged their development, enhancement, growth
-Strong advocate for local government

Introduction – Russell Weyers
Listen to audio

  • How to consolidate, be more efficient, change
  • Local Government Institute report – LGI understands how to think through issues differently;  Nothing in LGI report or that LGI is talking about is easy to do
  • Government is not set up to change, yet fundamental changes are necessary; customers and taxpayers want change
  • Goal is to create conversation, not “hit a home run”

Introduction of Baker Tilly – Gary Becker
Listen to audio

  • Since 1955, almost 2 dozen commission and task forces at the state level looking at how local governments can be more efficient, not a great amount of change since then
  • In 2007, League of League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Wisconsin Towns Association, Wisconsin Alliance of Cities, Wisconsin Counties Association formed the Local Government Institute of Wisconsin
  • Purpose was to collaborate to find more effective and efficient ways to better deliver and fund services for residents of Wisconsin
  • In 2009, LGI put together RFP for research to discover barriers to making governments more efficient in the state, and why there has not been much progress since 1955; Baker Tilly was chosen to conduct the work
  • Introduces LGI Board
  • Introduces Baker Tilly

Presentation – Christine Smith & Dave Varana, Baker Tilly

  • See Powerpoint file below

Click Here

Introduce Panel – Carole Johnson
 Listen to audio

  • William McReynolds, County Executive, Racine County
  • Dave Richmond, President of Village of Waterford
  • Timothy Hanna, Mayor of Appleton
  • John Dickert, Mayor of Racine

Panelist – Bill McReynolds
Listen to audio

  • Discussion of consolidated dispatch – great exchange of idea

-Five elected heads yesterday announcing moving forward
-30 year discussion on consolidated dispatch
-Plan put together by different municipalities
-Now, have to go out in the communities and sell it

  • County-city health clinic – well-received, great example of collaboration/consolidation - County saves money
  • Agreement with City of Burlington – mowing Bushnell Park - County saves money
  • Contract with Milwaukee County to staff County call center for child support
  • Milwaukee County renting juvenile beds from Racine County
  • Waterford contracts with the sheriff’s department
  • City of Racine has staffed and maintained county radio equipment for some time

Panelist – Dave Richmond
 Listen to audio

  • Work within framework that exists
  • Make safe, pleasant, affordable community
  • Have re-bid all Village contracts for cheaper rates within last couple of years
  • Examine services they provide
  • Have worked with county on the following:

-Police and fire – have had County provide protection and dispatching for some time
-Safe Routes to School grant
-Safety officer program (with schools as well)
-Salt purchases, road maintenance, and the purchase of other road supplies
-Health department – work with county
-Emergency planning
-Grant sharing, transportation services
-Farm drainage

  • Partnered with Racine Economic Development Corporation

Panelist – Timothy Hanna
Listen to audio

  • Impressed with Racine County tax base sharing formula; model for other parts of the state
  • Appleton in three different counties, five school districts
  • Intergovernmental cooperation is a necessity
  • Mission: meet the needs of the community, and enhance the quality of life

-What does “community” mean?
-Not defined by lines on a map
-How does what the City does impact those outside borders of Appleton

  • Strategic Plan – one of the goals is to enhance regional relationships and cooperation

-Translates into budget and goals of staff – success depends on how they go about developing those relationships and collaborations
-Engage other units of government, non-profits, businesses
-Fifteen page long list of things that Appleton does with other entities

  • Think of self as a “community”; think regionally

-Regional government is not necessarily required
-What is important is how you think about relationships and delivering services

  • Have boundary agreements with neighbors

-Create atmosphere of trust
·Some collaborations:

  • Fiber optic network: county, Appleton, school district, Town of Grand Chute, Fox Valley Technical College

-Sharing agreement
-Saves money

  • Valley Transit serves all of Fox River Valley

-Owned and operated by City of Appleton
-Funding partners – have cities on oversight Board 

  • Perception, how neighbors look at you, trust
  • Figure out way to reduce overhead
  • Look at non-profits, others besides municipal neighbors
  • Look at school districts; do not duplicate services

Panelist – John Dickert
Listen to audio

  • Mayor Dickert and Mayor of Burlington trying to break down barrier between the two municipalities
  • Joint dispatch – people are starting to think “what else can we do”?
  • How to be more efficient and serve more people with the same amount of money?
  • How to layer approaches, work with non-profits to create efficiencies?

-Advancing Family Assets
-Housing Program

  • Merge organizations to create efficiencies – Alliance of Cities
  • Important for state to not get into the way and add to the problem as municipalities begin to collaborate on these issues – engage with state
  • Important to talk about ourselves as regions preparing for the future
  • Prepare for future growth of region, attract businesses – what do businesses need?

-Important to understand what they need and how to resolve issues
-Be prepared for regional business development
-Issues of transportation and education are key components for business development

Question – School Districts
For researchers: Why were school districts left out as a part of local government?
Listen to audio

  • Because of who sponsored the research
  • LGI was not set up to have school district leaders as part of the discussion

Question – Regional Delivery vs. Local Control
Considering the more local the delivery a service is, the more influence and control each individual voter has over the service, how do you address consolidated services with the management of those services by locally elected officials vs. people appointed by locally elected officials?
Listen to audio

  • Level of responsibility is there
  • Always intervention by the public
  • Cost of level of services increasing over the years
  • People always engaged in conversation and responding
  • At some point, dollar value will not match level of service, and the public will have to decide between services
  • Leadership, trust, shared perception of need are the key, example of consolidation with Town of Grand Chute (Mayor Hanna)

Question – Where Do Results Come From?
For researchers: Where did methodologies work the best and lead to most improvements?
Listen to audio

  • No template or success factors
  • Have basic criteria, but then have to “make own way”
  • Use objective numbers to talk about service impacts; get agreement on numbers from stakeholders
  • Trust, leadership, strategy with all of community, elected officials, internal staff
  • Shared perception of need
  • Financial savings and service delivery benefits are essential
  • Look for other places where improvements have been made, and savings have been had

Question – State Mandates Affect Research
For researchers: How do state decisions on unfunded and underfunded mandates affect the research?
Listen to audio

  • Analyzing the role of the state not part of the research
  • Perception that the state creates roadblocks to intergovernmental cooperation and collaboration
  • Major successes of report if candidates for all of the Wisconsin offices focus on the research in their campaign to advocate for state to remove roadblocks for cooperation between municipalities
  • All parties and candidates were briefed on research report

Question – How to Build Trust – Superboard
Listen to audio

  • Trust is most important element in cooperation with other municipalities
  • Get to know people as a person first
  • Superboard groups to get to know officials as people and their desires for their communities
  • Use Superboard as a launching point for cooperation
  • Superboard – all elected officials and administrative staff to share goals, needs, how can resources be shared and goals be achieved, how can other organizations help

Conclusion – Gary W. Becker
Listen to audio

LGI priorities out of the report:

  • Legislative council for study committee on regional cooperation
  • Provide skills, education, and discussion of issues to elected leadership and staff members

-Establish collaboration leadership forum
-Finding partners, pull resources together

  • Resource directory for intergovernmental cooperation

Conclusion – Russell Weyers
Listen to audio
  • Areas have a competitive advantage where intergovernmental cooperation is better than other communities - attract businesses over other areas
  • Have to have efficient establishment of intergovernmental cooperation    

-Must be quick and responsive to the times
-“Must be different because we are better”

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