Public Policy Forum Blog

The slicing of Wisconsin

Click on the following link to get a quick visual history of political fragmentation in the United States. By clicking on the link you will be treated to an animated map showing state and county boundary changes from 1643 to present. Focus your gaze on Wisconsin and watch our state get sliced and diced over time. It's interesting to see the increasingly smaller county unit creep from the southeastern corner of the state until they reached lake Superior years later.

The question is simple: do these historical boundaries match today's service delivery needs?

In some communities elsewhere, there have been city/county consolidations to better align taxpayer needs with a set of more workable political boundaries. According to one report, cost savings of such consolidations have been negligible. Given the huge political barriers to governmental consolidation, the shared services (i.e. cooperation) approach to dealing with political fragmentation has won some converts in southeastern Wisconsin. A Public Policy Forum report released in April of 2006 documented 145 shared service agreements in the seven county region among the 63 municipalities and counties that responded to our survey. We were pleasantly surprised at the extent and array of such services, but there is always room for greater cooperation, of course. It's imperative for our diced-up state to find more ways to come together.