Aldermanic Candidates Address Key Issues
Quizzing candidates in four districts, including big battle of Chevy Johnson vs. Sherman Morton.
In addition to participating in the presidential primary and mayoral elections, voters in the City of Milwaukee will also have the opportunity to cast a vote in one of 15 local aldermanic races on Tuesday April 5. Those who are elected will represent their district on the Common Council for a term of four years.
Aldermen are responsible for representing the interests of residents of their districts on the council, serving on committees and making policy decisions that affect the quality of life in the neighborhoods they represent and the city as a whole.
The Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service asked aldermanic candidates in 9 central city races to complete a survey addressing neighborhood concerns. Candidates in Districts 1 and 7 did not respond to the survey.
We asked the candidates the following four questions. (Note: Some answers have been edited for length.)
- What is the most pressing issue facing your ward and how would you address it?
- What special skills or insights would you bring to office if elected?
- How do you plan to address crime in your neighborhood?
- What is your plan to attract new businesses and jobs to the community?
District 2: Chevy Johnson, Sherman Morton
1. Residents are concerned about safety. Many feel that over time, their neighborhood is increasing becoming more susceptible to criminal activity. My goal as alderman will be to curb that deterioration and work with district residents, city departments and my colleagues on the Common Council to change the perception and the reality in my district for the better.
2. I bring with me to the Common Council a 15-year history of service and dedication to our community. My path to service has taken me across the country and back home to Milwaukee where I worked with young people involved in the juvenile justice system, young people preparing for their first summer job and older adults working to get back into the workforce. I also bring the unique experience of having studied political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and I have experience working in city government, as staff assistant to the mayor.
3. There are several recommendations that I support to make our neighborhoods safer. I support encouraging the expansion of traditional block watch groups and the adoption of modern electronic neighborhood organizations like Next Door. I support programs that work to increase homeownership because that creates stability in neighborhoods, the expansion of community police officers and a more robust partnership between Community Liaison Officers and the neighborhoods that they serve.
The best way to reduce criminal activity is to remove barriers, tackle systemic discrimination and racism, improve our education system and make proper investments in transportation that allow people to have access to good jobs with family-supporting wages. If we’re truly serious about taking on crime, then we have do it from a multi-pronged approach taking into account real-time safety on the ground, education, access to stabilizing career opportunities, homeownership and law enforcement.
4. We should of course work to attract jobs to our city but that doesn’t mean that we should forgo accessing good, family-supporting jobs where they are. We have to firm up the education system in Milwaukee so that every kid has access to a quality public education where they learn to be competitive in the 21st century. We also need to encourage entrepreneurship by streamlining the economic development toolkits available at all levels of government and even those available outside of government. Entrepreneurship helps to boost Main Street by keeping dollars circulating locally and those businesses have a higher likelihood to employ people who live in nearby neighborhoods. We also need to connect the dots between people who need access to family-supporting jobs in Milwaukee and employers in our metro area — particularly those in the WOW counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington) in need of a larger talent pool.
1. Where you stay within the district will most likely determine your specific concern. If you live in the Dineen Park area off Capitol Drive along the Hampton Avenue area right off the Fond Du Lac freeway, one of your main issues may be rolling or drive-by drug deals. If you live along the area of 68th and Grantosa your issues can range from break-ins to gunshots. One of the issues in the area of 91st street from Appleton to Good Hope is speeding and in a few other areas they are experiencing a situation with lack of regard for stop signs. I have spelled out in my 60-day plan what my plan of action will be to deal with these issues and others concerning residents in the district.
2. Over the past 11 years I have worked as the legislative to Ald. Joe Davis. There will be no learning curve. There will not be a delay in services. I feel that as alderman I can now utilize my leadership skills to help the residents get focused on getting back to basics with simple ideas that will help with the public safety issues that plague the city as a whole.
3. The best way to prevent crime in the 2nd District is to work on recognizing the signs before they get out of hand. We have to empower residents with the tools and information that will help them recognize and combat most issues before they go full-blown. Block watches, block ambassadors, nosey neighbors and watchful eyes are the key.
