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Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012

Cody and Cullen Vie for District 15 Voters on April 3

De Bruin's departure creates opportunity on Milwaukee County board

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The two candidates vying to represent District 15 on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors have targeted parks and transit as their main concerns. Dan Cody, board president of The Park People, said he would continue to push for a dedicated funding source for both the parks and Milwaukee County Transit System. State Rep. David Cullen said he'd advocate for segregated funds for those services.

Cody and Cullen will appear on the April 3 general election ballot. District 15 encompasses portions of the West Side of Milwaukee, West Milwaukee and Wauwatosa.

Cody: Parks Are Centers of Our Neighborhoods

Cody, an IT specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and owner of the small business Progressive Networks, has served as board president of the nonprofit group The Park People for four years. He said his background as a fund-raiser and organizer in the nonprofit sector would make him a hands-on advocate for the parks and transit, which have borne the brunt of severe cuts in recent budget cycles.

"I've helped to raise over $3 million in the last couple of years to offset some of those cuts," Cody said.

The Park People's donations, collected from major corporations and individual donors, have supported the revitalization of Bradford Beach, the new pool at Hoyt Park, and Weed Out programs.

He said he would continue to work with "friends" of the parks groups and neighborhood associations to make sure that parks are safe, which translates into safer neighborhoods.

Cody said he would advocate for more transit funding, especially funding for paratransit services for the elderly and disabled.

Cody said he would like the parks and transit to be shifted off of the property tax and funded with a county sales tax, as Milwaukee County voters approved in an advisory referendum in November 2008. The county needs state legislative approval to raise the sales tax; various measures to do so for the parks and transit have never passed both houses of the state Legislature.

Until state legislators sign off on a sales tax increase, Cody said he would seek donations from private individuals and corporations for parks and transit support. He said he would like to be part of a "dream team" with Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Parks Director Sue Black that could solicit private funds for county services and assets.

"The ability to get things done would be multiplied by several degrees," Cody said.

To learn more about Dan Cody, go to dancody.org.

Cullen: Commit to Parks and Transit

Cullen has served this area in the state Assembly since 1990 and said he was encouraged to run for the Milwaukee County board when Lynne De Bruin announced she was leaving the board. He said parks and transit were his main concerns and said they should be considered part of the county's core mission, even though they are not mandated services.

Cullen voted for a budget amendment in 2009 that would have raised the sales tax 0.5% for transit and 0.15% for Milwaukee County municipalities' police and fire departments. That budget amendment did not address parks funding. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle subsequently vetoed that amendment.

In stand-alone legislation on regional transit authorities (RTAs), Cullen offered an amendment that would have allowed Milwaukee County to keep funds raised within the county for buses, but it also required the approval of Milwaukee County voters in a binding referendum, as well as the approval of the county board and the county executive.

Cullen said he supported the "re-vote" because the legislation had required all other counties except for Milwaukee County to vote on an RTA sales tax.

"I didn't think I could go back to my constituents and say, 'Everyone else in the state gets to vote on whether or not they want to have their sales tax go for this, but you don't,'" Cullen said.

If the sales tax isn't raised, Cullen said he would like to create separate accounts—funded with the existing property tax—for parks and transit.

"The idea is that we as a county have to make a commitment to the transit system and say, 'This is what it takes to fund it,'" Cullen said. "If we don't have the ability to increase the revenue, then we have to do it within our means and do it in different ways."

For more information about Milwaukee County board candidates, visit the
Daily Dose blog.

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