East Sider Joe Klein to Run for County Executive

by Vince Bushell

It seems as though there will be a primary for Milwaukee County Executive in February 2004, with east sider Joe Klein joining David Riemer and Jose Caban to challenge incumbent Scott Walker for the position that Walker won after the recall and runoff in April 2002.

Joe KleinWalker has said he will not serve beyond 2008 if elected for a full term in 2004. This pronouncement has had the effect of chilling the air for challengers. The topsy-turvy world that County Government has become has led some would-be candidates into thinking about 2008 instead of facing the recently-elected conservative populist Walker.

Not Joe Klein, who has decided to throw his hat into the ring. In an early November press release, Klein states that he can “no longer stand by as Scott Walker disassembles county government and sells the pieces off to private corporations.”

When asked in an interview about key issues, Klein listed the following:

Freeway Expansion: He is not in favor of expansion but believes the system “needs fixes and capital expenditures.”

Economic Development: Klein believes “the County Executive should be the chief economic developer.” By that he means the exec should take the leadership role in promoting Milwaukee County as a place to do business.

Central City unemployment: Klein says we need to “deal with the problems of the central city” regarding employment. “The whole County has to understand the future of the County is based on resolving problems of the central city,” he says.

Taxes: On this issue, Klein points back to the city: “We can’t fix the tax problem without addressing the problems of the central city.”

He refers to UWM’s Dr. Marc Levine and the report “Stealth Depression: Joblessness in the City of Milwaukee.” Klein believes suburbs in the County and all of Southeastern Wisconsin are fooling themselves if they think they can go it alone and not be concerned about central city woes. He also notes that negative sentiment for Milwaukee’s problems in the State Legislature is made worse when there is not a commitment on the County and metro level to work for solutions to central city problems. He says that the “depression” is spreading, not getting smaller.

Klein, a computer and web savant, has an innovative idea about building a community web network to the area that would save money, promote business, and bring Milwaukee into the 21st century economy as a first line competitor. He talks of a CityLink system in Wellington, New Zealand, which has given that community a leg up on new century business, education, and government. He would work to have “all units of government work together to build a metro network” that would provide low cost service and stimulate job growth and new businesses. “Properly run honest government can always deliver necessary services to the people at a lower cost than for-profit business,” he says.

Taking full advantage of the web network he is proposing, Klein would use it to promote transparency in government by having “all minutes online, all the meetings on the web. An absolute effort to make it (government) as open as possible.”

Near the end of our conversation Klein noted we needed to “restore transit and parks.” Speaking of public transportation, Klein noted the importance of getting people to jobs. “We are the last city to take a look at rail based transportation,” he said. “What we are becoming is weird, not just different.”

by Vince Bushell