Candidate Q & A: Fourteenth District Aldermanic Race —Tony Zielinski and Jan Pierce
March 1, 2012
As a follow-up to the Feb.7 Candidate Debate and Forum sponsored by the Compass and the Bay View Neighborhood Association, we once again offer a Q & A feature to provide our readers with more information about two candidates who will be on the ballot in the spring election April 3.
We asked the candidates to respond in 100 words or less to each of our six questions.
In the 14th Aldermanic District, Jan Pierce is challenging incumbent Tony Zielinski, who has held the seat since 2004.
14th District City Aldermanic Race
1. What issue is central to your platform?
Zielinski The 14th is one of the only districts in the city to have two multi-million dollar developments within a block of each other: Alterra and Dwell. I spearheaded the creation of the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District that is helping to maximize growth on KK and a tax incremental financing district that catalyzed the $20 million Holt Plaza development. Additionally, hundreds more jobs are being created with funding we secured for urban agriculture companies like Sweet Water Organics. From a manufacturing perspective, my office worked with Bucyrus International to expand its operations into the district creating hundreds of new jobs.
Pierce While advocating for increased transparency and civic engagement is central to my platform, it’s clear that the status of Bay View High School is the most important issue facing this community. The strength of the community is based on the people who live here, and those people are leaving because of the school. For eight years my opponent has been telling parents that it’s not part of his job description. I think it is. My opponent thinks we need more discipline and police. I think we need a high school that meets the educational needs of our children.
2. How do you differentiate yourself from your opponent?
Zielinski My positive campaign is based on specific and proven results. The 14th is the fastest growing district in the city. Besides the specific results mentioned in the first question, there are many other bold and creative initiatives afoot. Shortly, there will be a major piece of public art for a bus shelter on KK and Lincoln. Beyond the district’s boundaries, I proudly sponsored some of the strongest sweat-free legislation in the country, which helps level the playing field for the American worker. Milwaukee was also the first major city in the country to be designated “Fair Trade.”
Pierce I seek to be a public servant, rather than a politician, always putting the community first. I believe that the best ideas, especially in a community such as ours, come from the bottom up. I don’t believe that it’s the alderman’s place to pick and choose which businesses succeed. Instead, I will work to create a climate that supports the efforts of all business owners on a fair and equal basis. I will end the abuse of aldermanic privilege that currently smothers innovation, returning power back to the residents of the community to define the future of our district.
3. Please explain your perspective on the governor and state Legislature’s 2011 action to strip public labor unions of collective bargaining rights. How will this change how you interact with labor unions?
Zielinski I do not support stripping citizens of their right to collectively bargain. History is replete with examples of corporations utilizing their uneven bargaining power to exploit workers for economic gain. With the advent of labor unions the middle class flourished. The economic demise of this country is not due to workers wanting family-supporting wages, but the greed of corporations. Besides the sweat-free legislation I sponsored, I am working on much more far-reaching legislation to level the playing field for American workers.
Pierce Stripping public labor unions of their collective bargaining rights was a mistake. It has turned the lives of many of my neighbors, and other public employees, upside down. The manner in which I interact with labor unions, however, will not change. I have built my career on a solid record of negotiating honestly, respectfully, and in good faith, unlike my opponent, who claims to be a friend of labor but caters to businessmen like union-buster Paul Butera. Now more than ever, labor unions need someone who can help them reach agreements based on integrity and trust.
4. Hypothetical: You have no choice but to cut $10 million out of the city budget. What specific areas would you vote to cut or where do you achieve savings? Explain.
Zielinski We have to continually achieve greater efficiencies in government to get more out of our tax dollars. Another way to help address this issue is by expanding our tax base through economic development. In Bay View, for example, we have two multi-million dollar developments: Alterra and Dwell. These will bring in significantly more tax dollars than the previous structures. Beyond that, I will continue to call on department heads to make cost-saving recommendations to the Common Council. In the end, though, the long-term solution is to bring back wealth to this country by leveling the playing field for American workers.
Pierce Aside from retirement, capital improvements, and debt obligations, 84 percent of the city budget is allocated to personnel costs. Given that information, and the fact that we can’t cut important city services that keep our community clean and safe, it’s hard to imagine avoiding cuts to personnel. If that’s what’s required, I would do it with the full involvement of the departments involved, including those at the staff level. I’ve had numerous discussions with city employees who have ideas on where these cuts should be made. I think someone should invite them to the table for a change.
5. Name one specific environmental issue the Common Council has not sufficiently addressed. Name one specific economic issue the Common Council has not sufficiently addressed. Briefly explain how you would address these two specific issues.
Zielinski We can never have too much renewable energy. To that end, I sponsored a Solar Panel Revolving Loan Fund Resolution that allows people to have solar panels installed on their homes without any money up front. I sponsored legislation that led to Milwaukee government purchasing 100% electric vehicles. Notwithstanding what is happening with the country, Milwaukee must create more jobs. I spearheaded initiatives in the urban agriculture field with Sweet Water Organics and Growing Power resulting in hundreds of jobs being created. We are just scratching the surface regarding the amount of jobs that can be created in this field.
Pierce In 2010, the International Energy Association acknowledged that conventional crude oil supply peaked in 2006. Meanwhile, demand for oil in countries such as China and India is exploding. Steadily rising energy prices will have an extraordinary impact on our lives. The demand for public transportation and coal-generated electricity will increase, as will the burden on our environment. Because proper planning will make an enormous difference in the quality of our life, I would work to assess our greatest vulnerability to spikes in the cost of energy and determine how to make our city more economically and environmentally resilient.
6. What is the alderman’s role in promoting economic development in his district? What are the boundaries to the alderman’s role?
Zielinski The alderman’s role is two-fold: he needs vision and he needs to represent the wishes of his constituents. Ideally, these two are synthesized resulting in bold initiatives that move the district forward. That has happened in the 14th District with unprecedented growth that respects the district’s unique historic ambiance and character. I have worked to preserve precious green space along the lakefront and in our neighborhoods. I have also fought to preserve historic buildings such as the Beulah Brinton House. The constituents have the final say.
Pierce Rather than micro-managing economic development, the alderman should help create a climate that fosters innovation, and should be a conduit to information and services, not a gatekeeper. The alderman should assist all parties who choose to invest in our community, not just a small group of insiders and wealthy developers. I also think it’s vitally important that the alderman is actively engaged in the community, and the lives of the people he serves. Without that connection, it’s impossible to respond efficiently or passionately to the needs of the people in the district.
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