by Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
For State Rep. Barbara Toles it’s all about sticking to the basics when it comes to serving her 17th Assembly District constituents in the state legislature.
Nothing flashy or attention grabbing. The only attention Toles seeks is attention to the issues she brings forth in the form of legislation she introduces on such issues as poverty and Black male unemployment, job creation and improvements in education for Milwaukee public school children.
The legislator did grab some well-earned attention in 2008 when her legislation to end the practice of paying Milwaukee police officers after they had been fired for just cause was signed into law.
Before this change in the law, officers who had been terminated stayed on the payroll until they exhausted their appeals with the Fire and Police Commission.
For some, the process took years and officers collected tens of thousands of dollars in pay and benefits after they had been fired. The City of Milwaukee had paid out over $4.4 million to fired officers since 1990.
Her fight to get the legislation passed—which many observers thought would be impossible—speaks to Tole’s tenacity and willingness to take on the status-quo in order to improve the quality of life for her constituents and the community as a whole.
It’s this type of no nonsense dedication to her district that earns Toles our endorsement for reelection in the upcoming primary on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
She will face off against Michael Erdmann.
Currently, Toles is fighting for minority access to state apprenticeship programs for the skilled trades and construction industry.
In order for Milwaukee to deal with its critical joblessness, Toles said it’s important that the state increase access to the construction industry and skilled trades to minorities and women, noting she rarely sees African Americans and Latinos on construction crews whenever she drives through the community.
Her testimony a few years ago before the Assembly Committee on Workforce Development calling attention to the lack of minority participation in the apprenticeship program led to it being audited for the first time in 17 years. The findings from the audit are expected soon.
Toles said access to good paying jobs allows individuals to take care of themselves and their families.
“I’m focused on getting people out of poverty,” the legislator said in an interview. “You do that by educating them to secure those jobs.”
An opponent of the aborted attempt to change the governance of Milwaukee’s public schools, Toles agrees reform is needed in the state’s largest school district. “Our children need and deserve a good education.”
Toles said she looks forward to working with new MPS Superintendent, Dr. Gregory Thornton to make sure children get the adequate preparation needed to face the challenges of an increasingly high-tech society and world.
The assemblywoman is also focused on making sure the community has access to affordable quality health care.
“People go to the doctor when they’re really sick,” Toles added. “(We need to) educate them to work on prevention, watching their diet and exercising, as well as go to the doctor on a regular basis.”
The legislator pledged to continue working towards finding a dedicated funding source for transportation, especially in Milwaukee County where reductions in funding has seen the discontinuance of some bus routes.
A member of four Assembly committees: Workforce Development (which she chairs), Labor, Ways and Means; Jobs, the Economy and Small Business, Toles takes her job as a lawmaker very seriously.
When she votes on legislation on the floor of the Assembly, her constituents can be assured she has a firm grasp on the details of the bill and what type of impact it will have on her district.
Toles is not the only endorsement we’re making. For the second time in its history, the Community Journal is endorsing candidates during the primary elections taking place throughout the state, especially in the southeastern portion where the concentration of Black votes is highest.
For U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, our choices are crystal clear: incumbents Rep. Gwen Moore and Senator Russ Feingold. The senator doesn’t have a Democratic opponent in the primaries. The senator is awaiting the winner in the Republican primary, which will likely be conservative businessman Ron Johnson.
Moore and Feingold’s leadership on the national scene has always been evident and beneficial to the citizens of Wisconsin. They both deserve another term.
In the governor’s race, our pick is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is expected to win easily over Tim John. In our opinion, Barrett has the best chance of defeating the two Republicans running for the office: Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, and former U.S. Rep. and businessman Mark Neumann.
For Lt. Governor our choice is state Sen. Spencer Coggs.
In the legislature, our choices are Leon Young for reelection to the 16th Assembly District seat.
We see the race to replace retiring Polly Williams for the 10th Assembly District seat as a toss up. The candidates in that race—Milwaukee County Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs, Stephanie Findley of AFSCME District Council 48, and Sherman L. Hill, the recently retired executive director of Harambee Ombudsman Project—are all capable. We will leave it up to you, the voters, to make the right decision.
For Milwaukee County Sheriff, David Clarke, Jr. has done a good job as the county’s chief law enforcement officer. Though many observers have been critical of Clarke and his political leanings to the right, he has improved the way both the county jail and House of Correction are run, as well as reining in wasteful spending.
The Sheriff’s department also deserves praise for making the city’s lakefront, especially Bradford Beach—which has experienced a renaissance in the last few years—safer and more accessible.
We believe Clarke should get another four years to continue keeping Milwaukee County safe.