By: Claudio A. Cortés
We sent a one word email interview request to all of the candidates running in the April 7th Election.
Milwaukeño does not and will never officially endorse any political candidate, with that in mind, we also believe that it is our duty to stay informed and keep you, our beloved readers in the loop. It is in that spirit that we sent a one word email interview request to all of the candidates running in the April 7th Wisconsin Election. Our single question was “If elected, what are you going to do specifically for Milwaukee’s Latino population?” Below are the unedited responses provided by the candidates that decided Milwaukeño was worth their time.
Chris Larson – Candidate Milwaukee County Executive
As Milwaukee County Executive, I will work to fight the segregation that has plagued our county for too long and listen to the calls of our neighbors, and especially those neighbors who have too often been ignored, forgotten and marginalized. I pledge to reach out to make sure their voices are heard and amplified loud and clear. We have shameful levels of segregation in our County and we need to work to bridge that divide. If I’m elected, my first move will be to ensure that the County Executive’s office looks like our country. Having a more diverse representation of Milwaukee County residents on County committees will better reflect the true needs of our county. When there are people from all of our neighborhoods working with the board, those communities and neighborhoods are better served.
Additionally, I will make sure the county invests in minority-owned businesses. Engaging business owners in the community and supplying opportunities for minority-owned businesses to grow will not only stimulate the local economy but ensure our growth is equitable. Expanding our support for minority-owned businesses can help dismantle the persistent segregation within our communities. Additionally, the county will continue to build on our contracts with minority-owned businesses. We will be leaders in helping our neighbors become successful by working with Community Business Development Partners to ensure our Targeted Businesses Enterprise firms and our Disadvantaged Business Enterprise firms are given an equal opportunity to create a thriving business in Milwaukee County.
I also believe that Milwaukee County should be an open and accepting community. As a State Senator, I have worked with my colleagues to draft bills that would end the use of Wisconsin facilities as immigration detention centers and stop local law enforcement from assisting ICE.
Currently, Milwaukee County does not participate in the 287(g) policy, a racist and xenophobic program which allows local law enforcement agents to carry out immigration officer duties I will continue to ensure that our community protects families. I will fight for the human rights of our immigrant neighbors alongside organizations like Voces de la Frontera Action.
Finally, I will continue to support state-issued drivers licenses and official local identification cards for our undocumented neighbors. These neighbors are essential to our community and an important part of our workforce. This measure is also favored by police departments. Milwaukee Police Department Alfonso Morales said it best, “Maybe if we [the Hispanic community] get in an accident we’re not going to flee from the police – because there’s no need to flee. And for law enforcement, we need to identify who’s driving that vehicle when something happens. So it’s a win-win for all of us.”
Values of inclusion, safety, and security for all – that’s what I will continue to support as Milwaukee County Executive. I ask for your vote, visit myvote.wi.gov to request your absentee ballot, and I am ready day one to get to work for you.
Jacob Marek -Candidate District 3 Alderperson
If elected what I will do to help Milwaukee’s Latino population is fight to solve some of the biggest issues the entire city faces. Segregation and a lack of well paying positions. In order to combat this as alder, I would fight to ensure city services are well distributed and available to all districts. I will work with the county and state to provide reliable transit beyond downtown while investing in more bus structures. I also believe we need to create opportunity for jobs and recreation that is available to all in order to increase wages in our communities, so I will support legislation that opens those doors. In addition, it is going to take active involvement from City Hall to inform all residents about the resources available both online and in person. This includes the 286-CITY system which many do not know can be used for reporting potholes and broken streetlights.
Peter Bergelis – Candidate District 11 Alderperson
I think that Milwaukee’s Latino population wants the same things all residents expect- safe neighborhoods, improved city infrastructure (potholes), good-paying jobs and economic development. Strong communities start with strong public schools and home ownership. Milwaukee’s racial segregation is decades in the making, and won’t be fixed overnight, but statistics for hone ownership dropping from 80% ten years ago to only 69% now are frightening.
There is too much at stake for our city and our residents to allow the incumbent another term to sit on the sidelines and do nothing to improve our community.
No to ICE collaboration. Yes to more Spanish language access. Yes to $15 fair wages. Yes to a permanent transit funding source and coordinated regional transit authority.
Andrea Rodriguez – Candidate Milwaukee County Supervisor District 4
My background is in education (focus on STEAM and Service-learning) and grassroots organizing. I’m also the only person on my ballot with real experience working with elected officials and residents as an appointed commissioner for the city of MKE.
My primary win and fact that my team focuses on relationships building efforts and not solely on fundraising relationships and VAN is a major part of why I’m winning. Our district is full of amazing families that are overworked and underpaid. Many choose to not be civically engaged, not because they don’t care, but because they have been conditioned for generations that local government doesn’t care about them.
