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Mayoral Candidates on Most Important Neighborhood Issues

Eight mayoral candidates were asked the following:

“What do you think is the most important issue facing our city neighborhoods, and how would you address that concern as mayor?”

Here are their answers:

Tom Barrett

(website in the works) (414) 271-8050

The single biggest issue facing city neighborhoods in Milwaukee is the need for the family-supporting jobs that result from sustainable economic development. Economic expansion for the entire community will be my top priority, because it will help us address as a community of neighborhoods the other problems that result from economic hardship — crime, high taxes, poor educational performance, racial segregation and racial strife. Milwaukee’s mayor must be many things — a leader, a consensus-builder, an innovator and the city’s top cheerleader. However, he or she must also be a sales person and developer for existing business and for businesses looking to relocate. As mayor, I will make it my business to know each available potential business site in neighborhoods throughout the city and I will make it my administration’s number one priority to attract and retain Milwaukee business. The Barrett Administration will use the building blocks already in place in neighborhoods around the city to expand opportunities for our residents. I have been proud to help redevelop neighborhoods like Park Lawn, Lapham Park and Hillside through the nearly $100 million in Hope VI federal grants we were able to secure during my tenure in Congress. I have also worked with representatives from the city to obtain the resources that brought Milwaukee a Brownfields Renewal Community Designation. Resources like those mentioned above, the hard-working residents of our community and the vision to improve or recreate neighborhoods will put Milwaukee on the move in a Barrett Administration. I look forward to getting to work with residents in every neighborhood.

Pedro Colon

(via phone conversation) www.pedrocolon.com

The most important issue facing the city of Milwaukee is honest and open government, for the residents and the neighborhoods. Recently Milwaukee’s mayors have been allowed to move forward without a clear, focused agenda from city hall. Neighborhoods have been left to improve their quality without focused leadership. We have a mayor and chief of police that for whatever reason do not communicate with each other. What we do is wait for crime to happen, let the neighbors react, then fix it. The latest wave has been to do overtime. In reality we need to have some political accountability, allow the police to gather intelligence about who the real bad guys are, deal with the issue of crime and criminal behavior head on. We also need economic development in the neighborhoods. This isn’t happening, and this is not, in my opinion, a shortcoming of neighborhood groups. The city has not insisted on getting the resources to help facilitate neighborhood revitalization. Ultimately Milwaukee’s biggest challenge is to provide a unified city under open and honest government. Not one where dissenting or partially dissenting voices are not only not heard but essentially trampled out of city hall. We can’t run a government in a state of fear of ideas… we need to clean up city hall and make sure the Good Old Boys’ network becomes the peoples’ network.

Frank Cumberbatch

(via e-mail) www.onemilwaukee.com

The most important issue facing Milwaukee neighborhoods today is lack of stability. Most people want their family to be safe; to enjoy a modest quality of life; and to prepare their children to be contributing citizens. We need to return living wage jobs to ignored and deprived neighborhoods. I willlead the partnership between the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (icic.org) and the city to create clusters around Construction & Development, Health Services, Manufacturing, and Business Process Outsourcing. I will encourage the creation of a very robust electronic neighborhood networking infrastructure designed to communicate concerns of neighbors to all stakeholders, including each other, neighborhood associations, elected officials, law enforcement, schools, city departments, and the mayor’s office. Individuals can share solutions and get involved in solving problems regardless of where they live. I will work on ending the divisive stigma attached to our great city. Leaders from all walks of life will create a plan to remove the stigma and then implement it. I am very bothered that city leadership isn’t concerned that we are considered the most segregated city in America; that we aren’t addressing the concerns of the gay and lesbian community; that we lead the nation in African Americans in jail, while we have the lowest percentage of students graduating high school; that we are losing young people daily because the city does not address their needs. Before we can stabilize our neighborhoods, we must see ourselves as one family, with one future. In other words we must become one Milwaukee.

