Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Is Zamarripa’s Democratic Challenger Really Republican?

He's just 18, but candidate Vincent Synowicz is already mastering the slick verbal skills of a veteran politician.

By - Jan 16th, 2014 01:23 pm
Vincent Synowicz. Photo courtesy of Synowicz for Assembly.

Vincent Synowicz. Photo courtesy of Synowicz for Assembly.

As she prepares to run for her third term in the Assembly, JoCasta Zamarripa [D-8th A.D.] is facing a surprise primary challenge. Her rival, Vincent Synowicz, filed his Declaration of Candidacy with the State of Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on January 13th, 2014. The incumbent is “out of touch,” his campaign announcement stated in a headline, but the candidate did not offer any specifics about this allegation.

“Vince has worked in both the private sector and the public sector, once as a salesman at a local gym and once as an intern at the City of Milwaukee’s Legislative Reference Bureau.

“Much of Vince’s early life has been dedicated to serving our community. In his younger days, Vince served as the representative of the twelfth aldermanic district on the City of Milwaukee Youth Council,” his announcement read.

“In October 2013, Vince was elected the president of the Walker Square Neighborhood Association where he worked tirelessly to make sure residents lived in a safe, clean community.”

So who is this tireless man who “enjoys volunteering at neighborhood cleanups, wrapping Christmas gifts for children in need, feeding the less fortunate, and spending countless hours at community meetings listening to the concerns of South Side residents,”and whose “younger days” were so productive?

The ‘life-long resident” of the district was born on August 7th, 1995, and apparently has not yet registered to vote, perhaps on account of there having been no elections held since he turned 18 last summer.

His service on the Milwaukee Youth Council’s 12th District, concluded in October, 2013, just at the time he had been elected to the board of directors of the Walker Square Neighborhood Association.

His tireless efforts on behalf of the neighborhood lasted for two months, when he resigned for “health reasons,” according to Jason Cleereman, an attorney and neighbor who is active in the association. Cleereman, the organizer of the popular farmers market held at Walker Square, said that Synowicz ran for a number of offices, and eventually got the presidency on what he called a “pity vote.”

“The neighborhood clean-up took at most, two hours,” Cleereman said.

Synowicz stresses education and job development in his campaign.

In a Facebook colloquy, Cleereman tried to draw him out on other issues. “Vince, do you support same sex marriage and all the inferred rights to same sex couples?” the immigration attorney asked, suggesting the candidate  “consider a fundraiser at Fluid.” That’s a little joke, of course, since Synowicz cannot enter that or any other tavern until he turns 21, well into his second term in the assembly.

Synowicz did not take the bait, but kept on message; Synowicz for Assembly declares: “The people of the 8th district know that it is more important to lift people out of poverty, create better jobs, and make sure Southside residents are living in safe and clean communities rather than to put all of our time and resources into finding more ways for government to dive into our personal lives and define our relationships for us.”

This is not a very deft evasion, since many people, like his opponent Zamarripa, who identifies as “bisexual,” feel that it is the state constitution, by forbidding gay marriage, that is diving into personal lives and defining relationships for us.

Says Cleereman, “I think he is a Republican.”

It sounds conceivable. On July 8th, 2012, Synowicz wrote a letter to the editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel entitled “Repeal Obamacare,” in which the 16-year old said, “What we truly need is a health care overhaul, and Eric Hovde is that candidate who will do that.”

Hovde, who ran in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Tammy Baldwin, “sees that if health care decisions are in the hands of the people, cost will go down and that a consumer-driven, free-market health care system is the best solution,” Synowicz wrote.

But Synowicz denies being a Republican. He tells Urban Milwaukee, “People who say I am a Republican don’t know what they’re talking about. I get along with people from both parties and find relevant points from each side, and I think that is what most of the people of the 8th AD want to see in elected officials – candidates that will put people above party platforms and positions forced down some political pipeline.” Synowicz uses County Executive Chris Abele as an example of bipartisanship.

