On Friday, members of the Milwaukee Common Council discussed a number of major fee increases proposed by Mayor Tom Barrett.
A new solid-waste fee increase appears to be the most costly – up $47 for the owner of a single-family home. This fee increase was held (placed on file), a new snow-and-ice fee failed and other fees that were less costly passed the Common Council.
It is my belief that too much of the conversation around these new fees has been inside City Hall. The proposed fee increase for solid waste, especially, has been promoted and established by government insiders. We have heard from our mayor and our budget director about how tough these financial times are for the City of Milwaukee.
But, by nature of the job, aldermen are much closer to residents – we know that our residents face a financial crunch that is just as severe, and they deserve to have a greater voice in this process.
At the end of the day, the money that we are using for these proposed increases belongs to residents. We must be responsible and judicious when debating significant increases.
I believe that aldermen need to hear from residents before potentially raising the solid-waste fee. We need to give them the opportunity to express their concerns. They should have a much greater say, especially when it comes to which services they want to keep and which they can do without.
At Friday’s meeting, I respectfully urged my colleagues to engage their constituents specifically on the mayor’s solid-waste fee increase. I realize that they hear from their residents on a regular basis, on a variety of issues, but it is my hope that the Common Council would make a concerted effort to reach out on this particular fee increase.
For this reason, I voted with the majority of my fellow aldermen to place the solid-waste fee on file until we can hear from residents. I will be meeting in the coming days with Common Council members from the north side and the south side in an attempt to organize two large-scale opportunities for city residents to share their thoughts on this and other fee increases put forth by the mayor.
Alderman Willie Hines is the president of the Milwaukee Common Council.