PRESS EDITORIAL: Supervisors: Stick to the county’s business

Government at most levels, from small towns, villages and cities to the states and the massive federal entanglement of branches and bureaucracies, is an erratic affair, pulled this way and that by competing needs, demands and influences and an unavoidable source of citizen discontent.

In contrast, county government can be a smooth-running organization that functions more like a delivery system for public services than a governing authority. Ozaukee County is an outstanding example.

Here, the county government has for most of its existence effectively carried out the straight-forward mission the State of Wisconsin has defined for it—to provide the services that every citizen needs at one time or another in their lives.

The Ozaukee County Board has a long history of successfully presiding over the efficient fulfillment of this mission by keeping its focus on the statutory requirements of county government. It is unfortunate that a few of its members lately have tried to drag the institution off course into the world of polarized politics.

The job of the elected members of the board is to provide the means and structure for a government that is responsible for courts and law enforcement, road maintenance, mass transit, care for the elderly and disabled, public records of all kinds starting with birth certificates, public health services, parks and a long list of other necessities.

Passing resolutions that involve the county in bitter national political disputes is not part of this job description. Yet in July a majority of the board made it its business to do just that by voting for a resolution prohibiting the county from accepting any donations from an individual or non-governmental group to help pay election administration costs.

No one should be mislead by the stated intent of the resolution. The measure has nothing to do with the county getting donations to pay for running elections. Ozaukee County has never been given any money for election administration from a private benefactor and is in no “danger” of getting such grants in the future.

The point of the resolution, introduced by Supr. David Irish of Cedarburg, was to use the county government to add a squeak of noise to the echo chamber inhabited by a partisan faction that clings to the fantasy, without a shred of evidence, that Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election was the result of voting fraud.

In the search for straws to grasp, the grants to some large municipalities from a foundation funded in part by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg were targeted as attempts at election fraud. No evidence has been found that the grants were anything but what the donors intended—help for cities to find the resources needed to administer elections competently.

It is hard to imagine a more unlikely county than Ozaukee in which to codify a resolution addressing alleged election fraud. Elections here are reliably excellent examples of careful, efficient administration that ensures fair access to voting and honest and accurate vote counting. To suggest that elections in the county would be corrupted by mysterious grants is an insult to County Clerk Julianne Winkelhorst and the dedicated municipal clerks she works with in keeping the voting mechanism high above repute.

The election resolution, unfortunately, was not the first political rabbit hole the county board crawled into. Last year, it approved a resolution its backers said was intended to prevent the infringement of “any individual’s rights as expressed by the U.S. Constitution.”

The Constitution, needless to say, needs no help from the Ozaukee County Board. Its guarantee of rights applies equally to all Americans, no matter where in the country they live. So why waste the board’s time? It seems the intended effect of the resolution was to make the county a “Second Amendment sanctuary” where any gun control laws enacted by the federal or state governments could not be enforced by county officials.

These political resolutions are pernicious distractions. County Board members should spend their own time on pursuing their chosen political agendas, and when on duty in the Historic Courthouse keep their focus on ensuring that the services they were elected to provide are there for their constituents.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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