“I opposed the Affordable Care Act and was willing to support candidates that agreed with my position, regardless of party. The ACA has turned out to be a grenade of problems for all kinds of people, as I suspected it would be because it was written based on feelings and dreams rather than any bona fide economic principles,” he adds.

Synowicz is certainly not calling his shots out of the Democratic playbook.

On the Youth Council, Synowicz opposed a rate increase for the Milwaukee Water Works, and said he “offered his fullest support for the development of a full-scale grocery store on the corner of 1st and Greenfield,” a proposal that does not have the support of the Department of City Development.

Through the letters column, Synowicz gave a foreshadowing of his campaign announcement in a letter on January 5th, 2013 finding fault with a study that said the lack of transportation options in the region was a critical factor in finding access to jobs for the unemployed.

“While there may be some truth to that assertion, one cannot deny that a lack of public transportation has a minimal impact on Milwaukee’s less than desirable economic condition,” Synowicz writes, showing a mastery of saying two things and nothing at the same time that is usually reserved for politicians of far greater years and experience.

“We must not worry about how we are going to connect people to the jobs created outside of our city,” he writes. Instead, “leaders in Milwaukee must focus on creating a less hostile business environment.”

Synowicz was the only member of the Youth Council who was also a member of the Stock Market Club, presumably at St. Francis High School, where he graduated in 2013.

How did he get on the council in the first place?

“In 2011, former Milwaukee Alderman Jim Witkowiak had informed me that there may be a vacant seat on the Youth Council. I was then contacted by Milwaukee County Supervisor Peggy Romo-West and informed that she would give me the contact info of the City Clerk if I was interested in serving on the Youth Council. After a brief interview process I was told that I was the newly appointed representative of Milwaukee’s twelfth aldermanic district.”

Getting a seat in the Assembly won’t be quite so easy.

2014 Milwaukee Youth Council to be Sworn in.

The 2014 Milwaukee Youth Council Charter Meeting will be held in the Common Council chambers at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St. Wednesday, January 22nd, at 4:30 p.m. “All are welcome,” writes City Clerk Jim Owczarski.

My Five Wishes for Milwaukee 2014

Last week my colleagues, Bruce Murphy, Jeramey Jannene and Dave Reid gave you their five wishes for Milwaukee, 2014. I thought I might do the same.

1.) Lay some track.

We have a shovel-ready streetcar plan for Milwaukee, so it’s about time to bring out the shovels. As I wrote in June, 2013, the St. Paul Bridge, now under reconstruction, will have streetcar track incorporated into its design. Should this be the only place where we can find some rails around here?

The streetcar’s website has a timeline that brings us all the way up to January 2012. There’s a lot of verbiage about utility relocation, studies, plans, etc., but not enough of the It-Is-Happening.

Back in 1990 I wrote an item explaining why talk radio hates public transportation — and the answer still holds: people on mass transit don’t listen to talk radio.

A decade ago, at my father’s funeral, I asked some Minneapolis relatives what their radio talkers had to say about their streetcar. Answer: nothing once it was built.

There is no reason why we should allow these AM staticky voices to poison this city’s hopes for a successful 21st century. Let’s see some progress. Even some pavement markings would help.

2.) Let the Free Market Determine Parking Requirements

In Washington, D.C. developers warmed quickly to the city’s ambitious Metro plans. The reason is simple: with the arrival of the train system and improvements in the bus system, developers would no longer have to devote hundreds of thousands of square feet for parking in their new structures. This was great news for Washington, which has a height limitation of 130 feet for its buildings. You can go to an office structure there, and that is what it is — an office building through and through, not as an ornament perched upon a pedestal of parking.

The same goes for our residential developers. Warren Barr, a Chicago developer who failed miserably with his Park Lafayette towers, was shocked by the tremendous amount of parking required for his development compared to his experiences in the Windy City. The cost of this underground parking likely was a contributing factor to the financial difficulties that followed. So all of you laissez-faire folks– this issue is for you. Free development from unnecessary government interference. Lift the off-street parking requirements, in effect since 1950 and let developers make their own decisions as to parking — for autos or bicycles — in response to the market.

