Monica Reida: My first question is, have you gotten exhausted from this election yet? Because I have.
Vince Bushell: And are you referring specifically to the Chris vs. Chris election?
MR: Yes. I’ve had to unfollow so many people on Facebook, which you maybe have the benefit of not being on Facebook.
VB: Yes, as a baby boomer, at least one of the hold outs, I have avoided being on Facebook. I don’t know how successful that’s going to be in the long term. But you’re correct in that matter. As far as being exhausted, I would say, I’m more saddened than exhausted. I was hoping for more collaboration and a higher level of discussion between the democrats who are running than what’s going on in that other election.
MR: Well, and what’s also very sad is that a lot of the supporters I’m seeing for Chris Larson are making ad hoc, uninformed arguments. So kind of reducing it down to “Well, I heard this about MCTS” and that’s not actually what’s happening with the whole “MCTS is going paperless” thing. People are saying, “You can’t pay a cash fare.” Well, you can, you just have to pay more because a bus fare is $1.75 with M-Card, but it’s $2.25 if you don’t. And then you don’t get a transfer so if I’m paying cash and I have to get out to Brookfield, I’m taking the 21 to the Gold Line. If I’m paying with cash, then that’s $4.50. But people are saying you can’t pay with cash because MCTS went paperless. Well, that’s not true.
VB: It isn’t how it works and as a baby boomer I now have a Go Pass so that give me free bus rides. I’m using the bus so much more now that it’s free because I wouldn’t take the bus and pay $2.25 in fares just to go a couple of blocks. But maybe this is too much talking about buses. Although, I have to admit I’m meeting new people on the buses. I think there’s an advantage to having the elders on the bus. There is, I think, more elders using the bus right now. That represents a different demographic, elders who maybe before couldn’t afford to pay the fare, but that maybe makes it a little more inclusive and urban integrative like we want.
In the vein of just the money, those pushing for this, including us baby boomers, were really asking for that, so this brings us back to the county board making decisions that maybe wouldn’t be supported by Chris Abele. So I would be happy with a discount for being an elder and having free passes for people who have incapacities that prevent them from driving, like vision problems, like a friend of mine.
VB: Those kinds of things would be more positive, but that’s not what they did. And the board kind of pushed this card and there’s questions of it costing lots of money. So, which Chris is more interested in fiscal responsibility?
MR: I think, going with the fiscal responsibility, we can then segway into what has become a huge issue in the election, which is the issue of the Mitchell Park Conservatory Domes. Which, I’ve been to The Domes a couple of times. I have a huge love of going to conservatories. My biggest issue is that it costs money, and that probably sounds weird, but I’m a millennial, so I’m cheap. But Chris Abele has pointed out it would cost a lot of money to repair The Domes, he thinks it’s not worth the money because, quite frankly, he claims attendance is always dropping and they’re constantly losing money on The Domes. What they could do to increase attendance is an entirely separate discussion, but he has said, “If the people in Milwaukee County want to save The Domes, then I’ll save The Domes.” Chris Larson, from everything I’ve seen, has said, “I’ll save The Domes because clearly the people love The Domes because look at how many people have turned out at the forum.” But that might not be representative of everyone in Milwaukee County.
VB: Well I wasn’t there.
MR: I didn’t know there was a forum.
VB: I knew there was a forum, but I thought I knew how this forum was kind of going to play out. I would miss The Domes as a landmark for the city, I have gone to The Domes, I did go to The Domes shortly before they were closed. I don’t go there more than once or twice a year, at most. The bigger story here is where we put our resources. Do we rebuild a dam that I don’t want?
MR: That no one other than a few people want.
VB: Do we spend that money or do we put it towards making a nicer and newer bathroom in Kern Park. Which, they are building a new bathroom in Kern Park.
MR: But it took years to do.
