La Crosse’s Common Council is preparing for a change that its president calls the biggest in nearly 40 years.
The council met on Saturday for a special session, voting to recommend reducing the size of the government body from 17 members to 13. The council also voted on a number of other significant changes, including eliminating the Committee of the Whole, creating a work group to review all city committees and city administration positions, and a handful of others.
The move comes after a consultant recommended changes to the way the city operates, council president Dick Swantz said.
“We came to the conclusion that the first thing we need to do before we tackle a lot of problems is to take a look inside of how we do business,” Swantz said.
Swantz also called the vote one of the biggest changes he's ever witnessed during the nearly 40 years he's been a part of La Crosse's city government.
"We moved [to the La Crosse area] in '77, that's 37 years ago, and I've never seen the council address this issue,” he said. “It's really significant for the council to say, 'How are we doing business? How can we be more effective?'"
Swantz said everyone in attendance Saturday unanimously agreed with the changes. Five council members were not present for the recommendation vote.
The full council will begin debate on the changes this month, though the process will be lengthy. Swantz said the ideas will fundamentally change how La Crosse’s city government functions, which means a charter ordinance must be voted on to enact those ideas. A charter ordinance calls for a 2/3s majority vote. If it’s passed, the ordinance could also be put in front of La Crosse residents for a referendum if they so choose.
Swantz said council members likely draw up an ordinance to be voted on early this summer.
“There's some hurdles to get over here,” he said, “but quite frankly, I think most people in La Crosse would say, ‘It's about time.’”