The Candidates Speak Out On The Issues Facing Community
Starting this week until the February 21 primary elections, your Milwaukee Community Journal will print responses to eight questions we sent to candidates running for Milwaukee mayor, common council, county board and other local elected offices where applicable.
The questions are related to job creation, public transportation, public education, tax reform, affirmative action, public safety, housing foreclosures, and how involved government should be in the daily lives of citizens.
Eleven of the 38 candidates responded by our Monday, January 23 deadline, which was extended from Jan. 20. For the next four weeks, we will run the candidate’s responses to two of the eight questions we asked them.
Candidates are listed in alphabetical order, not by the office they are seeking or an incumbent.
What is your position on job creation/public transit?
Deanna Alexander (18th Dist Cnty Supervisor)–Job Creation / Business Creation: I believe that government has a great interest in creating an environment that is conducive to business creation and economic growth. This can be done by creating appropriate conditions for businesses to grow and thrive. For example, Milwaukee County could focus on reviving the transit system, which would enable more people to get to their jobs.
Tom Barrett (Mayor/Incumbent)–Job creation is certainly the most important issue facing our community . I am focused on the two most significant aspects of job creation – increasing employment opportunities and making certain people have the training and job-readiness to fill available positions. My administration has taken the lead at Century City – the area south of Capitol Drive between Hopkins and 35th Street – where ten-of-millions of dollars of public investment is creating a business park where hundreds of jobs will be created. This is a realistic vision because it’s based on the work we did in the Menomonee Valley where thousands of good jobs were created at a previously abandoned industrial site. I have led significant changes in workforce investment, and now Milwaukee has a responsive department that connects people with opportunities through the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board. I am proud of the work we did to bring the Job Corps to the city. This U.S. Department of Labor program will connect thousands of young people with work in the coming years.
Eyon Biddle (15th Aldermanic District)–The 15th District has one of the highest unemployment rates in the city. While the rest of the state is struggling through a recession, our community has been suffering through an urban depression for nearly 20 years. Residents deserve training and employment opportunities that pay a family sustaining wage and allow workers to earn benefits such as health care and paid sick days. While a full recovery will require state and federal resources and private partnerships, as a city we must demand that our business development strategy focuses on creating, supporting and growing local businesses while ensuring that we only invest taxpayer money in businesses that offer a pathway out of poverty and into the middle class. The city of Milwaukee must maximize our limited resources by ensuring that jobs created by Milwaukee taxpayers go to Milwaukee residents. The status quo operates under the philosophy that any job is a good job, but the workers of Milwaukee know better and the residents of the 15th deserve better. When elected, I will push to implement the Biddle-Lipscomb “Ready to Work” Initiative city wide to train and place people on true career paths. I will fight to increase our residency preference standards until Milwaukee residents hold the majority of the jobs created by their tax dollars. Residents can request my Job Creation platform by contacting my campaign.
Michael Brox (5th District Cnty Supervisor)–Transportation: Public and Para transportation must be both accessible as well as affordable. It si unfortunate that the cost of the paratransit system has increased .75 to 4.00 one way. This is a cost that is prohibitive in some cases and we must find a way to reverse this cost.
Jermaine Buckner (7th District Cnty Supervisor)–In this competitive global economy, job and business creation needs to occur. However, it is imperative that our constituents develop the necessary skills in order to compete in a global economy. This is not an impossible task, but it will take citizens, businesses, and elected officials to come together to make this city an internationally recognized city. It can be done, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal, the United Nations named our city as a fresh water hub and IBM selected Milwaukee as a participant of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge. We need to meet our future business opportunities with a well skilled constituency that will enhance their lives and the communities in which they reside. Along with business creation, we need to find different ways for small and midsize businesses to prosper and maintain longevity. One way to do this is to provide my constituency with better access to capitol. According to the National Urban League State of Urban Business and Small Business Administration, 65% of most jobs are created through small businesses. Indeed if elected county supervisor, I will work with the Milwaukee County Economic Development Corp. to figure out what ways we can help businesses gain access to available capital. We can use measuring instruments to ascertain how fast do they meet obligation and learn what problems arise that keep them from stabilizing. In addition, professional skills and business continuation classes are needed to maintain and enhance our constituent’s skills. Sometimes small businesses lose focus on the big picture because of the day-to-day operational problems. We can address certain issues by collaborating with informed people who have experience in running successful businesses and working with the African American Chamber of Commerce. Along with business persons getting the resources they need, workforce development needs to be emphasized. If elected, I would work with the development workforce groups to make sure that people are getting the proper training they needs to be competitive.
