By Hazel Trice Edney
Jason Field’s pursuit of City Comptroller post may be the most important election of the year
Compiled by MCJ Editorial Staff
While the races for Milwaukee Mayor, Milwaukee County Supervisor, and state Supreme Court Justice dominated local media’s attention before and on primary election night, February 18, one race escaped close scrutiny (if any attention at all): City of Milwaukee Comptroller.
Which is pretty hard to believe when you consider one of the candidates running for the office is state Rep. Jason Fields, one of the most prominent and respected Black political figures in Wisconsin.
Fields received more votes than any other Black citywide candidate in the Spring Primary (25,305).
He took first place in a three-way race by a 12-point margin. His high voting numbers is a testament to the diverse coalition he has built during the primary stage of the campaign.
Fields will now face off against Aycha Sawa, who is currently the deputy city comptroller, in the April 7 Spring Election.
During his tenure in the Wisconsin State Assembly, Fields has passed more legislation than any other member of his caucus. Fields may be the only Democrat in state history to have bills signed into law by three different governors, proof of his ability to get things done.
The reason the Fields race doesn’t seem as politically “sexy” as elections for mayor, governor, or county executive—even alderman—may be because few outside municipal government know what a city comptroller does.
The comptroller is the city’s chief financial officer (CFO) who exercises financial control over virtually every aspect of city government (fiscal control of over approximately 40 city departments and agencies), including public debt and employee pay.
The comptroller also provides audit services and financial analysis of every proposed tax-incremental financing district. The position is separate from the independently-elected City Treasurer who is responsible for revenue collection, including property taxes.
Milwaukee is the hub of industry and commerce for Wisconsin—with an annual budget of roughly $1.5 billion—and serves as the main population center that supports the state’s general economy. As a city-wide office, the comptroller is a vital component of the financial well-being of everyone in the city.
Simply put, the position “writes the check” for Milwaukee’s finances and general needs. Fields believes the person who “makes that check out” should be a financial professional who understands the intersection of government, the economy, and business.
During his tenure on the state legislature, Fields has developed a solid reputation as it relates to state and local financial matters.
He has vast business and financial experience beyond the state house as well, having started a venture capital fund, a business consulting firm, and having worked directly in the banking and securities industry.
If elected, Fields would make hiring city-based firms, employees and vendors a number one priority so as to keep tax dollars in Milwaukee. He would also promote entrepreneurship and local startups, and bring women and minorities into the city’s pension system.
Fields has achieved policy goals with state Sen. Lena Taylor and worked on Mayor Tom Barrett’s first gubernatorial campaign in 2002.
Regardless of who is elected mayor, Fields shares a productive relationship with both candidates.
If Fields is successful in the April 7 election, he will be the first African American to hold the position.
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Tuesday, February 25, 2020 / 10:00 AM ET
By Tennessee Tribune News
By Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
If one thing can be said about Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate Jill Karofsky that can’t be said about her opponents–incumbent Justice Dan Kelly and Marquette University law professor Ed Falone, it’s this: she has practical experience presiding over court cases.
To Karofsky, a Dane County Circuit Court judge and a former assistant attorney general with the state Department of Justice, the law is not an esoteric exercise. Not when you preside over criminal and civil cases that impact people, especially the economically disadvantaged.
“Real people are impacted (by crime),” Karofsky said during an MCJ interview about her candidacy. “I see it every day.”
Karofsky presided over 1,700 cases in 2019, which gives her a huge advantage over her opponents who have no judicial experience. Incumbent justice Kelly was a lawyer on the federal, county (Milwaukee), and private levels. Fallone has spent 25 years in a university classroom.
The state’s first violence against women resource prosecutor, Karofsky also headed the Wisconsin Office of Crime Victim Services. “We helped victims all over the state get the help and services they needed,” she said. Karofsky was also an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin law school teaching about victims in the criminal justice system and trial advocacy.
