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Q&A with Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson (TRANSCRIPT)
Part of our coverage of the race for mayor in Milwaukee. The primary is Feb. 15. If you live in the city, you'd better be voting.
The Recombobulation Area is a weekly opinion column by veteran Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
The City of Milwaukee is going to have an election for mayor. On February 15, we'll have a primary that could prove to be the most competitive mayoral primary in a generation.
Here at The Recombobulation Area, we’re going to be covering that election and getting into the issues. As part of that coverage, we are interviewing the candidates. Paid subscribers will be able to listen to full audio of those interviews and read a full transcript of what each candidate had to say.
This is part of our interview series with the candidates for mayor of Milwaukee. Each candidate was asked the same series of questions on topics including local control, the covid-19 pandemic, segregation and racial disparities, economic development, population growth, immigration, transportation and infrastructure, reckless driving and vehicles thefts, public safety, and education. At the end of each interview, we had a “lightning round” with some more lighthearted, Milwaukee-specific questions.
Free subscribers will be able to read many of these answers in stories in the coming days. Paid subscribers will have access to the full interview as a podcast and as a transcript.
Below is a full transcript of The Recombobulation Area’s interview with Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson. Listen to the interview as a podcast here.
Dan Shafer, The Recombobulation Area: Greetings and welcome to The Recombobulation Area. My name is Dan Shafer. The City of Milwaukee is going to have an election for mayor. In less than a month, on February 15, we'll have a primary that could prove to be the most competitive mayoral primary in a generation. Before we all cast our votes, we're going to be talking to the candidates. There are seven people on the ballot, and it's time for us to get into the issues.
Joining us today is the Acting Mayor of the City of Milwaukee Cavalier Johnson. Thank you so much for being here.
Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson: My absolute pleasure, thanks for having me.
Let's just jump right into it here then. First question, why are you running for mayor?
That's a great question, and one that I'm always eager to answer. I'm running for mayor because I love the city. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, I lived in the most depressed neighborhoods in Milwaukee, including the 53206 zip code, which incarcerates the most African Americans than any zip code not just in Wisconsin, but across the country.
I have a career in service that spans more than 20 years starting off as a teenager in Milwaukee, helping seniors to rake leaves and shovel snow. That experience in service snowballed. It took me literally across the country and around the world. I worked for a time for a nonprofit in New York City. Went to help at-risk young people in London, went to Chile in South America to help refurbish a school for poor kids there. And in my first spring break, in college, I didn't go to a beach in Florida to hang out, I actually went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Then I came back here to Milwaukee to continue serving, and I worked in workforce development, helping young people in our community, including those up at the Lincoln Hills juvenile justice facility, to get into the workforce for the first time with a summer job and helping seniors in our community to retool their resumes to get into the workforce for hopefully the last time. I've had the opportunity now for the past number of years to serve on the city council, becoming the youngest African American elected in 2016, in the city's history. In 2020, I was re-elected and also elected by my peers on city council to serve as Council President, again, becoming the youngest African American, a young millennial to serve in that position. Now I have the opportunity to serve as mayor. So it's really been a grassroots growth from serving on the ground as a volunteer with the YMCA here all the way to the highest position of service in our city.
And my goals as mayor are these: I want to make Milwaukee a safe, a strong, a vibrant, a healthy and a more prosperous city for everybody that lives in our city. And I believe that we can do it.
So one of the biggest issues facing the city and one that I've written a lot about is local control and the city's relationship with the state. The City of Milwaukee is not very far away from being in a very difficult situation with its budget. And that situation is very much tied to the state of Wisconsin, which has shrunk the city's portion of shared revenue and denied options for new revenue sources like a sales tax increase. What would be your big picture strategy for addressing this issue?
Absolutely. One of the big things that I want to focus on as mayor is rebuilding the relationship that the city Milwaukee has with Madison. You're right, we can have all the ideas that we want to in order to generate additional revenue. But unless the state of Wisconsin grants that permission, then the answer is no, we won't be able to do that. You know, it's a shame that Milwaukee's ability to generate revenue is exactly the same as Minoqua or McFarland or Marshfield. We can't sustain a significant population center – that's also the economic center, the center for culture and diversity – if we don't have the ability to generate additional dollars to support local services that we have here. And so I've said from the jump that I'm gonna have a cot in the Capitol working every single day to advocate for Milwaukee, mending those relationships and pushing us forward.
