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Nik Kovac Gets to Work

Defying the predictions and surprising prognosticators, native son Nik Kovac beat fellow Riverwest resident Patrick Flaherty by a cheesecloth thin 71 vote margin on April 1 to claim Milwaukee’s coveted Third District aldermanic seat. But for Alderman-elect Kovac, the election isover, and the celebration is old news. Today his focus is on fulfilling the promises he pledged door-to-door to the people who elected him. And it’s a business that begins with making government more receptive and transparent to the people.   “I need to make sure citizens’ voices are heard, whether I’m talking to my colleagues, to the various bureaucracies in city government or to developers. I need to work harder to involve citizens in decisions,” said Alderman Kovac. Fresh off his first aldermanic proclamation at the 21st Annual Earth Poets and Musicians event at the Urban Ecology Center on April 18, Kovac is excited about the future of his district. Among the items Kovac cited that will occupy his agenda are: strengthening ties with UWM and the community that surrounds it, being involved in the plans for the Hometown site bordering the Milwaukee River and building the relationship with the Sixth District. Not Taking Sides on the East Side Kovac is not a stranger to students and has already been involved with UWM’s Progressive Students of Milwaukee, the SAFE program (Safety Awareness For Everyone), and the COAST program (Community Outreach and Assistance for Student Tenants). Insisting he’s not taking sides in the current student elections, Kovac looks forward to working with whomever is elected. “I think both students and neighbors will have a stronger voice if that voice is together. I want to bring people together to find common ground. I want to get past the anger and get to the constructive criticism, then direct that criticism to where it belongs: on city government, to reform government,” Kovac said. Striking a Balance During the campaign the Riverwest Currents asked each candidate to respond to how they would approach the Hometown site, and Kovac still believes only a balance between the built and natural world will suit the site. “For me, the main thing is to make sure we increase pedestrian traffic on North Avenue and increase recreational use along the river. I think there’s a way to make the natural world and the built environment coexist in a synergistic way,” Kovac said. The site is still under an industrial zoning restriction and plans have yet to be submitted by Mandel Development, Inc., but what is certain is that Kovac will have the many interests of his constituents in mind. “If it turns out that a compromise is needed I’m going to be a fair, honest and transparent broker of that compromise. I want to make sure that everyone’s interests are on the table and that several options are explored, openly,” Kovac said. Building an Alliance on the West As a voice for Riverwest, Kovac is not alone. His counterpart in the Sixth District also speaks for part of this uniquely positioned neighborhood. Sixth District Alderwoman Milele Coggs handily ousted jailed incumbent Alderman Mike McGee, Jr. and seems poised to pick up the pieces left in his wake. Kovac and Coggs are no strangers. Both are proud alums of Riverside University High School, and graduated in the same class. With this fortunate link Kovac believes economic, cultural and social prosperity for both districts is a shared goal that can meet with success. “It’s to both of our constituents’ advantage that we’ve known each other for so long. We’re not going to agree on everything, but we’re going to treat each other with respect. I think Alderwoman Coggs and I are going to bring some needed new energy to the council, and I think Riverside High School should be proud,” Kovac said.