Endorsements for Milwaukee races on April 3 ballot

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(1 vote, average 1.00 out of 5)

Zielinski has earned another term as 14th Ward alderman

Ald. Tony Zielinski has earned a third term representing the 14th District, which includes the heavily gay neighborhood of Bay View. His record of achievement in the district is one that other aldermen in Milwaukee can only hope to emulate.

Zielinski’s district is one of the most thriving in the city, with two multi-million dollar developments currently underway within a block of each other. He has an impressive list of developments that he’s either coordinated or facilitated in the district, as well as a long list of endorsements from a range of local businesses, organizations and civic leaders.

Challenger Jan Pierce, an attorney, says the district is thriving despite and not because of Zielinski. But he can offer no evidence to support that claim. He also accuses Zielinski of an authoritarian style of leadership that fails to take public input into account.

But whatever Zielinski’s style might be, it’s working for the overall benefit of his district’s residents. In fact, we believe that he’s demonstrated creative vision and bold leadership in his job, along with an undisputable commitment to his constituents.

It’s not surprising that the alderman has ruffled some feathers, including Pierce’s, in the course of performing his duties. It’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time, particularly when handing out liquor licenses and zoning variances.

Pierce also challenges Zielinski’s authenticity as a true progressive, pointing to statements the alderman made decades ago. But Zielinski has certainly acted as a progressive in recent years. He spearheaded resolutions to make Milwaukee the first major U.S. city to become a “Fair Trade” city and to prohibit the city from purchasing items manufactured in sweatshops. He’s embraced urban agricultural projects and promoted green energy projects.

Zielinski has also been a dependable equality supporter who’s earned the endorsements of gay leaders and groups.

Pierce has waged an aggressive but unnecessarily negative campaign. He’s a bright and earnest man with an obvious passion for his neighborhood and for public service. He has some an impressive depth of knowledge about the machinations of local government and a commitment to fair play. When focused on the positive, his rhetoric is impressive.

But when aimed at his opponent, Pierce’s rhetoric dissolves into an obsessive, personal rant that undermines the qualities he has going for him.

Dimitrijevic for County Board, Fourth District

Since becoming the youngest woman ever elected to public office in Milwaukee County eight years ago, Marina Dimitrijevic has developed a reputation for hard work and effective leadership that extends well beyond the Fourth District’s boundaries. Readers of the Shepherd Express have named Dimitrijevic “best county supervisor” three years in a row, and she has emerged as a leading contender to serve as the board’s next chair.

In fact, Dimitrijevic has been a model of responsible civic leadership. She’s held 140 listening sessions with her constituents, energetically supported the major neighborhood groups in her district and authored legislation to make the county more energy efficient. By creating the County Legislative Information Center or CLIC, which provides online access to board meetings, she’s made county government more transparent.

Dimitrijevic is an enthusiastic equality supporter. She led the successful effort to extend employment benefits to the same-sex partners of county workers, and she’s a frequent and welcome guest at LGBT community events. Equality Wisconsin and Fair Wisconsin have both recognized Dimitrijevic for her outstanding leadership.

So it’s ironic that Bill Buresh, an out gay man, is challenging Dimitrijevic. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund has endorsed Buresh in this race.

A political newcomer, Buresh presents a conservative alternative to the incumbent, espousing the “smaller government” line of thinking. Like Dimitrijevic, Buresh was an early achiever. He bought his first apartment building at age 26 and now owns a successful car wash business in Bay View. He’s genuine, hard-working and likable.

But Buresh’s campaign has failed to catch fire. He should have done more homework on the issues before taking on Dimitrijevic.

At a Feb. 7 debate held at Humboldt Park School, her command of the facts and her compelling and detailed defense of her record left no doubt as to which candidate can best serve the residents of the county’s Fourth District. (Video of the debate is available on YouTube.) In addition, her political philosophy, her bi-cultural family and her fluency in Spanish are a fit for the district’s demographics.

The belief that well-intentioned citizens can parlay their success in the private sector into achievement in the public realm is questionable at best. For all the current prattle to the contrary, government is about much more than budgets. Local officials are required to work within a very intricate bureaucracy and an often-hobbling framework of laws in order to serve the varied needs of their constituents.

Dimitrijevic possesses an impressive depth of knowledge in this area as well as the requisite skills to navigate the system effectively. Rather than branding committed government workers like her as “career politicians,” we should be grateful for their expertise.

Tim Carpenter for Milwaukee Treasurer

The treasurer’s office oversees primarily administrative functions, such as collecting property taxes and revenue from parking tickets. Many advocates for better government want to eliminate elected treasurers, because they believe comptrollers and other government offices could handle the related duties more efficiently – at both the local and state levels.

Eliminating the Milwaukee Treasurer would save taxpayers more than $140,000 in salary plus many additional thousands in benefits.

In an unusual move, openly gay state Sen. Tim Carpenter says he’s running for Milwaukee Treasurer with the ultimate goal of getting rid of the office by delegating its functions to other entities. He contends that with the current stalemate in Madison and the shift of political focus in the state to upcoming recall races, he can coordinate the dismantling of the office without having to resign his Senate seat.

Carpenter has also promised to reduce the treasurer’s salary by 20 percent and to work to complete the elimination of the office before the next four-year term expires.

With more than two decades of distinguished service in both the Assembly and the Senate, Carpenter, says he has the experience to undertake such an enterprise. In addition to his government experience, Carpenter has a master’s in public policy and administration from the University of Wisconsin Madison’s La Follette School.

If elected treasurer, Carpenter would become the first out gay person to win citywide office in Milwaukee. The time is long overdue to break that glass ceiling.

We agree with him that the office is an unnecessary relic from an era preceding electronic financial transactions and other technological improvements. In endorsing him, we take Carpenter at his word that he will work on an accelerated timetable to shut down the costly treasurer’s office, which will help to streamline city government and make it more cost-efficient.

We also take Carpenter at his word that he can accomplish this goal without any loss of service to his senate constituents. But his bid to hold two offices presents a challenge for him.

Carpenter’s opponent, state Sen. Spencer Coggs, is also a respected veteran legislator with a track record of leadership in supporting LGBT civil rights. Our endorsement of Carpenter and his plan for the treasurer’s office should in no way be seen as a slight to Coggs’ record or a lack of gratitude for his considerable efforts to further equality in Wisconsin.