As a matter of fact, just this week, I was in the Capitol, speaking with legislators about just that. So even though the election hasn't happened, I've already started doing that work, rebuilding those relationships. And I think we'll be able to move the ball forward so that we can continue providing the quality services that citizens in Milwaukee both expect and, quite frankly, deserve.
So do you think Milwaukee should raise its sales tax?
I do. When you look at communities across the country, especially large metropolitan urban centers, like Milwaukee is for Wisconsin, they have multiple options to raise revenue, right? Again, we're the population center, the diversity center, the cultural center. People commute here every day from our suburban communities for work, there's a wear and tear on our infrastructure, that is a drag on the services that we provide – police, fire, what have you. And it's only our taxpayers in the City of Milwaukee that pay for that, when everybody else, including not just commuters, but also visitors benefit from that. If we had a sales tax, we wouldn't be leaving money on the table, we'd be able to capture some of those dollars, so that the folks who live in our city aren't the ones who have the brunt of paying for that.
If we had a sales tax, you know, quite frankly, we'd be able to support not only those services, but do something that I'm very interested in doing, which is also to reduce property taxes for the people who live in this city that, again, bear the brunt of paying for all the services that everybody uses, whether you're a visitor – and I want people to visit our city, I want this to be a vibrant, growing dynamic city – and our commuters who again, live in our region, but come into our city and use our services every day. Everybody should chip in. When you go to a restaurant, you leave a tip. Milwaukee wants its tip. Give us our tip.
Another big issue facing the city is of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, hard as it is to believe, we’ll soon be entering the third year of this pandemic in America. How would you evaluate the city's response these past two years? And what would be some of your top priorities going forward?
Now, the City of Milwaukee, like many places around the country and around the world, dealt with this in the best way that they could. It's a once-in-a-century pandemic. It's not something that comes around very often. And the city has been nimble, and under my leadership as mayor will continue to be nimble in addressing COVID.
Initially, when there were no vaccines, we encouraged people to wear masks. There was a citywide mask mandate. And unfortunately, businesses in our city were the ones that were on the front lines that bore the brunt of that. Now, things are different. Now we have vaccines, they're widely available, they're available for free. My administration, working in conjunction with Governor Tony Evers’ administration, provided over one million high quality N95 masks that were distributed to people in the city. We also distributed over 100,000 masks, same quality, to Milwaukee Public Schools. We also distributed over 100,000 masks of a similar quality to other school choices in Milwaukee as well. So we're taking all the tools that we have at our disposal to make sure that we're able to address what's going on with COVID.
But I'm saying this every time that I go out every chance that I get, including here, I'll take the liberty to do it is that the way out of COVID is not through masking. Masks are great. But we need people to get vaccinated. The vaccination rate in Milwaukee is far too low. And that needs to change. I say that everywhere that I go, and I'll continue saying that. This is a disease that has mutated, that has morphed, that has changed. And it's put a tremendous strain and burden on our medical community. It's put a tremendous burden on hospitalization. We can stop that, or at least significantly reduce it, if we get more people vaccinated so that their symptoms would be mild, where they get COVID, like I did earlier this year, and keep them out of hospitals, so that folks who really need this service have beds that they can go to, to be served by folks in our medical professions and in Milwaukee. So we'll continue to be nimble on COVID under my leadership as Mayor, working directly with the Health Department working directly with that the experts on COVID-19 to address this in a way that is fair, that is equitable in a way that moves us forward so we can get out of the pandemic.
The pandemic isn't the only crisis the city has faced in recent years. Milwaukee declared racism to be a public health crisis in 2019. This is a city that's often referred to as the nation's most segregated and continues to see some of the worst racial disparities in the country on economic inequality, education, mass incarceration, on housing, the list goes on.
What have you done in your current role to make a positive impact on these issues? And what would you do as mayor to address segregation and address the disparities that we continue to see?