VB: And they’re doing it on the cheap. Well, they’re not doing it on the cheap, but they could have put in a meeting space, but they’re not. But back to The Domes, I’m not in favor of tearing things down. But if it would be cheaper to tear it down, then we should do it. I’m a plant guy, I studied botany, so I love going to places that show plants and I’m very nostalgic. It’s a landmark, but it’s not a landmark that seems to be drawing people that would help to support it. But I think it needs to be studied more. It’s easy for somebody to blame, “Oh, Walker should have fixed it” or “Abele should have fixed it right away,” and putting off fixing it making it cost more. That may or may not be true.
MR: Well, the problem is, according to WUWM, the county passed a sales tax to better fund the Parks System, but the State Assembly never approved it.
VB: Alright, but as a Millennial, who is to blame for us having the State Assembly, Senate and Governor all under the same party?
MR: Well, that would be the fault of my fellow millennials.
VB: Well, more than that. But it’s all those that didn’t participate and don’t understand it doesn’t all come down to a presidential election. We’re paying dearly and will be paying dearly for a long time for this if you consider yourself to be a liberal.
MR: Millennials tend to not vote in midterms and just stick to posting angry Facebook memes.
VB: Well, it might be a prejudice of mine. I vote in every election and try to keep informed. I read the Journal Sentinel almost daily, and I don’t get my information on Facebook because I’m not a Facebook member.
MR: Well, I see a lot of people getting their information from a certain publication that will not be named during this interview in order to avoid backlash.
VB: When it comes to the race itself between Chris Abele and Chris Larson, how would describe the tone and level of advertisements?
MR: I wouldn’t know because I don’t own a TV because I’m a millennial.
VB: Well some of these have been coming in the mail.
MR: I haven’t gotten any of them in the mail!
VB: So that might be the fact you’re a relatively new resident, but there’s a lot of Millennials that would be relatively new residents or moving around more often. You also may not have voted in any kind of election. I find very few people know—
MR: I voted in the Supreme Court election last year.
VB: Ooh, that’s a good one. That’s a good one coming up again. But that’s not our topic here. But I hope people get out and vote in that one, too.
MR: I’ve been explaining it to people in bars.
VB: However, I have gotten literature because I’ve been here since 1980. They know I vote. So both sides, both Chrises have been sending me information and I recently saw some of Chris Abele’s ads on television. Now, Chris Larson is complaining he’s being painted as a kind of big bank Wall Street voter in Madison by Abele, with pictures comparing him to Scott Walker, usually ugly pictures. And you can say, “Oh, how can Abele be doing this?” but the first piece of lit I received that supported Larson, which was from Dimitrijevic’s Strong Family group or whatever they’re called, which don’t tell me isn’t working hand in glove with Chris Larson. It showed the other Chris, Chris Abele, and Scott Walker in ugly pictures and talking about how they’re working together. By the way, whichever Chris is going to get elected, they’re going to have to work with Scott Walker.
MR: Which I’ve seen people, bouncing to another election, people have been criticizing Tom Barrett, who ran against Scott Walker twice, let’s not forget that, and lost to Scott Walker twice, let’s all maybe forget that, but they’ve been complaining about Barrett working with Walker to get the Bucks arena funding deal. Well the problem is that if you’re in politics, even if we maybe don’t see this very much on a national level, it’s good politics to sit down with someone you disagree with and do things you feel are in the best interest of the area you represent.
VB: And I think both Mayor Barrett and Chris Abele thought keeping the Bucks was the best thing. Abele was a pretty strong supporter of this action and thought the money they were bringing in to invest would be helpful to the community. I just find it very distasteful we’re putting all this money to a professional sport. Although I’m a baby boomer white guy and I don’t know what the people in the African-American and black communities of the city think about the Bucks. I would be hesitant to say they don’t support keeping the Bucks here.
MR: I do have to give the Bucks credit because, as a Millennial, I do follow the Bucks, I’ve been to a couple of their games. I try to go to more of their games because even if they lose, I have a good time. And ultimately, that’s what spending money on any form of entertainment, including going to a sporting event, is ultimately about. It’s about having a good time.
VB: And I’ve been to Bucks games and had a good time. And those were actually at the old arena.
