Answers compiled by Vince Bushell, Peter Schmidtke, and Sonya Jongsma Knauss Editor’s Note: All seven 6th District Aldermanic Candidates were invited to respond to 19 questions using their choice of e-mail, telephone, or a personal interview.
(e-mail response) Family: One daughter and one son. Hobbies: Sports and mentoring youth. Education: BS in Education. Resides in: Ward 98. Last time on the bus: One year ago. Most important problems confronting Riverwest: Lack of green space, increasing property taxes, and crime. Experience: Years of community service, including career and volunteer work. » Why do you want to hold this office? I want to be more visible and give the constituents a choice for a fresh start with new ideas. » Why should people vote for you? First off I have been a resident and homeowner for the past 35 years, therefore I am familiar with neighborhood issues. I want to suggest new ideas to old problems and I am dedicated to Community Service. » How are you different from the other candidates? My wealth of experiences and my community involvement. Key issues: Affordable housing, tax reduction, increase in jobs, and a decrease in crime. Favorite political philosopher: Martin Luther King, Jr. Proper role of city government: To help create a structure to improve the lives of citizens. Making government decision-making more transparent and participatory: Hold Town Hall meetings and constituent contact. » Have you been to a Common Council meeting? Impressions/comments? Yes – but it was kind of dry. Additional comment: Getting constituents more involved in City Government, I want to see more people working, I want people to be able to afford taxes and to see less crime. I also want to cut wasteful spending by having an audit.
Marlene Johnson-Odom (Incumbent)
(interviewed by Currents staff) Age: 67 Family: Adult children. Hobbies: Reading for information, interested in health and nutrition. Education: B.S. from UWM. Resides in: A three-bedroom townhome she rents in Carver Park, which she describes as having a highly diverse resident base. Last time on the bus: Six months ago. Most important problems confronting Riverwest: “Need to reduce crime. There have been five different captains at the 5th Police District since I took office. This lack of continuity with leadership makes it difficult.” Drug houses: “Residents are afraid to get involved. We need a way for them to feel secure about calling.” Experience: Marlene is presently the senior Alderman on the council with 24 years of service. » Why do you want to hold this office? There are projects I would like to see get done.” In particular, three different housing and commercial developments including projects that encompass over 100 vacant lots in the sixth district. She also wants to see to completion the Kilbourn-Reservoir Park rehabilitation. “I will listen to the people to see what they want to do.” » Why should people vote for you/how are you different? She is the candidate most familiar with city government and is a lifelong resident of Milwaukee with a historical view of challenges to the sixth district that go back to the 1960s. Key issues: Guiding development, important to stay the course as investment in the sixth district has turned a depressed area around. During her watch total property value from 1980 to 2002 has changed from losing value at a minus 7% for the area to gaining value at a plus 28%. Favorite political philosopher: None. My motto is “Do the best you can.” A self-described Kennedy Girl: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Making government more transparent and participatory: Residents need to be informed about opportunities to give testimony on issues and they need to take advantage of these opportunities. We need to have balance; it’s impossible to please everybody. In a district with lots of development going on it is “equally important to consider input from residents and developers…we have to work together on what is best for the area… that benefits everybody and flattens the property tax.” » As incumbent, what are you proud of? Renaming 3rd Street to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive; this was a catalyst for moving in a positive direction. My work with the two Business Improvement Districts, BID 25 on East Capitol Drive and BID 8 on King Drive. As well as all the housing development that has occurred in Brewers Hill, Hillside and Carver Park.
