In Search of An Agenda
By John Hughes
Early next year, The City of Milwaukee will elect a new mayor, to preside over this city during what promises to be an era of accelerating change. With leadership crucial during the next few years, the agenda set during this election, which will frame the debate among voters, is still emerging. In our September issue, Vital Source put four questions to four mayoral candidates: Tom Barrett, Sandy Folaron, Martin Matson, and John Pitta. We believe the candidates’ answers to these questions reflect some of the leadership style which they would exhibit if elected.
Already, the landscape is shifting. Pedro Colon is out. Rumors abound that the big money is hiding in the wings until David Clarke decides whether or not he will run. Others are rumored to be shopping their potential amongst the fundraising set. We shall see what the coming months bring.
For this issue, we contacted candidates Frank Cumberbatch and Tom Nardelli. Marvin Pratt and Vincent Bobot are expected to reply for the November issue of Vital Source.
Tom Nardelli has served Milwaukee for 16 years as a member of the Common Council as Alderman for the 15th District. He currently chairs the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee and serves as a member of the Economic Development and the Steering and Rules Committees. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Center District; owners and operators of the Midwest Express Center, U. S. Cellular Arena and the soon to be renovated Milwaukee Auditorium. He chairs the District’s Project Development Committee. He is a member of the board for the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and a member of the MEDC Land Committee.
1. VITAL SOURCE: What specific steps will you take to make the police chief more accountable to the people of Milwaukee?
I will ask the police chief to submit a detailed plan for improving the relationship between the police department and city neighborhoods, especially high crime areas. I will also ask constituents, through surveys, to grade the performance of the police department in the following categories: crime prevention; response to calls; building trust; treatment of witnesses, suspects and victims; visibility and race relations. The survey results and the effectiveness of the plan will count heavily toward the chief’s overall job performance evaluation.
It will be my intent to have a good working relationship with whomever is selected to be the new police chief. State law gives the Chief considerable independent power from those who would attempt to politically persuade him/her to do their bidding. Under that State law, the Chief is solely responsible to ensure the public safety.
I do believe that I could and would have a good working relationship with the new Chief. We would meet regularly, not in public. As much of what citizens demand of the police department is of a public nature, I would hope to have regular informal sessions with the new chief to insure that he/she is fully aware of all potential political ramifications associated with police actions.
Under State law, a Chief can only be removed for misconduct or malfeasance. I would work very hard at having a continuing dialog with the Chief, but I would not be ordering that person to do anything he or she did not support professionally.
No Mayor in Wisconsin has authority over a Police Chief. Only the Fire and Police Commission have limited powers. The new chief will be selected by the Fire and Police Commission without influence of a Mayor (as it should be), unlike Jones and Arreola who were hand picked by Norquist. I do have my favorites, but I know now that I would have no problem working with any of the final five candidates.
2. VITAL SOURCE: To what extent is racism an ongoing issue in this city? How will you address it?
Racism is very much alive and well, not only in the city but also in the region. I will address it by leading by example. My cabinet will reflect the diversity of the city. I will also challenge corporations, non-profits, unions and foundations to do likewise. I will encourage the GMC, Downtown Rotary, MMAC, Future Milwaukee, unions and young professional groups in the city to create a partnership to identify, train, mentor and promote young leaders from every race and economic level to leadership positions. I will also encourage suburban elected officials to improve the infrastructure, transportation and affordable housing, to better enable inner-city workers to take valuable manufacturing jobs in their communities.
We have a long way to go to create a complete absence of racism in Milwaukee. Racial bias is an issue that can only be addressed by taking active steps to have government be representative of the population. No Mayor can solve all the racial ills facing Milwaukee. I see a Milwaukee where there is bias being demonstrated against people of color and by people of color. All one can do is demonstrate by one’s actions that more must be done to create harmony, and by so doing, hope that others will follow that lead. I intend to have a very diverse administration that will be representative of all minorities who make up Milwaukee. I will not tolerate tokenism, so those who will serve with me will have an ability to stand on their own two feet to serve at my side as an equal. For the record, I am opposed to “special” treatment, but I am an ardent supporter of “equal” treatment.