Karofsky said she’s in the race to get the state’s high court “back on track” following the rule of law, not corporate interests. She said Kelly represents everything that’s wrong with the court, which is currently dominated by conservative justices, 5 to 2.
“Governor Walker didn’t appoint people with judicial experience,” Karofsky said, referring to former Governor Scott Walker. “He wanted people who are going to carry the water of corporate and wealthy special interests, which is what Dan Kelly has done.”
That’s a critical point to Karofsky, who noted the next few years will be an incredibly busy one for the high court as it tackles such issues as redistricting, women’s access to health care, and criminal justice reform.
“Who we have making decisions (on the supreme court) matters,” Karofsky said. “These (judicial) elections have incredible consequences. I want to live in a state where the court makes decisions on these issues based on the law. The state Supreme Court has been bought and paid for by corporations.”
The Dane County judge says she will bring Wisconsin values to the court. She credits her parents for teaching her the importance of public service. Her mother Judy was one of the first women mayors in the state (Middleton, where Karofsky grew up), and her father Peter, a pediatrician who opened a free clinic for teens after retiring.
Now as a single mother of a daughter in college and a son in high school, Karofsky is passing down to them the values taught to her, and that she wants to bring to the state Supreme Court.
“I talked to my kids every day about the importance of rights for women, for workers, and civil rights. My kids are concerned about gun violence, ‘code red’ drills, climate change; they see corruption on the state and national level. And they’re depending on adults to solve the problems. It’s those values I would bring to the court.”
Karofsky believes her experience on the bench dealing with a myriad of cases will be useful to the state’s high court and give the other justices a different perspective on what’s happening in urban communities like Milwaukee, Madison, and the rest of the state.
“We need justices willing to share with the state legislature what they see so lawmakers can make changes in policies that are needed.”
Karofsky says she understands the Black community’s distrust of the criminal justice system, because she’s seen it and has fought it first hand. “I’ve seen examples of racial bias. I acknowledge racial bias. I’ve seen injustice (in the courtroom) and took action to correct it.”Do you want someone (on the Supreme Court) who acknowledges racial bias, or someone who denies there is racial bias?”
To Karofsky, it’s about bringing back balance–as well as confidence–to the court.
The court candidates will square off on Feb. 18. The two top vote getters will meet each other in the April 7 Spring election.
Republican congressional candidate Tim Rogers believes his chances of defeating incumbent Gwen Moore better than in 2018
Once again Republican Tim Rogers is running against incumbent U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore.
You’re probably shaking your head recalling the MCJ article the newspaper published in its October 24, 2018 edition in which the conservative, life-long Milwaukeean announced he was throwing his proverbial hat in the ring against a hugely popular democratic lawmaker in a predominately Black democratic district.
Right now, you’re asking out loud—to a friend, loved one, relative or no one in particular—“WHY! What makes him think the outcome will be any different the second time around?”
The reporter wrote at the time Rogers was on a “political suicide mission.” And just as the reporter noted then: Rogers still believes—just as he did in 2018—that he can beat Moore for her fourth congressional district seat.
With no social media presence and for less than $700 spent on his campaign, Rogers garnered 60,000 votes to Moore’s 200,000. But Rogers stressed there are 600,000 total voters in the 4th Congressional District. And not everyone voted.
“A lot of people didn’t know I was running last time. Now I’ll have more support this time.” Rogers will also have the advantage of running in a presidential election year. He has a campaign manager, and more support from the Republican party.
During a recent interview, Rogers explained why he was running again, which was a carbon copy of what he said in the 2018 interview (and we quote): “People (living in the district) have voted Democratic all their lives, but nothing’s changed.”
Just as he did two years ago, Rogers said if he’s elected he would introduce legislation calling for a federal emergency declaration to deal with housing, economic development for low-income Milwaukee neighborhoods, and address the problem of lead contaminated water and replacing lead-lined water laterals.
In his last interview, Rogers was also critical of his own Republican Party at the time, saying they should be more focused on the Black community as it relates to getting votes and implementing conservative ideas such as job and business creation that would benefit the community.