3.) Create a new County Assessor Department

Current wisdom usually does not include the idea that more responsibilities should be shifted to Milwaukee County government. Here is an exception. Let the county be the assessor for all properties in the county, like in Cook County, Illinois.


Milwaukee County consists of 19 cities and villages, all of which operate, in one fashion or another, their own assessor’s departments.

For some communities, like Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, the assessor is a unit of government, and assessments are undertaken by that department. Others, like Glendale and Bayside hire Accurate Appraisal of Menasha to handle assessment functions. River Hills, Fox Point and South Milwaukee hire Fair Share Valuation for their assessments. Shorewood and St. Francis hire a firm called Associated Appraisal Consultants, Inc. It seems there must be a considerable waste of resources and duplication of efforts with this scattershot approach to determining the value of taxable real estate in a given community. Furthermore, while the City of Milwaukee revises its assessments annually (which is ideal) other communities are far behind in their reassessments, possibly cheating homeowners, particularly since experience in the city has shown that assessments on real property have declined since some suburbs last revalued their properties.

The amount of information varies considerably from community to community as well. Milwaukee’s information includes, for example, the name of the owner of the property. The River Hills information only gives an address, but not a property owner’s name. (The Village is under state orders to free up more information about its assessments.)

We would be best served by a countywide assessor’s office with uniform GIS-integrated data. My choice for contractor: The City of Milwaukee Assessor’s office. It could be transformed into a city-owned enterprise fund and handle assessments countywide. It works for Chicago and its Cook County suburbs.

4.) Lay Some Trails

We should aggessively continue to expand the bicycle trails in the city and surrounding communities. There should be an increase in dedicated lanes on city streets and a considerable gain in off-road trails. We should encourage school children to get to class by foot or on bike, and should also encourage neighborhood schools, especially for elementary students. New developments should connect to bike trails wherever possible, and our zoning should reflect this. Let’s hope that the upcoming plans for the redevelopment of the inner harbor include the bike trails being planned by architect James Dallman. And, critically, these trails and paths must be maintained at the same standard as city streets and sidewalks. That means they must be cleared of ice and snow as part of routine maintenance, which is a trifle compared to that of our major thoroughfares.

5.) Lay off the Marijuana Busts

The City of Milwaukee Municipal Court handled 334 juvenile and 1,953 adult cases of Possession of Marijuana in calendar year 2012, the most recent year for which information is available. Additionally, the court heard over 900 cases of possession of drug paraphernalia in that time. (Most paraphernalia arrests come in conjunction with marijuana arrests.) These were municipal citations for simple possession of marijuana. These are not state laws prosecuted for dealers or other large-scale drug operations, but simple “ticketed” offenses.

Even so, these tickets come with a trip to the lockup and a chance to bring big money into the city treasury. Forfeitures for possession are set at $380 and for paraphernalia at $248. These are usually dropped to $250 and $125 respectively if the defendant pleads no contest or guilty.

The defendants almost always cop the plea, and the prosecutor rarely declines to press his or her case. In the suburbs there is considerably greater use of deferred prosecution in these simple possession cases — stay out of trouble for a given period of time and the charges are dropped.

As has been shown by studies in New York City and elsewhere, these arrests tend to target young minority males, and are pretty easy pickings for the police, who can rack up good revenues for the city and plenty of overtime for themselves going after generally harmless, otherwise law-abiding citizens. In New York, for example, it was shown that only 4 per cent of those charged with marijuana offenses subsequently had a criminal record. Bill DeBlasio made this a keystone of his successful campaign for mayor of New York.

It is time that the police stop aggressively targeting marijuana users in their homes, especially when no other evidence of crime or disturbance is seen.

Categories: Politics

2 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Is Zamarripa’s Democratic Challenger Really Republican?”

  1. blurondo says:

    1. a person who shows zeal.
    2. an excessively zealous person; fanatic.
    You decide which definition befits young Vincent.

  2. mal says:

    The district is the most densely populated, and the least in voter turn-out.
    The neighborhood knows who their friends are, and it’s not Vincent Synowicz.
    Look for Zamarripa to run up the score in the primary election.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us