3. VITAL SOURCE: Is that algae or sewage causing that unbearable stench emanating from Lake Michigan? What’s going on at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District, and what specific steps will you take to rectify the situation?
It is algae. Every year for the past few years, scientists have explained the foul smell and it is usually attributed to the low levels of the lake. However, just raising the question explains what’s going on at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District (MMSD). The MMSD is suffering from a severe image problem. Nobody knows how effective the sewerage district is compared to other similar districts around the country. Nobody knows whether or not the deep-tunnel project is money well spent. As mayor, I will make leadership of MMSD more visible and more accountable to the citizens of the region. I will direct the commissioners to accomplish two immediate goals:
A. To implement a marketing plan that will explain clearly how far the District has come and what goals and objectives are left to be accomplished to make MMSD the best facility of its kind in the nation.
B. To completely separate the city’s combined sewers from the city limits inwards. This project will create many jobs, especially for inner-city residents, and prevent sewerage from being dumped during thunderstorms.
This time of the year, the problems are generally algae build up caused by a warming of the waters close to the shore lines. Add the problems to dead alewives and regurgitated fish food from gulls, and you realize that there will be some serious odors coming from the lake as well as the shore line.
Your (MMSD) question is very broad, but appears to be related to the odors concerns. All I can tell you is that MMSD has not had any but a partial discharge all through this summer. The odors have nothing to do with any dumping by MMSD, as there haven’t been any discharges despite some recent heavy rains. I visited the MMSD on Friday and received a report on their efforts to keep water clean. They are operating well within their DNR permit.
4. VITAL SOURCE: All the candidates promise that they will work hard to help make Milwaukee great, earn our trust, et cetera. How would your term as Mayor be different from that of your opponents?
I will be the ambassador for all that’s good about Milwaukee, and there is plenty. I will approach our social and economic inadequacies as opportunities, not as problems. I will work very hard to change the image of Milwaukee, both from within and without. I will work with the business community, media and neighborhood organizations to come up with strategies to make Milwaukee a 21st century first class city. I will create opportunities for young people to want to live, work, play and raise a family in Milwaukee. I will work very hard for Milwaukeeans to function as one family despite our racial, cultural, economic and religious differences. As I do everyday of my life, I will lead with the humility, fairness, integrity and professionalism that will make public service the noble job it is meant to be. I will do all this by creating a vision for Milwaukee, making that vision very visible and then holding myself accountable for bringing positive changes to the city.
It’s a bit too early to tell how much different one candidate is from another, other than experience and background. I can’t begin to know how my term would be different other than to point to the fact that if elected, I will bring over 17 years of city government experience and no other candidate can match that record.
I intend to run City Hall exactly like the corporation it is. I will run our city with the Aldermen, not behind their backs. As chairman of the board, I will work with the board of directors (the Aldermen) so that we can achieve what is best for taxpayers, not for special interest groups and campaign contributors.
While I am not campaigning as a one-term Mayor, the fact is, who ever is elected is going to have to make very tough decisions without regard to getting reelected. Decisions are going to have to be made that will improve the fiscal might of Milwaukee and to do that, one will not be able to “feather their reelection bed” by making decisions intended to bolster their reelection chances, such as taking care of campaign contributors.
My campaign theme is rebuilding trust. To do that we will begin with holding the line on taxes, avoiding any more fee increases, working with the new Police Chief in fighting crime (not each other). I will be keeping the lines of communication open with Milwaukee Public Schools. I will be working for a change in State Law that would require the Board of School Directors to hire a School Superintendent with a specific 5 year contact, so we can avoid the constant turnover in the professional being hired to lead our schools. I will also be working with business and industry to improve their chances to increase their bottom lines which will hopefully result in more jobs and more tax revenue for our city.