My first campaign promise:
Continue to put residents first and make that a norm as we offer MKE a Fair Deal. Most of the times, resident listening sessions are happening after major decisions are made behind the scenes. Residents need to be a part of initiatives from the start.
2nd: officially declare MC D4 an international district and partner with MPS and their Bilingual Resolution. We have an amazing global perspective in D4 and we must promote it properly to bring business and residents here. Also, hate breeds trauma, which is a county responsibility and effects tax payers. It’s overdue to change that dynamic.
3rd: Help rebuild the Democratic Latino Caucus holistically and work toward activating more voters west of Bay View.
4th: continue to mentor young people on how to become a local elected official
5th: making sure we are protecting public green spaces and making them all equitable. South Shore Park and Pulaski Park are a great example of inequity for residents.
Judge Paul Dedinsky Incumbent – Branch 5 Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Thank you for this opportunity. It is an honor to have served our Milwaukee community in a variety of ways since I became an attorney in 1993, nearly 27 years ago. As a judge over the past year, it has been a pleasure to give back in so many ways. I will continue to offer each person who crosses the threshold of my courtroom a true “voice” and opportunity to be heard. It has often been said, “If you want peace, then work for justice.” I am called to strive for justice and seek truth at every moment, especially for the very poorest and most marginalized people in our Milwaukee community. I would like to tell you about some formative experiences in my life.
In the fall of 1990, as a first-year law student at UW Madison, I was honored to meet and shake the hand of the great civil rights leader, Cesar Chavez. He was present in Wisconsin at the law school to march on behalf of human rights for laborers. I first learned about Cesar Chavez when my Catholic 5 th grade school teacher in Milwaukee taught us about him. Cesar Chavez’ work was pure. Because he gave “voice” to the poor and marginalized migrant workers in America, Cesar Chavez made a deep and lasting impression upon me. In 1989, I spent months in the deep frontier of the Dominican Republic working in a mobile medical clinic where the campesinos had no health care at all. So, upon hearing that Cesar Chavez was close by to me, I literally ran to him. It was an opportunity to meet this great man.
Legal Work for Latinos
As a young defense counsel in Milwaukee from 1993-1996, I represented many Latinos (although, admittedly, mi espanol es muy malo) who appeared in our civil and criminal courts. Having visited Mexico and other parts of Latin America on many occasions, culturally, I always felt an affinity and bond. Plus, I always admired Latinos for having strong families, solid values, and committed faith lives.
Serving as a child abuse and sexual assault prosecutor from 1999-2001 provided an opportunity to serve many Latino child victims. Then, when serving as the Domestic Violence Unit Director for the Milwaukee District Attorney’s office (2001-2007), I got a call one day from Catholic Charities Immigration Attorney Barb Graham. Barb told me that she needed help. She described how many women who had been abused were now in danger of deportation. Barb explained how I could help with the U-Visa process. So, I set to work researching these domestic violence cases. I then traveled to Barb’s office on the southside of Milwaukee where we met with about a dozen immigrant undocumented women who had been victims of domestic abuse. As I signed their immigration U-Visas applications, I still can remember the faces of these women, as well as their humble gratitude and kindness.
One day in 2011, a 17 year-old student approached me in tears. I had been working with MPS as a Restorative Justice consultant, and this lovely young Latino girl was one of our early restorative justice leaders. I knew her well, and she trusted me. She told me that one of her parents was undocumented. Deeply troubled, she feared that her mom might face deportation. Facing this overwhelming predicament, she could hardly concentrate on her studies. Because of my past experiences, I was able to calm her and offer her some advice and support.
I would come to serve as the chief legal counsel for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection from 2017-2018. There, farmers and food processing companies raved about their Latino workers. Their businesses would fail were it not for the hard-working immigrants and undocumented workers who tirelessly toiled in our Wisconsin fields and factories. The conclusion seems obvious: If we in the United States plan to continue to rely upon the work of undocumented workers, then basic human protections and benefits must be accorded them.
Policies of the United States of America
Nationally, in terms of immigration and migration, this country has experienced shifting approaches, policies, and viewpoints. I sometimes wonder if we recall and recognize our history as a nation. Our Declaration of Independence lists 27 complaints against Great Britain’s King George III.
The seventh among them states the following:
“[King George III] has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”
When my grandparents emigrated to this country in the early part of the 20 th century, they were greeted by the Statue of Liberty with the following inscription: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, Life my lamp beside the golden door!”
Most people may not know that broken chains lay at the feet of Lady Libertas. She holds the torch in one hand and the charters of the rights of mankind in the other hand. Our federal legislators must contextualize immigration issues based upon human rights, as well as our country’s history and principles. Immigration impacts people. Immigration results in real-life consequences.
