by Monica Reida
Joe Klein is no stranger elections.
Klein, a founder of the Wisconsin Pirate Party, ran for Milwaukee County Executive in 2004 and state assembly in 2014, losing both times. He is currently running for Milwaukee County Executive against incumbent Chris Abele and State Sen. Chris Larson (D-7th).
“We have two democrats running,” Klein said while drinking a Sprecher soda at Stone Creek Coffee’s factory. “We have a very corporate democrat and a kind of corporate democrat. It’s very bizarre.”
Klein hosts The Bosun Hour on Riverwest Radio every Sunday at 6 p.m.. “Bosun” is a nickname he gave one of the men pictured on the Wisconsin state flag.
Klein has experience with venture capital firms and the military, which he highlights as strengths he would bring to the County Executive’s seat, particularly with trying to bring in microloans to help small businesses in Milwaukee County spur job growth.
“When you look at the political establishment, they try to find things that won’t go out of the ballpark,” Klein said. “We’ve been burnt by big business.”
Klein said if elected he would encourage venture capital firms to open offices in Milwaukee, which would help with the brain drain in the area.
He is critical of Abele’s position on some topics, including the reduction in supervisor’s pay.
“I think it’s bad to reduce the impact of an elected body,” he said. “I think it’s bad to cut pay so only the rich can run. As you shrink down districts, you reduce democracy. Basic democracy is being assaulted.”
Klein does think the Estabrook Dam on the Milwaukee River should be removed. He also called on Larson to make a public statement regarding if he supports the removal of the dam.
Klein thinks opposition to the dam’s removal and the reduction in the budget for the sheriff’s office is directly related to Abele’s stance on those issues. He thinks the sheriff’s office should have its jurisdiction reduced to save money.
“I don’t think they should be patrolling the parks and lakefront,” Klein said. “That should be municipalities. I see them more so as being necessary for dealing with issues on the interstates or responding to a crisis in the city.”
He sees Milwaukee continuing to struggle with a variety of issues, including mental health. Klein suggested having more emergency psychiatric care facilities in the city for those in a crisis and creating incentives for people to go to school and then work in mental health in Milwaukee County.
“I’ve been in Milwaukee all my life,” Klein said. “We have tremendous challenges in that we have a very divided area, especially in terms of race and class.”
He pointed to the shooting of Dontre Hamilton in 2014 and the Department of Justice listening sessions on the Milwaukee police as showing the dividing lines in Milwaukee County.
“Conservatives seem to have taken an attitude they can take failure and use it to make inroads into the African-American and Hispanic community. They are using a divide and conquer strategy,” Klein said. “It is true the democratic establishment in Wisconsin has not succeeded at moving forward with solving poverty and segregation in the central city.”
Klein thinks at minimum a memorial to Hamilton should be placed in Red Arrow Park where he was shot and killed.
As the election draws closer, Klein continues to keep campaigning, doing as much travelling on Milwaukee County Transit System buses as possible, talking to bus drivers along the way. He is not optimistic of his chances of being elected, referring to if he would be elected as “some marvelous coincidence” during the interview,” but he said if elected he would have an openness in his office “unlike anything anyone has ever seen in Wisconsin.”