VB: MECCA. Well, it’s now the UWM Panther Center. And then they built the Bradley Center. I don’t know what was really wrong with the Bradley Center.
MR: I went to the Bradley Center for the first time after the whole campaign started to fund the new arena and I didn’t see what was so wrong.
VB: The thing about the Bucks arena is this deal is done. Some people say it’s not done until they start laying the bricks, but I think this one is over. So it’s “How are you going to make this more successful?” I was kind of unhappy they agreed to close off 4th Street so the owners of the Bucks can have that as well.
MR: But they could hold pep rallies and stuff like that. It could be interesting to see.
VB: It’s hard for me to say I’m unhappy that the Bucks are going to stay. Let’s go over a couple of things first. You said you were exhausted from the Chris vs. Chris campaign. Is there one sentence you can say as to why you’re exhausted?
MR: The attacks from Larson’s supporters. Can I expand on that?
MR: I think we’re seeing this with our presidential election right now where people maybe have negative feelings about Bernie Sanders because of his supporters. Well, when you have Larson supporters who are just saying “Why aren’t you watching the debate and why aren’t you voting for Chris Larson?” it’s not really helpful. And why wasn’t I watching the debate? Well, it’s because I had better things to do with my night.
VB: Which debate was this?
MR: There was a debate WISN had, hosted by Mike Gousha—
VB: Oh, between Larson and Abele.
MR: I was just disappointed I missed the debate between Donovan and Barrett that was hosted by WISN because I would pay money to see that. But anyway, there are supporters saying, “If you live in Milwaukee County, you should vote for Chris Larson.” Well, you can’t just tell me to vote for him, you have to give me a reason to vote for him and what I have seen both as a member of the media and as a resident of Milwaukee County, as well as stuff I’ve heard off the record from people who work in politics, I’m not too thrilled with what I’ve heard about Larson’s campaign. You have to convince me to vote for someone. And I’m not saying immediately who I’m voting for, but I haven’t seen a good case made for Chris Larson.
When it comes to the issues, the argument I’m pretty much getting is, “Vote for Chris Larson, because he’s not Chris Abele.” That’s not a good enough reason for me to vote for someone.
VB: Well, my own dissatisfaction is with the negativity in the campaign. Chris Abele, who has more money—and full disclosure, I know Chris Abele. He was the chair of the board for River Revitalization Foundation, which I work for—but the fact that I know him doesn’t disqualify me from having an opinion. He’s been supportive on a lot of liberal issues. The Wisconsin Gazette has come out in support of Chris Abele because of his position on gay rights, his support of the LGBT movement, his support of Planned Parenthood. These are all the positions of a liberal. Not a Scott Walker.
MR: Well, and I think that’s something a lot of Chris Larson supporters are forgetting. I’m a lady, I’m a liberal, I have very strong feelings about Planned Parenthood.
VB: So there are these negative comparisons of him being like Scott Walker early on and continuing to criticize him for working with Scott Walker. And then Abele has come out and started to throw some of this stuff back, so I find it disheartening this campaign is a lot of negatives without a whole lot of talk about how are you going to make things different. But we did discuss the buses a bit. Which of the guys has a better position on mass transit?
MR: I think it’s worth pointing out you don’t see it very much in any metropolitan area, but we have expanded some of the bus services. We’ve seen bus routes added that go out to New Berlin Industrial Park and Menomonee Falls. There’s the addition of the Purple and Gold Lines. I think you’ve seen some expansion of public transit. I also ride a bike and there’s been an expansion of the Oak Leaf Trail to Sheboygan. Abele seems to have more of a dedication to expanding our infrastructure. There are also a lot of mayors who seem interested in that and you have to be willing to work with them as well. You do see this with things like Barrett and Abele working together on things like the Bucks arena. You have to be willing to work together with people who run municipalities. After all, our library system is connected. You can get a book from Whitefish Bay sent to the Central Library.
VB: Gee, I didn’t know Millennials read.