Yeah, that's a great question. And a number of things. I think at the root of many of those things is access to family-supporting work. You look back years and years ago in Milwaukee, we once upon a time were the city that had the number one quality of life in the United States for African Americans, when there were plentiful jobs that were family-supporting that were available for folks to be able to walk to or perhaps ride a bike to or to catch a bus to that were in their neighborhoods. Those jobs provide opportunities for individuals, for families and neighborhoods to be stable to address the very issues that you're talking about, the list that Milwaukee, unfortunately, is at the top of. And after those jobs dried up, they went to “right-to-work” states in the South or they went overseas for cheap labor. They left those neighborhoods and the people who live there in the lurch, mired in poverty, which begets, of course, violence.
And I know this firsthand, because I grew up in the most depressed neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee. I grew up in 53206, accustomed to having seen violence firsthand, and I come from neighborhoods where again, half of the young men, by the time they reach my age, would have spent some time behind bars. I've even had instances in my life where one of my older brothers, who is a warden in Wisconsin State Prison, had another brother (of mine) as a prisoner as his ward in the same facility. So I know these issues firsthand. And so I did support the initiative around making Milwaukee recognize racism as a public health issue.
We've gone further than just declaring the public health issue, we are trying to address the issue internally with our staff at the city. If we're going to provide services to the people who live in the city of Milwaukee, we need to make sure that the people who work for the city of Milwaukee understand the issues that the people who live in our city go through every single day. And so every employee of the city of Milwaukee has had to go through racial equity training. We partner with the YWCA in order to make that happen. We'll continue to do things like that.
But as mayor, again, I think it's critically important that we address the issues at the root. And we have to build a foundation for our communities, not just to survive, but to thrive on. I believe this. A former mayor once said that you can't build a city on pity. I believe that wholeheartedly. I think you need a strong foundation in both education and employment in which to build strong neighborhoods and strong cities. If you do that, especially in the neighborhoods that I grew up in, it'll make those neighborhoods stronger, which will make the city of Milwaukee stronger overall.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the protests in 2020, in particular, made a really big impact on this city. How do you see that movement continuing to impact policies and conversations in the city going forward?
Yeah, that's a great question as well. And it certainly did. After that it happened, while it was happening, it had the ear of the government, including the ear of City Hall, including my ear. Especially as a young Black man who grew up in Milwaukee, too, I was pained, I was hurt by what had happened in Minneapolis and permeated across the entire country, including here on the streets in the city of Milwaukee.
So what I did after that incident was put forward some policies that have been adopted by the Fire and Police Commission that helped to reform the Milwaukee Police Department. So we adopted this national set of standards called “8 Can’t Wait,” these policies that, when implemented, reduces the likelihood that individuals when they come into contact with law enforcement would be likely to die. We support other policies to make sure that if individuals say that they can't breathe that they get the medical attention that they deserve. So I’ve supported other policies, and led them to their policies to make sure that when police officers pull their gun that there's reporting that happens on that. So, I think the Black Lives Matter movement was tremendously impactful to the city, and I think will continue to be impactful to the city because it showed that even in a city like Milwaukee, where there has been a where there has been a history of segregation, and there have been a history of discrimination, and there have been a history of racial issues, including in policing, that we're able to actually move the ball forward in a way that protects all the citizens who live in our city, including those people are the least of these, the Black people, the brown people who live in Milwaukee. So it had an incredible impact in 2020, and continues to have an incredible impact even now.
So, switching gears a little bit here, I want to talk a bit about the mayor's role in economic development in the city. Mayor Barrett often used TIF districts for big projects. The city uses grants for various projects around the city and obviously many different approaches we've seen over the years.
But when you look at the big picture for development, do you want the city to be more proactive about what's going to happen or do you or do you prefer more of a hands off approach, letting businesses or developers make those decisions?
I want to be proactive. I want to bring vitality to Milwaukee. I'm a person that believes in cities. I didn't just go and volunteer in the places that I mentioned before, I lived in them, I experienced them. When we talk about New York, and London and had the time to go to Paris even, and in New Orleans, and having family in Chicago, in Santiago, Chile, across the country, and around the world. I believe in the power of cities. They're not supposed to be places that you just get in a car and drive through to get from one suburb to another. You're supposed to experience cities, and in experiencing cities, you need that sort of vibrancy. And you get that by having places where people gather, where commerce is done. You get that when you have growth and development. And that's exactly the sort of vision that I have for the city of Milwaukee to lead into the future. I want this to be a city, not just of 500,000 people or 577,000 people or even 600,000 people, I want this to be a city of a million people, or more. That's exactly what we should be working towards.