Sandy Folaron

(via e-mail) www.sandy4mayor.com

Ask someone in Bay View and they might say it is the development of their commercial district. Ask a Harambee resident and they will answer, housing! There are west side neighborhoods that feel their property taxes are prohibitive, and traveling east, we find a neighborhood with severe parking limitations. There will always be concerns regarding crime and safety in any area. Even the perception of crime can deter growth in a neighborhood. Without a safe environment, businesses will leave, pedestrians will take to their cars, and public places will be vacant. Neighborhoods are made safe by the presence of their residents. The more people and activity on the street, the safer the neighborhood becomes. Development, whether economic or social, supports the viability of neighborhoods. That can only happen with a strategic plan and vision of what that neighborhood needs. Board-ups, streets with no curbs, vacant lots loaded with trash, and neglected or abandoned properties need immediate attention. You cannot attract responsible business or property owners when the neighborhood looks like a war zone. Collaborations between residents, business owners, churches, and schools will make the difference. I have worked in my neighborhood and commercial district for the last 15 years. The formula that was used to revitalize our streets can be used in any other neighborhood. Milwaukee offers a quality of life seldom found in comparably sized cities. We must protect that with a city government and a police department that doesn’t offer excuses, but solutions.

Martin Matson

(via e-mail) www.matsonformayor.com

My campaign is based on three fundamentals: safe neighborhoods, business development, and an education initiative. The underpinning to all three is coordination of resources. There are many organizations already in existence in Milwaukee that are addressing many of our needs, but there is no coordination between similar entities meeting similar objectives. Coordination to improving our quality of life is the key. Safe Neighborhoods. Foot patrols, direct access to city agencies, and coordinating the efforts of neighborhood and faith-based organizations will bring safety to our streets. The government can focus on what works and help to multiply those positive efforts across the city. Business Development. Focus and expand on our economic assets with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, “The Milwaukee Idea” by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and our local economic development corporations. There is a lot of potential for retaining and growing businesses in our community. Education Initiative. Milwaukee is sixth in the country for urban universities. Help is needed from first to twelfth grade to get our kids into those universities. Programs like Milwaukee Mentors need to be expanded to ensure the future success of our community.

Tom Nardelli

(via e-mail) www.tomnardelli.com

Based on my experience on Milwaukee’s Common Council, crime is currently one, if not the most significant issue we face. Everything from a violent mugging to verbal harassment create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. When we don’t feel safe in own neighborhoods, crime has tightened its grip on our lives. I strongly support continuation of Directed Patrol Missions by the Milwaukee Police Department because of their demonstrated success in reducing criminal activity. As mayor, I will also propose a unique partnership among the Milwaukee Police Department, the Milwaukee Public Schools Recreation Department, and local senior centers. Specifically, we will facilitate mergers of facilities and programs to create Inter-generational Community Centers. By combining resources, these centers will have the resources to provide structured environments for mentoring, personal enrichment opportunities, and recreational activity. This is just a beginning. Drug abuse, truancy, unemployment, and a lack of economic opportunity all contribute to the proliferation of crime. Bringing generations together in mutual support will help resurrect the shared sense of community that once sustained Milwaukee’s neighborhoods through good times and bad. Growing up in Milwaukee, I benefited from summers at school playgrounds and winters at neighborhood school Social Centers in organized activities. I think it’s time to go back to the future.

John Pitta

www.pittaformayor2004.com (no response before press time)

Marvin Pratt

(via phone conversation) http://www.bbami.com/index_files/page0006.htm

I think the key issue in dealing with the city of Milwaukee is the issue of neighborhoods. A number of things fall under that: cohesion, unity, crime, economic development. I thing there have to be programs that focus on our neighborhoods, because they make up our city. There are 189 neighborhoods designated by the Department of City Development. I live in the Rufus King neighborhood. We need to build up stronger neighborhoods and not just focus on downtown — it’s doing well on its own. We get lost at 17th and Atkinson, in my aldermanic district, where an 18-year-old male was killed yesterday or where the 12-year-old girl was killed. We have to have more nuisance abatement for properties, more nuisance officers out there. You want to have neighborhoods that have pride. If you have crime, gangs, and vacant, boarded up houses, you aren’t going to have any job creation. For specific strategies: I want to increase block grant programs. The city needs to work with non-profit and community-based organizations. I would try to get some private sector organization, i.e. foundations and/or businesses, to match block grant or public sector dollars. NOTE: Since last month’s mayoral candidate preview, Frank Cumberbatch declared his candidacy. He is president of the Board of Directors of the Latino Community Center, and an East Side resident with a background in entrepreneurship. He is hosting “Fridays with Frank” events (see his website) and lacing up his running shoes for Saturday morning running tours of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods. Rumors continue that Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke may throw his hat in the ring soon, although at Currents’ press time, he had not yet officially declared candidacy. For brief biographies on mayoral candidates who declared earlier this year, see our article in last month’s issue. Answers compiled by Al Josef and Sonya Jongsma Knauss Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 8 – August 2003