Eliminate County Government

Milwaukee businessman Sheldon Lubar believes that county government should be eliminated.

He’s right.

But he doesn’t go far enough. Counties should be eliminated all together.

The additional governmental level of counties is unnecessary and the role of County government could be divvied up between state and city government.

I say this as someone who has served as a County Supervisor.

Counties introduce an extra, unnecessary level of politicization which does little to serve its citizens.

Case in point, in Milwaukee County the rhetoric of cutting taxes has resulted in an erosion of responsibility from our elected leaders. A general decay of our park system, unprecedented cuts in our mass transit system and the recent talk of privatizing the airport for a quick fix of cash are not signs of responsible leadership.

At the same time, counties act as scapegoats for state politicians who shift costs, in the form of unfunded state mandates, onto local governments. This has resulted in an underfunded court system and overcrowded jails. Although state politicians pass the laws, county government must pay to hold the accused until they are convicted and sent to a state prison. With underfunded courts, counties struggle to house the accused.

In a trip to visit family in Germany my Grandfather struggled with how he would explain what I did to his brother. “They got rid of Counties when they got rid of Kings” he explained to me.

If counties were eliminated, city or village governments would be responsible for their own local parks and transportation. State government would have no one to blame for problems in the court system or in providing health and human services as it would be their people who would directly run things.

It would be the end of scapegoating and would result in enhanced services though a better definition of responsibilities and increased efficiencies.



  1. Dave Reid:

    I definitely agree, at least when it comes to Milwaukee County, because clearly the multiple levels of government don’t work well together, duplicate efforts.

  2. Deputy Insider:

    I think there are just too many people involved in the county’s decision making. Trim it down. Take politics out of whats best for the county. When I run for sheriff,I refuse to lie to the public. YES,the Sheriff’s office is duplicating MPD’s services. Yes, it costs money to keep the interstate safe. Yes, MCSO is going to lose the Airport and security guards will be there instead. Yes, the CO program in the jail is failing and Deputies should be hired. Yes, Clarke lied about stopping the “good ole’ boy system”. Yes, if you get stopped you WILL get a ticket…Clarke likes $$. YES, there is a rumor that 50 deputies will get laid off due to the loss of the airport. 50 less deputies to protect you in an already demissed staff. (690 deputies 7 years ago to 424 now)
    Me for Sheriff..no more lies!!

  3. Bill Stocks:

    DI – Well at least I will get to know your real name. ha

  4. capper:

    It would be much more effective to do away with all the cities and give it all to the county. That way you are eliminating all of the mayors, common councils, school boards and other duplications and centralizing the resources.

    But good luck getting all of the tiny despots to give up their part of the pie.

  5. Publius:

    I’ve lost count of all the times McGuigan proposed legislation to drastically scale back and/or eliminate county government. How many times was that, Jim?

    Moreover, doesn’t county government exist as an extension of state government? To shut down county government would eliminate many state programs. You’re okay with that? I am.

    How many waivers did you request from Madison for providing services? They are available if you can show that the cost to provide services outweighs the goal of the program.

  6. Jim McGuigan:

    Here’s the thing Publius: either do it right, fund it right and provide the services or stop playing games by blaming the county.

    But you are right — by law, County government acts as a department of state government. A department however that has autonomous taxing authorities.

    There are many good things that can happen in County government but I don’t see that happening — especially from what Walker has done to it.

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