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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Development Is Central to South Side Race

Pérez challenges Witkowiak in District 12

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On Tuesday, April 3, Walker's Point and near South Side voters can cast a ballot for longtime Milwaukee Alderman James Witkowiak or José Pérez, a newcomer to politics. Both candidates are highlighting their efforts to redevelop the neighborhood.

Pérez: I Would Be a Unifying Force

José Pérez is a commercial real estate developer who worked on economic development at the Department of City Development and as the executive director of MICAH.

He said he is running for office because the community is “somewhat separated, disenfranchised” and he works well with both the business and labor communities.

Pérez said he would like to cut regulations and red tape so that small businesses and entrepreneurs could receive more consistent, timely responses from the city. For example, Pérez said, entrepreneurs who have applied for a city grant often have to delay launching their businesses because they're waiting for various funds or permissions to come through.

“Businesses in this community don't feel that the city is the friendliest and has the best customer service,” Pérez said. “I've got to fix that.”

His business, LRG Development, had a hand in the PNC Bank that will be built on the corner of Cesar Chavez Drive and National Avenue. He said he's happy that the company has promised to hire 15 employees from the neighborhood and he is excited about working with local minority contractors.

Pérez said he supports the city's Milwaukee Opportunities Restoring Employment (MORE) ordinance, which requires private development projects receiving financial assistance from the city to hire city residents and emerging businesses.

“I'm all for the free market,” Pérez said. “But the moment that tax dollars are involved—with city, county or state subsidy—I'm a big proponent that you've got to share the love with the neighborhood and that there's an opportunity for local, minority contractors to get in the game.”

To learn more about José Pérez, go to www.pledgeperez.com.

Witkowiak: Finish What I Started

James Witkowiak has served the 12th District for 16 of the past 20 years. He is the owner of Witkowiak Funeral Home and is the chair of the Common Council's Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee.

He said he wants to be re-elected to the council because his work isn't finished.

“I'm in the middle of some developments that I want to see through,” he said.

Witkowiak pointed to new projects being launched in Walker's Point and the Fifth Ward—such as an Italian-style café on Seeboth and First Street, a mixed-use building with apartments for seniors on First and Pittsburgh, a water technology building and the developments connected to UW-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences—as examples of commercial developments that will help to transform the district. He said the new projects represent millions of dollars in new investment, plus temporary construction jobs and permanent employment for residents in the district.

He said he was instrumental in creating the first Targeted Investment Neighborhood (TIN) district on the South Side and helping to develop six TINs within the 12th District. The program has helped to encourage homeownership, revitalize homes in need of repair and stabilize up-and-coming neighborhoods, he said.

Witkowiak said he voted against the city's MORE ordinance because several small-business Hispanic contractors told him they opposed it because it wouldn't help them and didn't provide enough opportunities for workers in entry-level jobs.

“If it's going to cut the little guy out, I'm not going to support it,” Witkowiak said.

To learn more about James Witkowiak, go to Jim Witkowiak on Facebook.

For more information on candidates running for office on April 3, go to the Daily Dose blog.

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