Roy Evans (5th District County Supervisor)–Both of these issues go hand in hand. Prior to I43 and the exodus of the manufacturing base jobs were accessible locally mainly by bus. Today jobs are outside of the community and are typically beyond the reach of the current transportation system. Record unemployment, lack of drivers licenses and vehicle affordability makes getting to outlying areas too difficult if not impossible. I believe the 30th street corridor (heart of the 5th District) is critically important to the future of Milwaukee County. I would propose a 30th Street Corridor Economic Plan creating an economic development zone that would revitalize the corridors rapid transportation potential (in conjunction with the current County bus system) creating jobs, business opportunities, affordable housing and mixed use development. The transit line already exists that can move people and goods from the northern border, through the valley and Third Ward to jobs and destinations further south. Like the Marquette Interchange, a combination of resources could be utilized in the physical development of the project as well as local the public/private efforts necessary to raise project capital, workforce development and attract the return of small and medium manufacturing to the area.
Bria Grant (13th District Cnty Supervisor)–Job Creation/Business Creation-This is a collaborative effort between all levels of government. To attract new businesses and enhance existing businesses which should include a broad scope of manufacturing and service industries. Providing job training and sponsoring management assistance programs create collaboration and commitment from employers and increases employee /consumer confidence. It is also important that the retention of the dollar within the community is strong to support these local businesses.
Ieshuh Griffin (Mayor and 6th Aldermanic District)–I do not want to just ‘create jobs’ but also ensure job vitality). Milwaukee is home to several Fortune 1000 as well as Fortune 500 companies, also more than half of Wisconsin’s publicly traded corporations are within Milwaukee. These factors are among myriads of reasons that Milwaukee should not dominate the high ranks of unemployment as it has so repetitiously held for years. A few of the many solutions I have are as follows; I would review, revisit and or revise existing contracts with entities that have contracts with the City of Milwaukee and work to implement and ensure project labor agreements guarantee employment (including those who make honest attempts to reintegrate back into society) of the City of Milwaukee residents. I also would work towards implementation of what I refer to as the ‘Ieshuh For the People Plan’. This plan includes the “M.E.N.D. US” (Massive Economic Neighborhood Development Under Supervision) project; centralized skils, tools, training and trade necessary to be an effective part of the decision making process relating to job resource creation as well as being major decision makers not mere recipients of short term employment.
Willie Hines (15th Aldermanic District/Incumbent)–Job Creation must be Job #1, especially during these troubled economic times. We can’t create jobs with gimmicks, press releases and special interest legislation. It’s hard work to build the relationships necessary with businesses, nonprofit agencies, investors and educational institutions to bring more jobs to the city. As you know from following national politics and the attacks on President Obama, special interests will stop at nothing in their effort to bring down strong, effective Black leaders. I look forward to continuing as your Alderman in the 15th District and standing up for the people.
Cavalier Johnson (5th District County Supervisor)–In order to address economic empowerment for the people of the 5th Supervisory district and Milwaukee County as a whole, I’ll be working to encourage entrepreneurship and for existing businesses to take advantage of programs already present in Milwaukee. I plan to work to reinvigorate and revitalize the 30th Street Industrial Corridor as well as historical neighborhood shopping districts like North Avenue, MLK Drive, Hopkins Street and others.
Marty Matson (City Comptroller)–I believe the city needs jobs that provide family supporting living wages. I also believe that government should get out of the way of businesses that can produce those types of jobs, and assist where it can, when it can. The city’s best asset is its water resources, and the fact that there are few natural disasters here. Those points need to be sold. As Comptroller, I would never suggest to privatize the city’s Water Department, rather I would promote it as a pro-business asset.
Radolph “Ray” Matthews (10t District County Supervisor)–Job creation in Milwaukee County cannot truly begin until we have business development and firms willing to invest back in the community. Along with growing and new businesses, we need to create job trainings for the non-traditional industries African-Americans usually are not known for working in.
Edward McDonald (Mayor)–My administration will work with the city council, state and county governments to establish Build Milwaukee Initiative Zones to spur economic development and job creation. Build Milwaukee Initiative Zones (BMIZ) will establish 4 – Phase 1 targeted plan and implementation areas in the City of Milwaukee to create a collaborative state, county, city, and financial institutions targeted economic development and job creation initiative through the implementation of the City of Milwaukee’s redevelopment plan for the BMIZ.
The BMIZ target areas will be as follows:
Area #1 – Combines the Near West Area, Washington Park, Fond-du Lac/North, North East, and Northeast Redevelopment
Area #2 – Northwest Redevelopment Plan Area
Area #3 – Near South Redevelopment Plan Area
Area #4 – South East Redevelopment Plan Area
What is your position on education?
Barrett–I am encouraged by the work Superintendent Thornton has undertaken, and I am optimistic that good teachers can make a positive difference in the quality of our schools and the lives of our young people. I am, however, very concerned by the cuts from Madison that will have a negative impact here.
Alexander–We must take a holistic approach – where the family is involved and there is a relationship between student, parent, and educator, with open communication. We should strengthen families so that our teachers can focus on educating.