This time around, the GOP has opened two campaign offices, one in Milwaukee (at 2244 N. Martin Luther King, Dr. Drive) and the other in West Allis.
This means the Republicans are serious about capturing the Black vote, convinced there are many more Black Milwaukeeans like Rogers who are conservative and tired of the Democrats taking them for granted…until it’s election time again.
“We’re serious Republicans,” Rogers said about Black people who are in the party and support the party’s leader, one President Donald Trump.
“Black Republicans care about America and Milwaukee. It’s time to get some work done, not fix our mouth to say anything like the Democrats.”
“This is a new Republican Party,” Rogers claimed. “I’m part of their new party. We now have a chance—for the first time in American History—to really get things done. I’m willing to lead the charge. We have to vote Trump for four more years and implement his agenda.”
Though the congressional primary isn’t until August, Rogers is in the streets talking to potential voters about the advantages of a conservative ideology and singing the praises of Trump (as he did in the 2018 interview).
He’s also inviting curious (if not wary) fourth congressional district residents to join him at a “I Love Milwaukee” rally to be held Tuesday, Feb. 18 at Mr. J’s, 4610 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
There, amidst music and $2 tacos, the candidate and GOP representatives hope to convince “potential” Rogers voters they have nothing to lose and everything to gain jumping on the “pachyderm party” bandwagon and abandoning a party more obsessed with overturning Trump’s presidency then governing.
What also gives Rogers more confidence in his second try for the political brass ring is what happened at a political meet and greet he attended and where Moore was also present. Rogers spoke and shared his platform with those in attendance.
Afterward, according to Rogers, Moore came up to him, impressed by what he had to say. “She said: ‘If you do what you say you’re going to do, I’ll give you my seat.’”
Rogers said unlike the Democratic party, which he believes is floundering because it lacks a clear vision for America’s future, the Republican Party has a vision based on its belief in personal liberty, free markets, limited government, personal freedom and development, criminal justice reform, and personal employment.
“We need Trump for four more years to hold on to and implement his agenda,” Rogers added. “We need things locked and set before he leaves office that will benefit people of color and all Americans.
“What we do in Milwaukee (by implementing the Trump agenda before Rogers would take office, should he win) will resonate all over the U.S. in every inner city. It’s about helping all Americans. It’s not just about Black people. There are still neighbors we have to love.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced bipartisan legislation to close a loophole in the Orphan Drug Act that has allowed drug companies to keep competition off the market and rake in profits.
Currently, drug companies can get seven years of market exclusivity for a widely used new drug if they are able to prove to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that a new drug would not be economically viable without that exclusivity. If granted, that exclusivity persists for seven years even if the drug becomes economically viable on its own, and be applied to new versions of the drug. By maintaining exclusivity, drug companies can make billions in profit without market competition, including for important medications that help treat opioid use disorder.
The Senators’ bill closes the loophole. It allows the FDA to remove market exclusivity if the drug company cannot continue to prove that the drug would be economically unviable when facing competition. This will help increase competition and bring important new treatments to market.
“Washington needs to step up and be a stronger partner to communities fighting the substance abuse epidemic, and we need to make sure that all safe and affordable treatment options are available to patients. We can do this by taking on unfair practices and leveling the playing field so we can use every tool at our disposal to combat this public health crisis,” said Senator Baldwin. “This legislation will close a loophole to help expand access to innovative medications. I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to fight this epidemic and save lives.”
“Monopolies within the health care system drive drug prices up, making drugs unaffordable. Closing the orphan drug loophole will lower drug prices by encouraging market competition. Drug companies must have the means to innovate, but they should not be allowed to exploit the market,” said Dr. Cassidy.