Immigration policy must take families into consideration without a sole reliance upon a “merit-based” immigration system. Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status holders need a path to citizenship, one that ensures their full integration into American life.
Certainly, securing borders and ensuring our country’s safety is vital; however, people must be treated humanely. We must protect vulnerable asylum-seeking families and children. We must look to origin countries to discern the root causes of migration. We need practical, common-sense solutions. Immigrants must be safely sheltered and provided food and clothing.
No one wants to open our borders to the dangerous few who would bring illegal drugs into our country or commit acts of terror, so criminal operations must continue to be targeted for investigation. In the end analysis, we must ask ourselves whether deporting mass numbers of people would be worth the severe human, economic, psychological, emotional, and social consequences wreaked upon families, children, and businesses in our country.
Thank you for reaching out to me. It shows you care and that you are willing to give me a “voice”, an opportunity to be heard. Not all groups and organization have been so sensitive. Before the primary, Voces de la Frontera sent my two opponents a questionnaire so that the organization could consider which of the two they would support. I was saddened to learn that Voces de la Frontera would not afford me a “voice” in their process. Was this a fair, equitable, equal opportunity to be heard?
As a judge, I promise to never refuse to enable any person “voice” in my courtroom. I promise to never discriminate against anyone based upon the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their gender, their age, their culture, their politics, their religion, their sexual orientation, or any other conceivable reason.
I thank you. You have offered me a “voice”, and I promise to continue striving to provide a “voice” for everyone who appears in my courtroom.
Justin Bielinski – Candidate Common Council – District 8
As a candidate for office in a majority Latino district, it is one I think about often. Before answering, I think it’s important to acknowledge that in Milwaukee, as is the case in the rest of the country, the Latino community is not a monolith. In fact, it could best be described as a diverse set of communities which intersect and diverge in various ways. With that in mind, I want to speak directly to what I feel Latinos in the 8th District are most concerned about – safety and economic opportunity.
My predecessor Bob Donovan was a close ally of the Milwaukee Police Association (MPA). By seeking and accepting the endorsement of this organization in 2020, my opponent in 2020 has chosen to follow suit. I find this problematic for several reasons, but foremost among them in my mind is the treatment of Jose De la Cruz-Espinosa by MPD officers,who went against protocol to collaborate with ICE officials and detain him in front of his wife and children. In this incident, the Dontre Hamilton murder, the Sterling Brown tazing incident, and many other cases of officer misconduct, the MPA has sided with the officer almost every single time. Milwaukee has paid tens of millions of dollars in settlements in these cases over the past decade.
Latinos care deeply about safety, but with 47% of the General Purpose City Budget already going to the Milwaukee Police Department, it certainly can’t be just about police. We need to invest in the Office of Violence Prevention and its “Blueprint for Peace.” We need to invest in public education. Most of all, we need to create a strong environment of economic opportunity so that people do not turn to crimes of desperation when they feel there are no other options.
Therefore, I believe that by creating an environment for living-wage employment in the City of Milwaukee, by providing increased assistance to Latino entrepreneurs, and by working with trade unions to increase recruitment of Latino members, we can do the most good for Latinos in our communities
Ryan Clancy – Candidate County Supervisor District 4
If elected, I will continue to stand alongside Milwaukee’s Latino population, and will use the position of County Supervisor to push for more robust services, to advocate for immigrants, and to provide additional avenues for sustainable Latino economic development.
Latino populations in Milwaukee rely heavily on public transportation, so cuts to those services impact the ability of our neighbors to participate meaningfully in the community, including access to jobs both in and out of Milwaukee County. After cutting the Job Lines to Menominee Falls, Milwaukee Tool announced the building of a new facility (and hundreds of jobs) in that same community, leaving Milwaukee County residents at a disadvantage for them. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 has endorsed my candidacy, noting my commitment to defending and restoring public transportation. Fair funding for parks and senior centers are also priorities.
Voces de la Frontera has also endorsed my campaign, citing my long history of solidarity with their work to defend Milwaukee’s immigrants and Latino populations. My wife and I have long closed our business, Bounce Milwaukee, in support for the May Day “Day Without Latinxs” actions, have joined in protests and marches, fought hard to force the Milwaukee Police Department to adopt SOP 130, which keeps them from collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and stood by (and fundraised for) the De La Cruz family during their ordeal with MPD and ICE. I part of the landmark protest at the ICE facility last year, in which we risked arrest and successfully closed their facilities downtown, and was arrested in front of Paul Ryan’s office in 2018 when we demended that he bring a clean DREAM Act to Congress. I called for, and successfully won, Milwaukee County’s divestment from Southwest Key, keeping one of the organizations responsible for child separation at the Mexico border from taking nearly a million dollars from the county in contracts each year.
