CARW members participated in a forum event with the two candidates for Milwaukee Mayor. The panel featured acting Mayor, Cavalier Johnson and former Alderman, Bob Donavan. The discussion touched on a variety of issues from pension liability to crime and safety, to education and the Milwaukee streetcar project. Wisconsin Policy Forum President, Rob Henken, focused his questions on getting to ‘solutions’ the candidates would offer if elected Mayor.
While both agreed that the next Mayor would need a solid-functioning relationship with legislators in Madison, every other issue invited divergent approaches. A few take aways from the event:
Education: Acting Mayor Johnson seeks to invest heavily in MPS and the success of Milwaukee Public K-12 Education. He does not want to be involved in the schools perse, but involved in the issues surrounding the schools including homelife, safety, etc. Former Alderman Donavan suggested that he would work to promote school choice because he believes that competition is good for Milwaukee children. He is ‘willing to look at alternatives”. Donavan would also encourage leveraging empty MPS buildings for other charter and choice educational providers.
Crime: Acting Mayor Johnson stands by funding for Milwaukee Police and touts his voting record to support Police and crime prevention. Former Alderman Donavan has adopted safety as the number one issue and believes that funding of some agencies that do not show results should be cut off.
Pension Fund: Acting Mayor Johnson, during the forum, said that he would be willing to shift new employees to the State pension plan. Alderman Donavan said he would do a financial audit of every department as Mayor and see every crisis as an opportunity.
Affordable Housing: Acting Mayor Johnson discussed the creation of a new agency to bring all efforts related to housing under one department to streamline processes and funding. Former Alderman Donavan said he would like to ‘reduce affordable housing by reducing the number of people who would need it” (by creating more jobs).
Streetcar: Acting Mayor Johnson believes that the city should continue to invest in the development of the streetcar to Bronzeville and MLK Drive as well as to the South Side. He said it is the transportation for the future that the Millennial generation desires and looks for in a community. Former Alderman Donavan said that voters should decide the fate of the streetcar and its continuation should be tied to a referendum of the voters. He wants to ‘respect the taxpayer’. His final comment on the streetcar was “how do we expand the Streetcar when we don’t even have the money for other things in our city?”
Closing remarks made the case: For Acting Mayor Johnson, he said he wants to promote safety and strength and serve as a reflection of the community to get us out of the multiple crisis that we face. Former Alderman Donavan suggested that he has a reputation for getting things done and wants to fight for everyone in the community to help our city reach its full potential.
More information on the forum that was presented by GMC and MMAC may be found HERE
Author’s Note: I took time to reflect on these issues and the candidate responses through the lens of someone who grew up in this community but no longer has a voice (vote) to decide the future of the community. I moved from Milwaukee to the suburbs but travel downtown every day for work. The decisions made in Milwaukee have great impact on the entire State. As a stakeholder in commercial real estate, I care deeply about the City’s future and am hopeful that voters and elected leaders will make the tough decisions that solve for issues right now.
*photo from Journal Sentinel