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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

April 1 Election Endorsements

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Vote NO on Milwaukee County Referendum

 

The April 1 ballot in Milwaukee County will include a referendum to limit the salaries of county supervisors. Asking the public to limit salaries of any elected official is a pretty simple idea to sell, but it is important to still Vote NO. To understand what this is really all about, you have to go beyond the simply written referendum and look at the long-term consequences. This referendum, if it passes, will save a few dollars in salaries in the short term but will probably end up costing the taxpayers millions of dollars down the line.

What is this really about?

The answer is, of course, power and control by special-interest groups led by the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC). As you know, for the past several years, the Greater Milwaukee Committee has been trying to weaken or destroy Milwaukee County government. For those who will call this some kind of a conspiracy theory remember that a Greater Milwaukee Committee leader strongly advocated for “blowing up” Milwaukee County government.

After properly getting rebuked for that approach, the GMC decided to be a little subtler so it recruited and ran Chris Abele for county executive. Abele was an easy selection for them: He had family money, he had no experience in any kind of executive or public policy role, he had never had a real job and he is an extremely insecure person who is always looking for approval from a father figure. In short, he was an easy target for the GMC to manipulate and control. After a lot of money was spent on misleading political advertising, Abele ultimately won the county executive position by a small margin. 

With Abele’s election in 2011, the GMC was halfway to its goal of controlling county government. The only remaining obstacle was the county board, whose job was to serve as a check and balance on the county executive. The GMC reasoned that if a strong, co-equal branch of county government could be weakened, the county executive would be in a much stronger position to cut deals and enable his pals to get rich off of taxpayers’ assets. Unfortunately, we have already begun to see some of that play out.

 

Hard To Buy County Board Elections

The difficulty for the wealthy special-interest groups is that it is much more difficult to buy a Milwaukee County supervisor seat than a county executive office. Each county supervisor represents slightly more than 52,000 residents, so an average person campaigning for the county board can knock on doors, talk to voters, build a level of trust and win their votes. It is difficult to buy a county supervisor election even if you spend tens of thousands of dollars on TV ads, because the Milwaukee area is in a very large and expensive media market. With a county supervisor seat you are looking to influence just 52,000 people of which probably only about 10,000 or 15,000 will vote. So someone who is not in the pocket of the special-interest groups can actually win a county supervisor seat, an aldermanic seat or a state Assembly seat the old-fashioned way—by talking face to face with thousands of voters.

So what do you do if you can’t beat them at the ballot box? You change the rules of the game, which is exactly what the special interests did. Abele and the GMC went to the conservative Republican crowd that currently controls the state Legislature to introduce a bill that would essentially cripple the Milwaukee County board. The legislation weakens the county board and concentrates much more power in the hands of the county executive. The Abele/GMC legislation limited what the board could vote on, cut the board’s salaries and eliminated most of their staff so they don’t have the time or resources to actually question and scrutinize the policies and actions of the county executive.

This referendum is just the final nail in the heart of our wonderful history of clean and honest government that Wisconsin and Milwaukee had for the past century. This, alas, is the reason why a group of GMC members are planning to raise more than $100,000 to buy this referendum. So if you still believe that democracy can triumph over money, it is important to VOTE NO on Tuesday.

Laura Gramling Perez for Milwaukee County Judge Branch 32

Both candidates for this seat on the bench are highly qualified. We went beyond our endorsement committee and discussed this election and the candidates with a sampling of legal professionals and community members, and clearly decided to endorse Laura Gramling Perez for Milwaukee County Judge Branch 32. Perez is the current presiding court commissioner for Milwaukee County. Her job entails supervising other court commissioners and doing the work of a judge on cases involving children, crime and small claims. She has a diverse work background in private practice, and helped to set up the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic and the Veterans Family Law Clinic, both designed to provide more access to the courts. We would feel comfortable in her courtroom as a plaintiff or a defendant. Laura Gramling Perez has earned her promotion to circuit court judge and we ask that you support her with your vote on April 1.

 

Janet Protasiewicz for Milwaukee County Judge Branch 24

Longtime assistant district attorney Janet Protasiewicz is running unopposed for this seat. The Shepherd endorsed her in her previous run for judge and she still impresses us with her depth of knowledge about the criminal justice system and her energy and intellect.

 

Get Out and Vote in Milwaukee Common Council District 15 Primary

Longtime alderman Willie Hines stepped down from the Milwaukee Common Council earlier this year, which provides District 15 voters with a rare opportunity to weigh in on an open seat without an incumbent in the race. The Shepherd is not endorsing a candidate in the April 1 election for District 15, since it is a primary. However, we are encouraging residents of this district to get out and vote. Your choices on the April 1 primary ballot are Eyon Biddle Sr., Vera Davis, Patricia Ruiz, Russell W. Stamper II and Monique Taylor. The top two vote-getters will face off on the April 29 special election ballot. The Shepherd will endorse at that point. Show your support for these candidates and the democratic process and please vote.

 

Erik Brooks for South Milwaukee Mayor

South Milwaukee has the capacity to grow and blossom, and we feel that Erik Brooks is the leader who will take the city to the next level. Currently a communications manager at MillerCoors and an alderman, we believe that Brooks has the energy and vision to champion South Milwaukee. He is the co-founder of the South Milwaukee Downtown Farmers Market and has made revitalizing the Downtown district one of his goals. Brooks would be a positive leader in a community that is too often overlooked.

 

Julie Siegel for Whitefish Bay President

The Shepherd’s endorsement goes to incumbent Julie Siegel, who has the right experience to lead Whitefish Bay in the coming years. The community is currently wrestling with infrastructure upgrades to prevent flooding—and the cost of making those repairs—and this is the wrong time to change leadership and start over. Siegel has shown that she is open to incorporating residents’ concerns in her decision-making process and is aware of the fiscal challenges that even more affluent communities face in this time of government austerity.

 

John Pokrandt and Matt Stippich for Wauwatosa Common Council

Wauwatosa residents have the opportunity to vote for two forward-thinking members of the Wauwatosa Common Council. In District 1, Matt Stippich gets our support. Stippich—an attorney, computer forensics expert and small business owner—has the kind of expertise and deep community ties that would be an asset on the council. In District 4, we are endorsing John Pokrandt, a sales and marketing professional who is also deeply invested in this community. He would be a strong advocate for his constituents and all Wauwatosans. Wauwatosa faces many infrastructure, economic development and quality of life challenges—and opportunities. Both John Pokrandt and Matt Stippich would provide a fresh perspective on the issues and move the community forward.

 

Vote Yes on Pro-Democracy Advisory Referendum in City of Shorewood, Waukesha, Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay

We are urging voters in the cities of Shorewood, Waukesha, Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay to vote “yes” on a pro-democracy advisory referendum. The referendum requests that the U.S. Constitution be amended to establish that only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and that money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

This referendum issue has passed by overwhelming margins in Madison, West Allis and elsewhere. Those voters understood that they—not corporations—are the ones who should have constitutional rights and not be overruled by the interests of deep-pocketed special interests. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United has confused the issue. Contrary to that decision and related court cases, money is not speech, and corporations are not people with constitutional rights.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling trumps any law Congress or state legislatures can enact, the rights of American citizens are best clarified by amending the U.S. Constitution. We are calling on residents of Shorewood, Waukesha, Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay to vote “yes” on this important issue and send a clear message to our state and federal representatives who can start the process of amending the Constitution to restore citizens’ rights.