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Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

Common Council President Hines Faces Serious Challenge

Supervisor Biddle builds a strong case

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In the April 3 general election, residents of Milwaukee's central city will decide the fate of one of the city's most powerful men, Common Council President Willie Hines Jr.

Hines is facing a challenge from Milwaukee County Supervisor Eyon Biddle, a former union and community organizer, to represent the 15th Aldermanic District.

Both candidates are prioritizing African-American male employment—now at an all-time low, according to the most recent study by Marc Levine at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. But Hines and Biddle are offering different solutions to the problem.

Hines: Build on Successful Partnerships

Hines was elected to the Common Council in 1996 and became the president in 2004. He said he's running for re-election to work on some unfinished business and build on his accomplishments.

“I've got to continue to put homeowners in homes, continue to create job opportunities for the residents, and to do so by putting forth innovative and creative programs to secure job opportunities,” Hines said.

He said that he wants to create jobs through deconstructing homes, ensuring that energy-efficiency programs hire minority workers, supporting Job Corps and partnering with Growing Power's Will Allen to boost urban agricultural jobs.

He said he has helped the district to establish strong commercial corridors, which should attract new housing and employment to the neighborhood, as well as to provide accessible health care and dental services to residents who are uninsured or underinsured.

“Not only have I worked to support the bricks and mortars of the district, I have also tried to do everything I can to help the residents personally, by creating job opportunities for them and to improve their health,” Hines said. “My interest is to continue to build on those entities that will create jobs for residents and quality housing, and to create conditions and opportunities for people to flourish.”

Hines helped to create the Common Council's African American Male Unemployment Task Force, and supported the task force's recommendation to provide $425,000 to create jobs in partnership with Growing Power. He said the redevelopment of the 30th Street corridor, the Menomonee Valley and the Reed Street Yards would also provide job opportunities for African-American men.

“I have an excellent record,” Hines said. “I have enjoyed working in partnership with my residents. I want to continue working on their behalf and working in partnership with them and for them. We've had a great deal of success working together. I would welcome the opportunity to go back to City Hall to continue working in partnership with the residents of the 15th District.”

Biddle: Create Infrastructure Jobs

Biddle, a first-term Milwaukee County supervisor, said he is running for Common Council to get directly involved in economic development, the responsibility of city government.

“There's an absence of bold leadership to steer this district out of the social and economic depression that it's currently in,” Biddle said.

Biddle is the co-sponsor of the county's Biddle-Lipscomb Ready to Work Initiative, which partners the county with community organizations that provide educational training and on-the-job work experience for workers seeking skilled positions.

At the city level, Biddle supports a Milwaukee Jobs Act, which would launch what he calls “a massive public infrastructure project” and boost African-American employment. But he said this proposal, currently being developed by 17 community organizations and some Common Council members, isn't even on the table right now.

“We have a high credit rating,” Biddle said. “We have room to do bonding. We have crumbling infrastructure. I see it every day. I'm going to propose a massive infrastructure project that would put unemployed and underemployed black men in my community and the rest of the central city back to work.”

Biddle said workers could repair the area's crumbling sewer lines, rehab foreclosed homes and finish the city's public wireless project.

“There is not a lack of people wanting to work,” Biddle said. “But there is a lack of leadership providing those opportunities and avenues for those folks who want to own their own homes and start their own businesses and want to work and gain skills.”

He said he supports lobbying for a city sales tax to boost investment in Milwaukee's services and infrastructure.

Biddle said he would provide the bold leadership needed to extend “Milwaukee's promise” to the hard-hit 15th District.

“When the status quo means Milwaukee's promise is extended to every person in the 15th District and every person in the central city and every person in Milwaukee, I will accept the status quo,” Biddle said. “But right now the status quo means that the folks in the 15th District and the central city do not benefit from any opportunity that does come.”

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