And I think that the mayor has a keen responsibility of making that happen by bringing in, drawing in that sort of vitality. By bringing in, drawing in businesses that are going to help us to get there. I want us to be a city that, when businesses want to invest here, we say that we find a way to get to “yes.” I want to find a way to get to “yes.” So that we can have that sort of development. That's exactly what we did, even in these troubled developments that were before the city recently. Talk about The Couture, it's going to be a skyline-defining project that is going to rise 44 stories high, the tallest building in Wisconsin with transit connectivity at the bottom with the streetcar and Bublr Bikes, as well as the East-West BRT. It's going to obviously have a lot of people that live there, and is also going to employ people who live in the city of Milwaukee – a million construction hours. 40% of which, 400,000 of those hours, will go to people who live in the neighborhoods that I grew up in, the 53206 (zip code).
So, those are the sort of things that we should be bringing forward. Milwaukee Tool recently, right? They're gonna be bringing up to 2,000 family-supporting jobs right to the heart of the city. Those are the things that we should be fighting to bring to Milwaukee. And I'm proud that, not just in this role, but even in my previous role as Council President, I worked to bring those projects from their deathbed across the finish line. And now those things are happening. I want to do that not just downtown, but across the city.
So what's one development project in the city that would be on the top of your to do list?
Well, I mean, there are a number. I tell developers all the time, quite frankly, that because I represented an aldermanic district before becoming mayor that is farther out from the more affluent, more prosperous neighborhoods – Bay View, Walker's Point, Downtown, East Side – when you go farther out into the city farther north and farther west, there's a lot of opportunities that are left on the table. And so I tell developers constantly, hey, you're leaving opportunities here, you need to branch out, you need to get farther outside of the urban core, farther outside of those prosperous neighborhoods, and into the neighborhoods that have been challenged. Not just to provide jobs, but to provide that same sort of vitality and energy that we're talking about.
So throughout the aldermanic districts that I represented, I certainly would love to see some activity happen. I would love to see more urban plazas happen across the city of Milwaukee. I would love to have actual protected bike lanes, not just bike lanes that are paint on the street, because obviously cars can drive over paint, but they have a harder time doing that over concrete or over a curb that's there. So I want to have that throughout the city of Milwaukee.
And one of the things I think that I would really love to see in Milwaukee and I'll be fighting for is the spur between the Hoan Bridge and Marquette University and tearing that down, opening all that space up for development downtown. Because you have, I believe, in the city the same sort of, or perhaps even greater development there, than we had on the north end of downtown where Fiserv Forum currently stands and the Deer District is currently being built out.
You gotta think big. You gotta think bold about transforming the city. I'm going to be the candidate in this race who is the proud urbanist. And I bring, again, my experiences from traveling across the country and around the world. In a scene that when you have great access to public transportation – like fixed rail, like protected bike lanes and the like – it encourages development to happen. And if development happens closer to home, then it provides job opportunities for the people who live nearby. And if folks don't have to get to a car, then they're not going to suburban malls, they’re spending their dollars closer to home, which then provides additional opportunities for folks who live in the inner city in inner neighborhoods. That's the sort of direction that the mayor of Milwaukee needs to have. That's what I have. That's what I'll be bringing forward continuing to serve as mayor.
The 2020 Census results showed that Milwaukee has not been growing from a population standpoint, do you see that lack of growth as a problem? And what are some of the ways you think the city can reverse that trend?
