Mayoral race opens with 15 candidates

Fifteen candidates are running for Milwaukee mayor in the 2004 election, according to papers filed with the Milwaukee elections commission.

Of all the topics in debate, taxes and the decline of industry in Milwaukee appear to be the biggest issues in the race.

Ramon M. Paull Jr. wants to freeze — but ideally lower — taxes and cut salaries of city workers.

The continual increase of assessed home values, leading to higher property taxes and fees, are the way politicians are really raising taxes, according to candidate John Pitta. He said he does not want to raise taxes and wants to re-assess fees.

Pitta said the current system of fees “hurts the most economically disadvantaged people.” The fee for “snow and ice removal is charged on how many feet of curb space you have. The people who can least afford it are paying disproportionally.”

Pitta suggests reviewing fees and making them “fair and equitable.”

William Teague Jr. wants to raise property taxes for luxury houses and condominiums in order to lower middle-class property taxes. He also said big businesses should pay a little more in taxes each year, putting the money in a trust fund to be used for city development.

A recent loss of industry in Milwaukee is another problem in the eyes of some candidates.

The city “looks like a dump and no one gives a damn about it anymore,” Paull said. He wants to bring industry back to Milwaukee by getting “a committee together, and talking to the industries that left and find out how to bring them back.”

Pitta described the mayor’s job as being the city’s best salesperson, going to cities around the country to sell Milwaukee to different industries.

Ken “Wildcard” Kraucunas said he wanted to “create positive images that major companies would like to be a part of, to create new employment opportunities and lessen tax burdens.”

A lack of efficiency is a serious problem in Milwaukee, according to candidate Vincent Bobot. Bobot wants to train civilians, similarly to how crossing guards are trained, to direct traffic during special events.

Bobot said many police officers are being taken off the street to control the flow of traffic during special events in the city. He suggests having civilians work traffic duty in those cases because they can be paid less and will not receive benefits. He would also like to see civilians control traffic in construction areas.

Department of Public Works employees are being paid high wages and receiving benefits, but some of them are controlling traffic, Bobot said. According to Bobot and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 80 percent of the city’s budget is for salaries, including benefits and pensions.

“Imagine if you take that 80 percent, and make it 70 percent,” Bobot said. “Ten percent of the city budget is $100 million.”

Pitta has a similar idea to save money. He wants to extend the number of days between garbage collections. “The recycling program eliminates garbage,” he said. “So, instead of having garbage collected every seven days, go to eight days.”

Pitta said the one-day extension would not result in an overflow of garbage in the cans, but would “reduce costs by 20 percent.”

Candidates are also faced with the purposed closing of the Villard Avenue library. Several candidates did not support the closing.

“The state of Wisconsin has the highest ACT rate in the country,” Bobot said. “However, there is a problem with education in Milwaukee. Why close that library? Education is the key to success.”

A few candidates mentioned the sexual harassment and discrimination suit brought against Mayor John O. Norquist in 2002. Kraucunas, in particular, stressed freeing the mayor’s office and City Hall from “scandal.”