“Congress needs to do everything in its power to curb skyrocketing prescription prices, and that includes cracking down on drug manufacturers who abuse the system to prevent more affordable competitors from coming to market,” said Senator Shaheen. “As our communities fight to turn the tide of the substance use disorder epidemic, we need to be doing everything we can to ensure patients and treatment providers have access to affordable, effective medication to respond to this crisis. I’ll continue to work across the aisle to reduce prescription drug costs and increase market competition among manufacturers so Granite Staters and Americans across the country don’t have to pick between affording their medication and paying the bills.”
MILWAUKEE – The Board of Supervisors adopted (14-3) a proposal from Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr., today to double funding for voter registration and education efforts in the wake of recent attempts to purge approximately 200,000 Wisconsin voters from election rolls.
“We must do everything we can to protect the right to vote, especially in the wake of ongoing voter suppression efforts in Wisconsin. With these additional funds we can help ensure voters know their rights and are registered to vote,” said Lipscomb.
The potential purge and the confusion it could create led Lipscomb to propose boosting previously planned efforts – budgeted at $50,000 – with an additional $50,000.
In advance of the 2020 elections, the Milwaukee County Election Commission was already planning to reprise its 2016 “Bring It to the Ballot” voter participation and education effort.
That campaign communicated registration requirements via advertisements on county buses and bus shelters, in movie theaters, local newspapers, and on broadcast radio.
Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee are also already collaborating on the placement of voter registration kiosks at public facilities throughout the county, including Milwaukee City Hall, all City of Milwaukee public libraries, all County senior centers, some suburban public libraries, and in the jury management room at the County Courthouse, among other locations.
Potential voters can use the kiosks to print registration forms and receive instructions on how to submit the required documents and register to vote.
Lipscomb’s resolution also directs the Milwaukee County Election Commission to report to the Board of Supervisors in advance of the 2020 elections about additional efforts that could be made to improve voter registration and education.
Additional measures could include direct mailings to potentially purged voters with instructions on how to update their voter status, additional voter registration kiosks, partnerships with voter outreach groups, and voter registration drives.
The absence of a “minority” Democratic Party presidential candidate and the unwillingness of the remaining aspirants to address issues of importance to African American voters may impede the Black voter turnout next fall.
Such was the consensus of a panel of five local African American community leaders and political activists who were quizzed about the upcoming elections on the nationally televised “Meet the Press” talk show last week as part of its “County to County” project.
The “County to County” project involves on-going discussions with voters and stakeholders in five “battleground states” that significantly influenced the 2016 presidential elections: Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
President Donald Trump surprisingly won Wisconsin in 2016 by 23,000 votes. A drop-off in Black voter participation in Milwaukee was a critical factor in Trump’s victory.
Many analysts surmised lukewarm support for Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and the unwillingness of the Democratic Party to address issues of importance to Black voters contributed to smaller voter turnout.
Ironically, most participants in the televised panel discussion believe a similar paradigm may be playing out this year.
The local panel, interviewed by Meet the Press’s Dante Chinni, included County Supervisor Marcella Nicholson, Ruben Hopkins, president of the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce; award-winning radio talk show host Sherwin Hughes, Rev. Donna Childs, pastor of Tabernacle Community Baptist Church; and Mikel Holt, associate publisher of your Milwaukee Community Journal.
While only six minutes of the 25-minute discussion was aired on last week’s Meet the Press, the nearly 30-minute discussion provided a more detailed analysis of the upcoming elections from an African American perspective.
The full interview has gone viral and has attracted the attention of Black stakeholders nationwide. Most social media responses have been supportive of the views presented by the panelists.
Many viewers have also expressed shock and concern about revelations of Milwaukee’s status as the worse place in the country for African Americans, as revealed on the show. The fact that Milwaukee is host to the Democratic Party national convention has fueled that fire.
It was not surprising that most of the panelists expressed disappointment that the reduced Democratic field has ignored issues of importance to the Black community, particularly in the areas of education, unemployment, economic development, and criminal justice.
It was noted, however, that dichotomy may have been by design, as neither of the two Black former candidates—Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, spoke to those issues during any of the earlier debates they participated either, prompting Nicholson to suggest the ethnicity of the candidates did not make much of a difference.