I do see it as a problem. Again, I want Milwaukee to be a city of a million people. And know that, you know, in my interactions on Twitter, I've seen that. I love it. And I want that to happen. I want to get to a city, again, that has a growing population, not one that is shrinking. But I'll tell you this, like in order for us to get there, we're going to have to make investments on the front end, just with development, but in our people. We need to make sure that we have a safe city, we have a city that is healthy, have a city that is prosperous for all. That's how we'll be able to get there. My younger sister currently lives in Texas. She lives in Dallas, and she's one of these young, educated millennials that moved away. And I've been on record of saying before that Milwaukee's greatest export is young, educated millennials, particularly young, educated Millennials of color, they go to Atlanta, they go to Houston, or Dallas, they go to Washington DC. I would love to have a great migration, a great homecoming of us folks back here. And one of the things I did to address this issue is work to put together a plan with millennial leaders currently on the ground here in Milwaukee, saying what can we do to better attract and retain our millennial talent? So they came up with recommendations, this Millennial Task Force that I created, and I think it's a blueprint to help us to draw those folks back and to not lose that talent so that we can grow our population. It's not a blueprint or recommendations, I think, just for city government, I think it's it's something that everybody can use, whether you're in government at the city, whether you're in government at the county, whether you're in government at the state that has operations here in the city, for nonprofits that operate here in the city, for the public school district here in the city, also for private sector businesses that want to attract and retain talent here as well. Those are the things we should be doing to bring that talent here, retain the folks that we have in growing our population in Milwaukee. A million people.
So one of the areas where the population did see growth over the past decade was in Hispanic communities and also Asian communities in the city. Where do you see the mayor having a role on an issue like immigration?
I think you're absolutely right. You know, the folks that have immigrated to not just the United States, but to our city add a ton of vibrancy and culture to Milwaukee. And to me, a mayor needs to be welcoming to these other groups that are coming to add those things to our city. That's why when the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, and you had all these Afghan refugees that were resettling across the country, many of them, their first stop was here in Wisconsin, I led, I was the first elected official to put out a statement saying, hey, we want you here, come to Milwaukee, and we have a home for you right here in our city. That's the sort of thing that a mayor needs to say, because we should recognize that diversity is our strength. And if we draw on more people who are coming here, we'll have not just a growing population, but a stronger city overall.
Another issue that I've written a lot about is transportation and infrastructure. I wrote a long series on the proposed expansion and widening of I-94. And in particular, wrote about the possibility of tearing down the Stadium Freeway, Highway 175 on the west side of the city, and converting it to a boulevard. State officials did not rule that out as a possibility down the line. So what are your thoughts on the future of the stadium freeway? Do you think it should be torn down?
I'm with you. We know, especially being, again, an African American member of our community that grew up in the most depressed neighborhood, you hear stories all the time about how prosperous and growing the old Bronzeville neighborhood was. We're trying to get back to that now, but we did once have it, and it was torn apart, because there was a freeway that was built right through the middle of Milwaukee. And so the more you're able to tear down those walls, you're able to bring people back together and recreate this sort of vibrancy. And so creating a boulevard there I think helps with just that. Reconnecting those neighborhoods with Washington Park that’s right across from that spur. There's a lot of things I think that we can do with respect to changing our infrastructure and making our communities whole again.
And then what are your thoughts on the I-94 expansion project more broadly?
My concern is this. As I said, I am the urbanist mayor. I want to see a ballooning population in the city, I want a million people in the city of Milwaukee. Or more. And I think we have the capacity to do it, we were on our way to doing it years ago. If we change the way that we approach some of the things that we do in the city, I think that we could be there again. I want to see that sort of vitality.
I know this as well, that if we expand the freeway, after a number of years, we're going to end up in the same position. Expansion begets more car use. So you can expand it, and then ten or perhaps 20 years later, if we're growing our population – not just in the city, like I want to do, but in the region in the state, which I think our objectives and goals of government and the communities that these folks call home – you're going to end up right back in the same situation. I don't want that to happen. What we really need to do is change the way that people get in and out of the city. So, we should be investing more in public transportation. There's a fixed rail system downtown, the streetcar, we should be seeing about making greater access to fixed rail transit to connect folks who are commuters who come into the city walking every day that way, so that you get more cars off the road, reducing vehicle emissions, and helping with our climate change issues overall. That I think is the best way to go about it, not expanding a freeway that that in time is going to have us in the same situation that we're in right now. And then after we expand it to as many lanes as we’re talking about, they'll be talking about expanding it even more. That's unsustainable, there's not enough land, you're gonna be eating up the cemetery, and then the neighborhoods if we keep on doing that.