Economic development is also key to my plans. Latino populations are overepresented in low wage jobs in Milwaukee, with half of Milwaukee’s Latinos and 62% of Latinas making under $25,000 a year. I founded the Progressive Restaurants and Activists of Wisconsin Network (PRAWN) to fight against statewide legislation preventing communities such as Milwaukee from raising our own minimum wages and working conditions. Statewide action is fundamental to change at the county level, because $7.25 an hour isn’t enough, and our working families deserve more. As County Supervisor, I will push for more family-sustaining jobs. Milwaukee’s organizers and leaders have taken note of this advocacy, and every union and organization which has endorsed in this race has endorsed me. Those same populations are also underrepresented as entrepreneurs. Although the number of Latino-owned businesses in Milwaukee has gone up in the last several years, the rate of business ownership per thousand residents still sits at the bottom of the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Given how vital the Latino population is to Milwaukee’s overall economic success, this is both unacceptable and unfair. I will work closely with the recently formed City-County Joint Taskforce on Climate and Economic Equity to ensure that Milwaukee’s Latino community can more often join in the economic rewards instead of solely contributing to the success of others
Andrew Moriarity – Milwaukee County Supervisor Board District 11
The initiatives I will most passionately pursue when I become board supervisor are raising minimum wage for all county employees to $15, universal voter registration, and creating a community empowerment initiative. All three of those pursuits support the Latino population.
Without the current growth in Milwaukee’s Latino population our city would be shrinking and our economy would be in danger. We need to encourage that growth. One of the biggest hindrances to a prosperous Latino population in Milwaukee is low wages. A disproportionate number of Latino workers earn wages below the median income for Milwaukee. When the county raises its minimum wage to $15 it will set the example and increase competition for workers. Local employers will need to also increase their wages to retain quality workers. That’s the first part of the solution to low wages for the Latino community. The next step is to empower Latino voters. Once elected I would explore options to enact automatic voter registration in Milwaukee County. Automatic voter registration would empower new, young and first-time voters; groups disproportionately represented in the Latino community. The last step toward empowerment is to teach emerging Latino community leaders how to most effectively advocate for their neighborhood. On the Supervisor Board I would pursue a partnership with the city government and local universities to develop a leadership institute for members of Milwaukee neighborhoods seeking to be a representative voice for their neighbors. Attendees would learn about the workings of local government, public policy and organizing the community. When we increase the wages, rights, and knowledge of the community we will increase its prosperity.
Cavalier Johnson – Incumbent District 2 Alberperson
I’m proud to have spoken at the César Chávez Day recognition at City Hall as well as celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month every year. These are the ways that I have supported and will continue to support Milwaukee’s Latino community:
- Cosponsored the creation of the City of Milwaukee’s municipal identification card program
- Leading the effort on the creation of Milwaukee’s office of early childhood education so that all children in our community have the opportunity to have access to high quality education before kindergarten
- Supported more robust translation services to be offered by the City to be more inclusive of our Latino community
- Supported the creation of an anti-displacement fund so that longtime residents on the near south side and near north side are not priced out of their homes as development advances
- Supported access to driver’s licenses for Wisconsin residents initiating a citizenship application
- Cosponsored a resolution expressing Milwaukee’s opposition to President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend the DACA program
In addition to these, I constantly fight for less access to firearms for those who shouldn’t have them in the first place because that makes all neighborhoods safer. I constantly fight for fair funding from the State government so that we can invest resources back into neighborhoods in my district as well as others — including on the near south side.
Brandon Methu – Candidate – Milwaukee City Treasurer
As an advocate for lower taxes, fairer assessments, and better transparency, I was called to run for City treasurer during my time as a member of the Board of Review. Since 2018, countless Milwaukee homeowners, many from our Mexican & hispanic community have come before the board and I’ve rarely seen citizens win their property tax appeal. The typical cases include elderly homeowners on fixed incomes, that are appealing tax increases of 30% or greater. During my time reviewing these startling cases, I learned that Milwaukee was evicting longtime residents from their community under the guise of increasing assessments. However, unlike evictions from a rental unit, there are very few legal resources available to homeowners faced with this burden. I decided to get behind the “curtain” to help our most vulnerable communities as City Treasurer, arming citizens with the information they need to ensure fair and accurate property assessments.
As the City’s chief investment officer, I will propose an investment policy that is centered on meaningful capital infusion into Milwaukee’s crumbling infrastructure and dilapidated housing stock. Our roads, sidewalks, and nieghborhoods will be given the attention they desperately need. The new investment policy will focus on local outcomes and position our taxpayer resources to improve Milwaukee’s quality of life.
My entire campaign is center around the needs of Milwaukee’s minority communities. I’m happy to serve Milwaukee’s Latino population, and look forward to creating an environment that helps all our marginalized areas thrive.