Biddle–There are thousands of school-aged children living in my district. They deserve learning environments that are safe and staffed by quality teachers. Our city needs schools that can provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to compete in a global economy. I oppose the creation of schools that lack public accountability and transparency and remain a staunch advocate of high performing schools and public education. The reality is that the vast majority of kids in my district attend a public school. Public schools in Wisconsin are still heavily funded through property taxes, creating a separate and unequal education system for low income, property poor districts like Milwaukee. I will advocate for legislation that will reform our inadequate and oppressive school funding system to ensure that all children in Milwaukee have access to high quality, adequately funded public schools. 15th District residents can rest assured that I will fight for the resources our city needs to increase graduation rates and close our pervasive achievement gap that has disproportionately impacted children in our district.
Brox–Having taught for over seventeen years I know that students want to learn but it’s up to schools to provide them with the tools they need to learn. Parents must support them by attending PTA’s, helping with homework as well as holding teachers and schools accountable for the education of our children.
Buckner–Education is a necessity we should strive to be an informed and learned community. In order to develop better schools we need to hold teachers more accountable. Gaining access to quality education should be available to all. Students need to gain access to different experiences that give them exposure to non-traditional ideas and concepts. Even if they don’t want to participate in a field, at least they will have gained exposure. For instance, I believe Trade Schools should be marketed for students who do not desire to attend a four-year University/Colleges. Acquiring a marketable trade whether it is wood shop, drywall, electricity, or plumbing will teach them to understand the process of development. In addition to having a solid base for education from infancy to adulthood, classes or seminars should be created for adults who want to take a better path in life and obtain understanding of contemporary issues. I would encourage people to utilize Milwaukee multiple resources, i.e. community centers, libraries and development facilities.
Evans–The State and City are primarily responsible for funding public education. As an educator (B.A., M.S.) I will continue to educate residents as to their rights and responsibilities as County citizens. I believe informed residents are more effective citizens. I will hold forums and town halls on understanding and accessing county government. I will encourage citizen civic involvement on boards and committees that impact County policy. I will continue to lecture and challenge youth to know the law, the processes of government and how to impact social policies through education and political activism.
Grant–This is pivotal in creating a viable workforce. An investment in education increases healthy and confident learners, opportunities for ground breaking research and secures economic development. This type of investment should be a priority to all who reside in the community.
Griffin–The current curriculum and materials are outdated and needs to be replaced. I would implement a procedure to phase out the outdated system with a more effective and efficient learning system, beneficial to parents, students as well as teachers. I would also explore implementing a ‘Parental Board’ to oversee the public school board. It is vitally important that parents be at the forefront of the educational system when it comes to educating their children. Also, in Wisconsin, the number of expelled students had at one point more than tripled. I would implement mandatory continued education for students who have been expelled. Free public education is an individual’s right and the state’s responsibility. I would also implement mandatory due process hearings before expulsions with the burden of proof on the school.
Hines–We must do everything possible to ensure the highest quality education for every single one of our city’s children. I believe that our educational ecosystem must be qualitative and diverse.. I especially support public charter schools, from MPS the city, UWM and other public entities. These schools can be an important part of a robust public education system.
Johnson–Since graduating from Bay View High School here in Milwaukee, I’ve made annual returns to the high school to deliver a clear message to today’s students. “The neighborhood where you come from does not determine where in life you will go.” I know this because of my own experience. I plan to work directly with MPS, parents and most importantly our youth, in order to find a new way forward that engages the hearts, minds and imaginations of today’s students. I’ll work to bring Milwaukee County attractions into the learning experience.
Matthews–Currently, the graduation rate for youth in Milwaukee County is suffering and has been for a while. More adults need access to the information for educational opportunities, which would allow them to secure higher paying and more stable employment. Youth who are currently in school are not engaged in ways to maintain their focus with all of the outside distractions in their communities and home environments.
Matson–So much needs to be done with Milwaukee Public Schools. I do support the teachers and what they need to educate our children to become productive members of society. As Comptroller, I would promote interaction between the business community and the schools, specifically through a mentoring program. It is in all our best interests to give our children a competitive edge in the job market.
McDonald–My administration will work with the city council, labor and community stakeholders to evolve the Milwaukee Promise, Inc. The Promise mission is to fund post-secondary education for graduates of public schools in the City of Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Promise is a guarantee to provide free or reduced tuition to any University of Wisconsin system university, college, or publicly funded technical college for Milwaukee Public School (MPS) high school students. Eligibility for tuition reduction (65% – 100%) is determined by how many years a student attends MPS. My administration will work with the city council, labor, community stakeholders and Milwaukee School Board, and Superintendent to:
• Expand guidance counseling in all our schools to the national ratio of student to counselor.
• Establish a partnership to plan and establish school based delivery of social, health and community services.
• Expand service learning opportunities for upper grade level students.
• Establish a youth vote initiative to expand civic engagement learning.
• Establish a student “Bill of Rights”.