So something else that's come up over and over again, in Milwaukee – and you've been vocal on this issue – is safe streets, reckless driving, and vehicle thefts. You've laid out a plan for this, but maybe you could walk us through what your strategy to address these issues would be. And how does that strategy differ from what some of the other candidates running for mayor have been saying?
Well, quite frankly, I haven't even heard of any concrete plans of the other candidates for mayor to address the issue of reckless driving. And we laid out a very comprehensive one called STAND. Stand is an acronym. The S is for safe street design, which I think is critically important. Again, taking away some of the tools that reckless drivers have, whether it's narrowing lanes down to slow down the traffic, having actual protected bike lanes as a barrier. And then also using things like curb extensions and bus bulbs in order to use a public transit system to help to slow down traffic as well. The T is for traffic enforcement. Because that's a key too. We oftentimes, or many people think that police cannot be a part of the solution, but I think that they are. There are going to be individuals that unfortunately choose to break the law and endanger not just themselves, but the greater public safety and those folks need to be caught, right? That's important for us to do. In catching them, there needs to be accountability for individuals who do break that law. Because again, they're endangering not just themselves, but the greater public safety. It's important that they're held to account. You can't have a society of people make their own rules and then nobody's held accountable when they break society's laws.
When you get to the end, it's about neighborhood engagement. And that's exactly what we've done with this plan is incorporate the desire of neighbors to bring in a Vision Zero concept to Milwaukee. And then lastly, the D is about demanding progress. When you see some of the most egregious reckless driving incidents or accidents even they happen on streets that are actually the jurisdiction of the state of Wisconsin Department of Transportation, these state highways that bisect our city like Capitol Drive or Appleton Avenue or Fond du Lac Avenue or National Avenue and the like. So we need to work with our partners of the state and demand that they understand that when these state highways cut through Milwaukee, it's not the same as if they're cutting through Waukesha County, wide open fields. These are densely populated urban areas and neighborhoods and they can't operate the same way here as they do there. So that's essentially what the plan does. We'll be working to implement that. That plan as we move forward here.
So a new poll has ranked public safety as the top issue in this race. Recently, Milwaukee has been experiencing significant increases in violent crime. After decline in the latter part of the last decade in the 2010s, the homicide rate has gone up again these past couple years with record high numbers in 2020 and 2021. But along with the new mayor, Milwaukee also has a new police chief, Jeffrey Norman, and several new members of the Fire and Police Commission. So with that new leadership in place, what can the city do differently to combat violent crime?
I think many of these things, again, fall back to the root cause issue. And that's the poverty that we see. And how do you address the poverty is you make sure that citizens in the city have access to true family-supporting jobs. I know that, you know, folks will look at the economic forecast and say, you know, unemployment is at whatever rate that it is, but if individuals in our city are having to work two and three jobs in order to make ends meet, that's not sustainable. Those parents aren't able to adequately keep an eye on their kids. And so when people have access to family-supporting work, family-supporting jobs, and jobs with benefits, too, they're put in a position where they're able to have stability in their lives. And when they have stability in their lives, it leads to stability in their kids' lives. And then the actions of their kids are different when they go into the street and into the schools. That stability with family support, and work allows them to own their own home. And when you get so many people to own their own home in neighborhoods, those neighborhoods then begin to gel. They're places where people have pride and dignity. And when you have that, that's how you have true public safety. So to me, it's not going to be a one size fits all approach. Public safety has many prongs. It's got to be the police. It's got to be violence prevention. It's got to be education. It's also has to be working to make sure that individuals in our city have access to mental health services when they need it. And it's also going to be making sure that individuals who live in the city of Milwaukee have access to family-supporting work so we can address these things at their root. That's exactly what I'll be doing as mayor.
So one question on education, with the way government is structured in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, the mayor doesn't necessarily play as direct a role as some other elected officials on education. But it is another issue that has been top of mind for many as of late, especially with many schools in the city having to go to virtual, teachers and schools constantly having to adjust. What role do you think the mayor of Milwaukee should have when it comes to education?