(e-mail response) Age: 35 Family: Wife, Chareese, sons Calvin and Cameron, daughter Ciera Hobbies: Reading, writing, playing golf and basketball Education: Xavier University (Ohio) studied Political Science and Economics Resides in: Brewers Hill Last time you rode the bus: Every day last week. The routes I ride often are the 19 and the 14. Most important problems confronting Riverwest: Crime, unemployment, lack of city services being provided in certain areas. Experience: First, I have worked the past five years as a legislative assistant to one of our council members and one year for the Board of Zoning Appeals in the Department of City Development. While serving in my capacity as a legislative assistant I was blessed to serve and work for the people in the Sherman Park, Metcalfe Park, Midtown, and Amani neighborhoods. I have collaborated and worked on various issues ranging from building healthy neighborhoods to working diligently to hold absentee landlords accountable for their properties. I have worked with many community based organizations to resolve issues that have confronted our community. » Why do you want to hold this office? The reason I would like to hold this position is because of the families that I have been honored to work for throughout the city. Quite honestly, this is work that I enjoyed as a legislative assistant and we all can complain however, I have chosen to get involved and make a difference. From a very early age my Grandma instilled in me that public service is founded on the trust of the people, and that my strength as a leader is only as strong as the people who have helped me get to this point in my life. There are many individuals that have helped prepare me for this point in my life and I am encouraged that the future of Milwaukee is gong to become more brighter. » Why should people vote for you? Aside from my experience of working with policy makers from all levels of government, I am young, idealistic, aggressive, and a leader that is connected with the pulse of the community. I will be able to work for the residents in the 6th District from day one because of my experience working at City Hall and with all of the various departments. The residents that I have spoken with while campaigning are seeking someone who will be accessible, attentive and accountable to their needs and I am the person for this position. » How are you different from the other candidates? Once again, I will have to state my experience of working at City Hall and the various departments. However, there is no one else in this race that can match my commitment or passion to serve the residents of our district. I truly enjoy being a public servant and working with everyone in the trenches to resolve issues that confront us. People will find that I am just a down to earth guy who is hard working and concerned about the district and the city. Key issues: I will be focusing on Crime. That is a priority, however, keeping our streets and alleys cleaned and working on creating opportunities for new businesses that will help address the unemployment issue. Favorite political philosopher: I don’t just have one favorite, but, I would say Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Locke, Plato, Dick Morris and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. but there are many others. What is the proper role of city government? The proper role of government is to govern openly and honestly while providing the best services to its citizenry. And it should also be the True Voice of the People. Making government decision-making more transparent and participatory: There are open meetings at City Hall and people can watch meetings in the comfort of their homes. However, it is incumbent that the elected official do everything to keep the residents informed and educated about various issues. I would also add that it is our responsibility to get more involved in the process. Get Involved!!!! Have you been to a Common Council meeting? Impressions/comments? I have been to numerous council meetings while working at City Hall. I would like to see the youth of Milwaukee get more involved in the political process downtown. Additional comment: I sit on the Boards of Potawatomi Community Foundation, Children’s Outing Association and the Survive Alive House. I am also a United States Army Veteran and I belong to the American Legion. I am respectfully and humbly seeking your vote of confidence for the position of 6th District Alderman. I have the experience and my commitment is unwavering. I believe that we are responsible for one another, and as a believer of many things, I believe in You and a better tomorrow. I will never give up my faith in my fellow man nor will I ever stop believing that the surest test of each of us is not where we have been but where we are headed! We will be heading in the right direction with your support for my candidacy for Alderman of the 6th District.
Mike McGee, Jr.
(e-mail response) Age: 34 Family: Married, father of three. Hobbies: reading, coaching youth wrestling/basketball, music. Education: B.A. Political Science. Resides in: The Commerce Street Neighborhood. Last time on the city bus? New Year’s Eve. Most important problems confronting Riverwest: Crime, unemployment, and quality of life. Experience: The experiences that prepare me for the position of alderman are my community organizing background. Since 1976, I have helped to empower my community. I was part of the first anti-crime organizing effort in the city of Milwaukee. Project Respect, Inc. founded in 1976 by my family, organized the first block clubs in Milwaukee. I have teaching experience in Milwaukee Public Schools. I have experience with our youth, as a Recreation Coordinator. Why should people vote for you? People should vote for me because I am a servant of the community. I have a deep concern and passion for the needs of people. I am reliable, trustworthy, and I have a reputation of being a very resourceful person. How are you different from the other candidates? I am different from the other candidates because I have instant credibility, and respect in any home, street or alley-way that I visit. Key issues: The key issues that I hope to work focus on are job creation, economic development, and violent crime throughout the city. Favorite political philosopher: One of my favorite political philosophers is Niccolo Machiavelli. Proper role of city government: The proper role of city government is to be a facilitator of resources, and servant for the will of the people. Making government decision-making more transparent and participatory: I believe we can make government decision-making more transparent and participatory for every day people in the Sixth District by: Not only holding town-hall meetings, but hosting radio shows, going door to door, alley to alley and surveying the people’s opinions. People need to be educated and informed about the impact that they could make in governmental decisions. Have you been to a Common Council meeting? Impressions/comments? I have been to a few Common Council meetings, and they appear to be bureaucratic and rigid.