4. Our main business attraction in the 2nd district is the Midtown Center. Now that Walmart is gone and Lowe’s is still empty, we need to come together with the owners of Midtown, Milwaukee’s Department of City Development, businesses in the area and residents to see exactly what kind of sustainably ideas we can come up with for those areas. It will take a combined effort on all sides.
District 6: Milele Coggs, Tory Lowe
Milele Coggs (incumbent)
Coggs did not respond to the NNS survey.
1. The most pressing issues in the 6th District are unemployment, mass incarceration, violence and crime. The issues of unemployment are my biggest concern. I plan to address the issue of unemployment by helping entrepreneurs develop small businesses that will employ people in the community.
2. My ability to communicate and bring awareness and information to the people will help keep residents up to speed on what’s going on in the district.
3. It will take a community-wide effort to address violence and crime by organizing and upgrading the block watch concept. We have to get back to the basics of the grassroots movement and take a direct approach to handling the tough issues in the district.
4. Developing small businesses will help to draw bigger businesses to the 6th District. The more we can help create jobs for our residents the more attractive the district will become for large companies who want to invest here.
District 10: Richard Geldon, Michael Murphy
Geldon did not respond to the NNS survey.
Michael J. Murphy (incumbent)
1. Without a doubt one of the greatest concerns is public safety in our community and I have been addressing it in a number of different ways. I have taken the lead by adding police officers through my service on the Common Council. I’ve been working with young people to support programs that help teach them peaceful ways to resolve disputes and have raised $1.2 million to help renovate public playgrounds in our community, which keeps kids off the street and in a safer environment. Those are issues I feel very strongly about and have addressed through both prevention and law enforcement means.
2. I bring a great deal of experience and institutional knowledge of how government works to the position. I am able to avoid making mistakes and provide advice and assistance to the administration because of my experience in local government.
3. You need a multi-prong approach. Having officers is not the only solution. I’m a strong believer and supporter of block watches and making sure they have the tools to be strong and vigilant. I believe that another approach is through the improvement of the housing in the area.
4. I’ve worked very closely with business improvement districts to bring two new restaurants and improve store façades through grants. I make a point of reaching out to residents in the neighborhoods regularly. On a citywide basis we’ve been using our Tax Incremental Financing to attract new businesses and I’ve worked closely with the water council to attract and retain water-based industries. I serve on the board of Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Center District Board and we’re always looking to expand and bring in new businesses. I have also sponsored and supported resident preference programs so that residents get the first chance for job opportunities.
District 15: Sean Muhammad, Russell W. Stamper
1. The most pressing issue facing my district is poverty. Fifty-three percent of the residents in the 15th live below the poverty level. This is defined as a single person earning $11,000 per year, with approximately $3,500 more added per additional household member.
My agenda to address this problem is through training and education in the construction trades and fighting for family-supporting wages. I will use the residential lead pipe replacement project as the catalyst. Milwaukee has 70,000 homes in need of servicing, estimated to cost $750 million and lasting nearly a decade. This lead pipe time bomb is an issue unaddressed by the Common Council or mayor. I would use it as the first phase of economic resuscitation of the 15th Aldermanic District.
2. I will bring vision, enthusiasm and courage to leading the district from a state of apathetic drudgery to a state of pride, unity and economic sustainability. I’m an educator who believes in leading from outfront and by example. I will spend two days a week from the beginning of spring to the end of fall walking through the wards, visiting schools and maintaining a pulse on the district.
3. Crime is the outgrowth of impoverished conditions. My solution is to infuse educational and training opportunities into the district. A job is not enough. Employment must have the ability grow the individual and the family. Eight dollars per hour isn’t enough to do that.
In addition, neighborhoods must become neighborly. So I will host summer-long block parties, summer fairs, back-to-school and end-of-school-year events, patterned after the “Heal the Hood” block party.
4. Attracting new business is predicated on my ability to provide a clean and safe commercial zone for these businesses. I will utilize the vacant and blighted city- owned properties along North Avenue, Center Street and Lisbon Avenue to incentivize new and existing businesses to make use of that space. I will craft programs that will serve as small business incubators to assist entrepreneurs in conceptualizing, developing and growing their businesses.
Russell W. Stamper (incumbent)
Stamper did not respond to the NNS survey.