And my view was this: There's a democratically elected School Board that controls the daily functions of Milwaukee Public Schools, at least. But it's not just walking public schools here. There are other school jurisdictions in the city of Milwaukee, as well. As mayor, I have a responsibility to make sure that all kids in the city are set up for success. That includes not just my own children – my son attends Milwaukee Public Schools and later this year, when my daughters turn four, they too will attend Milwaukee Public Schools – but I know that there are other families that have chosen other schools to send their kids to. As mayor, I've got to have a broad view and make sure that we take care of all kids, because if we don't make investments on the front end of kids’ lives, then we're going to pay for it on the back end. We're going to pay for it in the policing system, we're gonna pay for it in the judicial system, we're gonna end up paying for it in the carceral system. And that's not what I want to see. That's not what anyone walk into want to see, we should want to see our kids become contributing, productive members of society. And so as mayor, this is what I'll do: I will work to make sure that before a kid even enters a classroom that we take on those issues where a mayor has accountability. So for instance, if a kid is hungry before they enter into a classroom, that's something that a mayor can be effective on. If a kid has trauma in their lives because they live in the same sort of depressed neighborhoods like I lived in growing up, that's something that a mayor can do something about. If a kid is trying to enter into a classroom to learn, but unfortunately, there's instability in their lives, they're moving around a lot because their parents don’t have access to family-supporting support work, like mine did. That's something that a mayor can do something about. And those are the things that I'll be focused on making sure that kids are well prepared before they even enter into a classroom.
Reflecting on your career so far in public service, what's one accomplishment that you are especially proud of?
Do I have to just stop at one?
(laughs) Just asking for one.
Well, on the topic of education I will say that I was very proud to work with my peers, including Alderman Ashanti Hamilton on this Early Education Task Force, which then beget the Office of Early Childhood Initiatives here in Milwaukee. Now I can tell you, as a young father, with an 11-year-old son, and twin daughters who are three years old, early education is so key, it's so important. The growth in brain development in our kids from the ages of zero but especially from zero to three, is critically important to their growth. And we focus in at that office, working to make sure that parents have greater access, and they know the importance of that, that they should sing, play, read to their kids so that they're better prepared when they enter kindergarten. We do that at home every day with our kids, with Madison and Bella, who are young, and they're ready. When September gets here, they're going to be ready to go to school. And again, I'm going to be looking at root cause issues about how to move this city forward. And I can tell you that if we're seeing these results at home with my own kids, then I think that we can do the same for kids across our entire city. If we do that, we'll be positioning Milwaukee to be in the best place for those kids to achieve academically and if those kids are achieving well academically it's going to it's going to encourage you're going to draw additional business investment, it’s going to help to have the city to grow into flourish into the city of a million people just like we're just like we've been talking about.
Alright, so before I let you go here, we've got a little bit of a lightning round. We have some more fun Milwaukee-specific questions, so quick questions for you.
So, Milwaukee is a frozen custard town. What’s your favorite, Kopp’s, Leon’s or Gilles?
State Fair or Summerfest?
At a Brewers game, what is your pick to win the sausage race?
What is your favorite park in the city?
Lake Park, where I proposed to my wife.
What is your favorite local coffee place?
I don't really drink coffee.
What's your favorite local beer?
I like Miller. I like Miller High Life
What's your favorite place to see a concert in Milwaukee?
I like Summerfest.
Last one here. Gotta end on the highest note possible. Where were you when the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Finals?
I was sitting on the couch cheering from home!
I know you were at the parade. But you do get a chance to celebrate it all that week?
Yeah! I mean, you know, I was at home with the kids. But there was a lot of celebration at home. We were geeked! We were so excited. It was me and my wife. We stayed up, you know, super late watching it. Had a whole lot of fun doing it.
Well, again, thank you very much for making some time for us here at The Recombobulation Area. And best of luck in this sprint to the primary you've got here.
Thank you, Dan. appreciate having the opportunity.
Dan Shafer is a journalist from Milwaukee who writes and publishes The Recombobulation Area. He previously worked at Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine, and BizTimes Milwaukee. He’s also written for The Daily Beast, WisPolitics, and Milwaukee Record. He’s on Twitter at @DanRShafer.
Follow Dan Shafer on Twitter at @DanRShafer.