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Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has vetoed a City Council measure to create a council chief of staff position, but council President Marsha Rummel is confident of a veto override.

The spat over the council chief of staff is the latest exchange between Soglin and the council over the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.

Soglin, in his veto letter sent to the council and City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl, said the new position is “one more incremental step in changing the structure and function of city government, without a plan.”

“Since 2010, the City Council budget has increased 153 percent while the rest of city government has increased by 25 percent,” Soglin said. “The classification and pay range of this position are not appropriate.”

The council approved the position on June 6. The chief of staff would oversee the council’s staff, as well as work on strategy and be support for City Council members. The position would be for a five-year term and have an annual salary of $94,365 to $127,391.

Rummel responded with a strong statement Friday afternoon, saying she has placed a reconsideration of the mayor’s veto on Tuesday’s council agenda and that “I am confident the council will override the veto.”

“The mayor states that he is concerned about equity and combating poverty but the message he sends with his veto shows he prefers weak legislative partners,” she said. “His action shows that he is more interested in retaining the power of the executive branch than strengthening the capacity of the council to jointly address the fundamental challenges facing our city.

“We need to move forward on our shared goals of providing effective and representative government, a healthy and safe city with strong neighborhoods, with a focus on racial equity and social justice to improve the life chances of all city residents,” she continued. “We see ourselves as equal partners in the governance of the city.”

The council plans to move forward with the position and will be announcing the job soon, Rummel said in the statement, which was endorsed by council vice president Samba Baldeh.

Rummel also challenged Soglin’s assertions, saying the council’s adopted budget from 2010 to 2016 did not increase by 153 percent as the mayor states in his veto message, she said.

In 2010, the council’s adopted budget was $376,321 and the 2016 adopted budget was $554,998, a change of 47.5 percent, she said. In 2014 and 2015, the mayor’s office exceeded the adopted budget for those years, while the council was under budget, she said.

The dispute comes as the mayor and council members are offering competing proposals for a special initiative to examine the city’s governance structure.


Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.