George F. Sanders
(e-mail response) Age: 73 Family: 5 children, 3 grandchildren, all living out of state. Hobbies/interests: Swimming, in-line skating, cross-country skiing, jazz music. Education: Associate/Graphic Design. Resides in: Southeastern part of the 6th District, 1835 N. 2nd. Last time on the city bus: About 3 months ago. » Most important problems confronting Riverwest: Increased fears and consequences of joblessness, underemployment, resultant crime and subsequent cost to alleviate these conditions; city government’s often caviler attitude about these issues even while it continues to openly divert the federal funds it receives which are designed to offset these issues; higher property assessments, taxes, plus added construction costs to increase the capacities of existing underground sewer and water services to accommodate the requirements of nearby “runaway” condominium developments. Experience: Over 20 years cumulative experience as Executive Director, Wisconsin Minority Contractors Association; Housing Relocation Technician for the State of Wisconsin; Community development consultant, Racine, Kenosha, Walworth counties; City Manager assistant, Wauwatosa. » Why do you want to hold this office? Citizens appear to be being systematically removed from local community decision making on such matters as housing, development, and health concerns which includes a disturbing failure of local government to properly inform the public, all while it too easily burdens the public with unreasonable and unexplained costs. I want to change that. » Why should people vote for you? I have the experience that understands local government administration and management. I have a record of that proves my resolve and dedication about the oversight related to citizen/government cooperation in community decision-making. » How are you different from the other candidates? Elected officials can no longer treat their districts as singular entities unaffected by adjacent areas. The effects and environments of other districts have impact on one’s elected area. I see all of the districts as inter-connected to the benefit of the entire city and visualize the city as having significant common interests with surrounding cities and suburbs. Unfortunately, both the mayor and too many council members are of a different mind, in fact some often creating fear and anxiety within and outside of the city. Milwaukee can use its size, its resources, its people to help expand southeastern Wisconsin’s economic opportunities and jobs that are compatible with a world wide perspective that maintains strong stable neighborhoods. Key issues: Definitely. Among them is to increase the community’s utilization of talents, skills and resources from higher education facilities; a 3-year, $12 million dollar jobs program financed by the current yearly CDBG federal grant that some city officials do not want to talk about. » Favorite political philosopher? None Proper role of city government: To listen, sense, and assess with its expertise the best way to inform its citizens and encourage their participation in all that affects their lives; government ought provide necessary services in as fair, efficient, and friendly a manner as possible, including first and foremost first-rate fire and police protection; it ought to be a model employer, innovative and fair and encourage and promote responsible economic development. Making government decision-making more transparent and participatory: Improving the interest in neighborhood meetings; promoting the increase of literacy among citizens; improving access to problem solving ideas by upgrading the production of public access channels, or buying commercial time and using professionals. » Have you been to a Common Council meeting?Impressions/comments? Yes. I have been appalled by the appearance of superiority that I have detected on the part of some members at council meetings. This has been exacerbated by a characteristic that highlights faulty decision-making.
Patricia A. Winding
Age: 47 Family: 16 year old son, 80 year old mother Hobbies: Playing piano, knitting, shopping, writing Education/degree: B.A. in Chemistry and Psychology, Marquette University » What part of the District do you live in? Directly in front of I-43 North on 8th Street » When was the last time you rode the bus? Last year » What was the last Riverwest business/establishment that you visited? Jewel on Humboldt. » How many houses have you called on in your district? Over 1000. » What kind of experience do you have that prepares you for this position? I worked 20 years in industry and have gained valuable skills in communication, team building and training. » Why do you want to hold this office? I am very concerned that parts of my district has been forgotten. I am inspired to represent all of the residents of the sixth district. » Why should people vote for you? I will represent all of the residents of the 6th district. » How are you different from the other candidates? I was born and raised in the 6th district » What are there key issues you hope to focus on? Safety, control of property tax inflation, economic development, workforce development and training initiatives. » What do you think are the most important problems confronting Riverwest? Unwanted development in some areas. » What is the proper role of city government? Guide and inform residents. » How can we make government decision-making more transparent and participatory? Leaders should be more attentive to the needs of the residents. » Have you been to a Common Council meeting? Impressions/comments? I am scheduled to attend the next meeting.
Ervin Weatherby, Jr.
Answers compiled by Vince Bushell, Peter Schmidtke, and Sonya Jongsma Knauss