Friday, July 13, 2012

Assembly District 11 Candidates: Barnes v. Fields

By Lisa Kaiser
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The redrawn Assembly District 11 now stretches further north and east into Glendale, taking in areas that had been in Districts 10 and 12. Longtime AD 10 state Rep. Jason Fields faces newcomer Mandela Barnes in the Democratic primary to be held on Aug. 14. (Not sure if you live in Assembly District 11? Check out your voter registration status here.)

There is no Republican in this race so whoever wins this primary will win in November.

Fields has not responded to the Shepherd's candidate questionnaire, but Barnes has. You can find his answers below. (If or when Fields does submit his answers, I'll post them here as well.)

MANDELA BARNES
Website: www.mandelaforwisconsin.com


Shepherd: Tell me a bit about your background to introduce yourself to Shepherd readers.

Barnes: I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and my background is in community organizing. I graduated from John Marshall high school in 2003, and went on to attend Alabama A&M University. I finished college in 2008, and returned to Milwaukee in 2009. During my time back home, I have worked in the Mayor's office and the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board. My most meaningful work, however, has been with MICAH (Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope) where I was the Director and Lead Organizer.

Shepherd: Where are you currently employed?

Barnes:
My most recent work was for MICAH. I am no longer with them since becoming a full-time candidate.

Shepherd: Why are you running for office?

Barnes: I'm running because Milwaukee needs strong progressive leaders in the state Legislature to stand up for working people, and also those looking for work, the jobless rate here is shameful. Unfortunately Scott Walker is still the governor, and I see no reason for him to prioritize the issues here. It's time that we elect new leaders with bold new initiatives to get the area back on track. We can't do the same things and expect new results. 

Shepherd: What are the top three issues that you want to address?

Barnes: Jobs, education, and public safety.

Shepherd: How would you deal with them?

Barnes: Jobs: We have to take full advantage of the opportunities that are in our front yard. We have major projects, like the $210 million Westlawn redevelopment (in the district) that did not have an acceptable level of local or minority participation. You didn't hear too many elected officials speak on that, and it's a shame. When the unemployment situation is such as it is here, leaders should have jumped at the opportunity to put residents to work.

Education:
We can't continue to slash money from public education. MPS gets a bad wrap, but in reality parental accountability is the biggest factor in student achievement and behavior. We have to create an environment for children to learn during and after school, a community school initiative.

Public Safety: We spend 1.5 BILLION dollars on corrections in the state of Wisconsin. Many people in our prison system suffer from mental illness and substance abuse, and are released into our communities without having those issues addressed, thus making our neighborhoods less safe. We can effectively treat those individuals at a fraction of the cost and added community benefit by doing so. This was a project that I worked on as an organizer, and one I hope to tackle as a legislator.

Shepherd:
What are your views on Act 10? Have the changes helped or hurt state and local governments? Would you vote to restore collective bargaining rights in the next session?

Barnes:
Act 10 was a disgusting piece of legislation that pitted public sector employee versus public sector employee. This was senseless in the fact that the concessions were agreed upon by the unions, but the rights to collectively bargain were still stripped in a flagrant power grab. I feel that they hurt State and local government. I would absolutely vote to restore collective bargaining in the next session.

Shepherd: How will you spur job growth in the state and, specifically, in your district?

Barnes: In the State, we have to spend locally and sell globally. We also have to monitor who receives tax incentives to create jobs, to fully ensure that they are doing so. We seem to have an all-around incentive mismatch. There are a lot of training programs that receive funding to train participants, but not necessarily place them in positions, leaving us with a skilled yet unemployed workforce.

Specifically in the district, the second phase of the Westlawn redevelopment MUST employ people from the area. A public works project of this magnitude is not happening anywhere else in the state, nor will we have this kind of opportunity present itself everyday.

Shepherd: Will you require voucher schools to have the same performance and accountability standards as public schools? Do you support expanding voucher schools by allowing more students to attend or expanding it to other parts of the state?

Barnes: That is certainly on my short list of priorities. There is no way they should operate with public dollars without being held to the same standards as traditional public schools. The playing field should be even, and I do not support expansion to allow more students and cover more areas of the state. There is no justification for any expansion if the cuts aren't restored to public schools throughout the state.

Shepherd: What changes would you like to make to the state's tax policies?

Barnes: We have to implement a progressive tax rate that ensures that everyone pays their fair share. There has to be a system of accountability for businesses that receive tax breaks to create jobs, but fail to do so.

Shepherd: What is the takeaway message from the past year's recalls?

Barnes: We need dynamic leadership on the left. I don't agree with the Governor's actions by any means, but they were bold and they excited his base. I can't say that people were excited by our candidate on June 5th. In order for the left to take this State back, we have to be intentional and deliberate.

Shepherd:
What sets you apart from your opponent?

Barnes: I have always been in a position of advocacy for people, while my opponent comes from a profit based background. My priority is people over profit, and that's what I look to take to Madison to be an effective legislator.

Shepherd: Who has endorsed you?

Barnes: Wisconsin Progress, UAW, IBEW, Iron Workers Local 8, UFCW Local 1473, SEIU State Council, WFNHP, AFT, public support from Sen. Chris Larson and Rep. Robert Turner, School Board Directors: Mark Sain, Larry Miller, Meagan Holman, Annie Woodward, and Terry Falk.


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