MR: Believe it or not I have a physical copy, not an e-book, of the Library of America edition of Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock and Sabbath’s Theater, which now everyone is going to judge me for reading Sabbath’s Theater, for those of you know what that book is about. Although, I do own an e-reader.
VB: So that was about transportation. Chris Abele wins a little bit on the transportation argument. Although there has been some news about concerns over the budget being balanced with this GO Card, but the board pushed that through and Abele didn’t oppose it.
MR: There are some people–
(Monica makes a coughing sound while saying Supervisor Theo Lipscomb’s name)
MR: Who spin it as if you disagree with Chris Abele, he will do everything over turn you and that didn’t happen with the GO Pass.
VB: So let’s get back to Parks, which is a big deal. Larson has been accusing Abele of trying to sell off parkland. And they make it sound like Abele is going to sell off Lake Park because the zoning isn’t correct. And Abele has said he’s in favor of changing the zoning so it’s designated as parkland. I just think that it’s really off the wall and not helpful to accuse Abele of going to sell all the parkland off. I know he’s been given to sell off property without consulting the County Board, but that doesn’t mean he’s interested in selling off all the parkland, and this might be an issue that has more of an implication as we move on for future generations. But it’s not true. I know Chris Abele and he’s not interested in selling all this parkland.
MR: First of all, I think it’s ridiculous to suggest we’re going to sell off Cathedral Square Park.
MR: I looked at the list of the parks threatened when I got the press release from the county board. There were some where I sat there and thought, “Wait, which park?” But there’s a lot of parks on the list where I don’t think we’re going to sell Lake Park, Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park.
VB: In actually we’ve added parkland, including trail system. The organization Abele was related to added trails that are now part of the county.
MR: Well I think something worth pointing out is we had this come up when the county looked at selling O’Donnell Park to Northwestern Mutual. When that happened I was a little surprised because I didn’t know that was parkland, I thought it was just a parking garage. For me, as a citizen, if the county sold that off, I was okay with it. But guess what? The county still owns O’Donnell Park, it’s not property of Northwestern Mutual. This unfortunately means we’re not getting a Ferris Wheel along the lakefront.
VB: Well, here we are. You’re a millennial, relatively new to the area, but fairly well integrated. And I’ve been here for a while, I’ve been in Riverwest since 1980. I’ve taken a fairly liberal, but not dogmatic, stance about what is good and what is bad. I’m afraid that we’re going to get painted as—because we sound like we’re in complete agreement—
MR: One thing I do want to bring up before we finish this conversation and that is the County Mental Health complex because that has been kind of a big issue that has been plaguing Abele during his first term.
VB: It’s a thorny issue, it sounds like to me.
MR: I think that’s one problem. But I think both of us read the investigative pieces from the Journal Sentinel on the conditions there. It sounded like a place you wouldn’t want your worst enemy to go. But it’s a facility that needs to exist because it serves people in a time of crisis. I think Abele has done as much as he can do in his power to improve the facility. It’s an issue I would have thought would have been bigger because it seemed like a scandal. And anyone who read the Journal Sentinel’s investigations—which God bless us for having the Journal Sentinel—but I think a lot of people were outraged when it happened and then the issue has just kind of gone away. But I’m surprised it hasn’t come up more, I don’t think I’ve seen Larson or any of his supporters bring it up. But Abele has seemed to bring up that he’s tried to fix it. After all, his slogan is “Getting things done.”
VB: I think what you find with the Mental Health issue is that it’s just not something people like to talk about, so it doesn’t resonate well during a campaign, but parks and transportation, power—
MR: Who is the most like Chris Walker?
VB: There is no Chris Walker.
MR: We have too many Chrises! I can’t keep them straight!
VB: But we sound similar in thought even though we’re different in age. I think the East Side and Riverwest will go for Larson. But I hope the person that can best serve us win. That sounds a little wishy-washy.
MR: And I know you’re going to vote. I’m going to vote. Maybe we can carpool.
VB: I just hope in the future the dialogue goes to who you think is the best, not who is the worst.
MR: Final question: What do you think of the mayoral race?
VB: I’m voting for Barrett.