Instead, all of the candidates were swept up into discussions about immigration, the environment, and Trump policies versus more pressing issues faced by minorities and the poor.
“Most Black folks are concerned about putting food on the table,” she said, adding finding livable wage paying jobs, safety, and quality education overshadow other concerns.
The fact that neither Harris nor Booker focused their campaigns on that reality probably played into their campaigns not finding traction as well, Nicholson surmised.
Holt agreed, noting the most recent debate—without anyone of color on the stage— probably hurt Black voter enthusiasm more than it helped.
“Initially, people were excited by the wide range of (candidate choices),” said Rev. Childs. “Now, our voices have been (muted) to a degree.”
Rev. Childs said her congregants are concerned about bread and butter issues and who can impact on their lives; but also who can beat Donald Trump. That latter concern seems to be a top priority.
An “anyone but Trump” campaign may not be enough, Holt interjected.
Milwaukee leads the nation in seven negative social indicators, and many Black voters are growing increasingly tired of the unwillingness to even superficially address Black concerns.
During the last debate, “They (the candidates) were talking about early childhood education and free college, but most of our kids won’t get that far,” said Holt.
For Black Milwaukeeans, the focus is on K-12, and the inability of Black children attending government schools to read at grade level, much less graduate. Milwaukee, Holt noted, has the smallest percentage of Black children who can meet proficiency rates for reading at the fourth and eighth grades in the country.
Milwaukee is also home to the highest Black incarceration and Black male unemployment rates, along with being the most segregated city in the country.
And the fact Milwaukee is home to the nation’s education revolution cannot be ignored.
On a positive note, America seems to be moving away from what Nicholson said was identity politics, where Black candidates are used to attract Black voters and female candidates are used to attach women voters, etc.
The issues faced by most Americans are not exclusive to ethnicities or gender.
But while “anyone other than Trump,” works in theory, it is questionable whether that slogan will translate into an enthusiastic outpouring of Black voters unless it is tied to concrete solutions to a myriad of problems.
Holt said it was interesting to see the candidates in the last debate try to claim significant support from minority voters.
“Seems like each was trying to (link themselves to Black voters)” to claim support for their respective campaigns.
“And then (finally) there was Biden (who upstaged everybody) by proclaiming he had more Black support than all of the other candidates combined.”
The Black Press journalist said Sanders has not significantly turned around the abysmal level of Black support that haunted him in 2016. Warren is “being followed around the country by angry Black parents because of her attacks on educational options for the poor, and Mayor Pete (Buttigieg) doesn’t even have Black support in his community,” Holt said sarcastically,
While there was no consensus on who is considered the “best” candidate for Black America, most agreed Biden would probably emerge given his name recognition and association with former (and first African American) President Barack Obama, whose support could energize the Black vote.
Hughes said he is leaning toward Biden but was fearful he would turn off progressives. “I’m nervous that if Biden becomes the nominee, which it appears he will be, there’s going to be a lot of people that are going to stay home.”
The former talk show host, who is the head of the organization “Leaders for a Better Community,” also suggested it may not be as crucial for a candidate to provide political rhetoric about Black concerns but be open to us. “instead of someone who speaks to our issues, we need someone who listens to us when we speak,” Hughes theorized.
He also noted that unless voters can flip the Senate, the question of who the next president is may be moot.
“If we (continue to) have a Republican-controlled Senate, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Thus, Democratic Party voters should focus on the importance of electing four additional Democrats to the senate, which would provide them the majority.
Hopkins interposed, noting among his organization’s top concerns, is a president who gives more than lip service to reinvesting in central cities across the country.
Using Milwaukee as an example, Hopkins noted, “Look at our community, it is void of economic investment,” he said, despite African Americans being the largest ethnic group, representing 200,000 people.
Yet, “If we want to go to a movie, we have to leave the central city. If we want to go to a roller rink, we have to leave our community. If we want to go to a (four-star) restaurant, we have to leave our community.”
