State Rep. Mandela Barnes is a rising star in Wisconsin progressive politics. One of the “young guns” first elected in 2012 — a group that includes Reps. Jonathan Brostoff, Danny Reimer and Evan Goyke — he’s exactly the kind of committed, articulate and polished leader that Milwaukeeans so badly need representing them in Madison. He’s a persuasive advocate for Milwaukee public schools, and a proven fighter against poverty, homelessness and crime.
On Aug. 9, Barnes wants residents of the 4th Senate District to choose him and oust longtime Sen. Lena Taylor.
We enthusiastically support his campaign.
Taylor has a troubled, sometimes reckless persona that has hindered her effectiveness as a legislator. She’s cast some votes that are clearly in opposition to the best interests of her constituents.
For instance, Taylor voted against a cap on the usurious interest rates charged by so-called “pay day” lenders, who prey mostly on poor people. She supported a Republican-backed measure to increase per-pupil funding for charter schools, taking money away from MPS and giving it to private schools.
Taylor also voted for concealed carry and the “castle doctrine,” which offers wide latitude for residents to shoot and kill people they believe to be home intruders.
Barnes, on the other hand, is a fierce supporter of gun control.
Barnes is a creative, solutions-driven lawmaker. Last year, he and state Sen. Chris Larson introduced a plan to “transform what we commonly think of a school to be more of a central part of the community,” he told WiG. The plan would use schools as centers that can play a variety of roles and offer a variety of services to their surrounding communities. It utilizes schools in “a more holistic way,” he said.
MPS students in impoverished areas face crushing odds, Barnes said.
“One out of 19 MPS students is homeless,” he told us. “That’s slightly over 5 percent of the school population that’s at an immediate and considerable disadvantage.”
While schools in advantaged neighborhoods (those with a high property-tax base) have school nurses and psychologists, as well as athletic and arts programs, MPS schools in poor areas lack such resources. Barnes wants schools to become centers that offer not only those services but also enrichment programs that would put poor MPS students on a level playing field.
Immersed in violence, food and lodging insecurity, and unemployment, many MPS students don’t have much of a chance, Barnes said. “When students have to go home every night and hear gunshots, how are they supposed to concentrate on their homework?”
For a candidate challenging an entrenched Democratic incumbent — Taylor has served in the Assembly since 2003 — Barnes has racked up an impressive list of endorsements from progressive groups, including American Federation of Teachers Local 212, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, Service Employees International Union Local 1 Wisconsin, United Automobile Workers Southeastern Wisconsin Area CAP Council, Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, Wisconsin Jobs Now and Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.
WiG urges the residents of the 4th District — from the suburbs of Shorewood, Glendale and Wauwatosa to the blighted neighborhoods of the Northwest Side — to support Barnes. He not only fully understands the problems that metro Milwaukee faces, but also has demonstrated the leadership skills needed to develop and champion solutions.
Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin need him — and more men and women like him — in Madison.
For more, go to www.mandelabarnes.com.