That paradigm is at the root of many of Milwaukee’s negative social indicators—poverty, unemployment and segregation.
“We deserve the same quality of life in the central city (as Whites enjoy in the suburbs), the Black business advocate proclaimed.
Hopkins said historically, presidential politics have been viewed through a wide lens, what is best for Americans in general. But it is time now that our focus is on what is best for us because there continues to be an unequal playing field.
“If we don’t prioritize what is best for (the Black community) we are going to get the same thing you got last time.”
Investment in central cities, including Milwaukee, would result in a revitalization that would lead to the creation of jobs, a robust economy, and a significant reduction in the Black poverty rate.
Nicholson noted that her support of Sanders was rooted in his campaign platform of addressing issues directly impacting the lives of millennials and Black professionals.
Sanders, she said, has a comprehensive platform that will improve the quality of life for all Americans, a fact that has drawn new voters to the campaign.
By prioritizing the reduction of student debt, and universal health, he is speaking to a new and energized voting bloc that transcends ethnicity and age.
“(Many) Black businesses can’t afford health care.”
“Look at (Sander’s) base; he has the largest percentage of supporters of color, and more individual donors than anyone.
“While (Elizabeth) Warren supporters tend to be more affluent and educated,” Sanders’ growing base better reflects the emerging younger, grassroots progressives.
Another option presented to energize the Black vote could be the selection of a Black running mate for what appears certain to be a White nominee.
Holt said the symbolism of a person of color on the ticket could convey to Black voters that their issues will be spoken of in the back room.
And if not an African American, a progressive like Julian Castro would be a progressive favorite, Holt suggested.
“He was the only candidate to talk about Black issues like police brutality” and education outside the failing status quo.
“Milwaukee is home to the educational revolution, yet none of the candidates touched on (the abysmal state) of urban education. Some of the candidates came out looking like elitists,” Holt proclaimed, noting how Black leaders have attacked Warren and Sanders because of their opposition to school choice, which revealed how the Democratic Party in general values the union vote and agenda over that of its most loyal and powerful bloc: Black voters.
But, “we will vote for whoever emerges as the Democratic Party candidate (if for no other reason than) we have no other option.”
When the veteran journalist mentioned the potential emergence of former New York Mayor Mikel Bloomberg as an option, Hughes responded, “He’s trying to buy the election,” a potentially disingenuous paradigm.
From all indications, the church community,”will (also) get behind whoever” the candidate will be, Rev. Childs explained.
As the most consistent voting block of African Americans, Black church congregants look at the upcoming elections as a mandate to defeat Trump.
“We can fix the other things later,” she said, which seems to be the rallying cry.
To a question by Chinni about the level of Black support for Trump, Hughes explained it might be larger than most pundits assume.
A strong economy is a nightmare for Democrats, Hughes explained and is hard to beat.
The economy, which Trump misleadingly takes credit for, “hasn’t worked for everybody, but, in the last four years a lot of folks have bought a house or gotten a raise, and they will attribute that to the economy,” he theorized, a factor Trump will exploit.
This summer’s DNC convention could, but probably won’t, be a catalyst for the recognition of the dire state of Black America in general and Black Milwaukee in particular, the panelist agreed.
Ironically, while Milwaukee has taken on the label of being the “worst city for African Americans in the country,” that paradigm has not been addressed by the party or any of the candidates, nor is it expected to be discussed at the convention.
Yet, as Black Milwaukeeans realize the historic nature of that dichotomy, it could have an adverse impact on the fall elections.
Thus, Hopkins said our voices need to be heard.
“This is an opportunity for those of us who can get in the room, because you know what they say, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Rev. Childs said it was equally important that local Black politicians use this unique opportunity to press our issues within the DNC.
Likewise, “it is the role of the church to stand up, to make a difference,” to provide a voice.
As the Bible explains, “Whenever God sent a king, he also sent a prophet; to tell the truth, to make them do what is right, to speak up when they did wrong.”