Milwaukee mayoral candidates take part in virtual forum

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee voters had a chance to get to know the seven candidates running for Milwaukee mayor during a virtual forum Monday night, Jan. 31.

Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, former Alderman Bob Donovan, Ieshuh Griffin, Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson, Sheriff Earnell Lucas, Michael Sampson, and State Senator Lena Taylor are on the primary election ballot. 

Organizers said the goal of the forum was for candidates to share their ideas with voters, not debate each other. 

One of the first questions proposed to candidates was what they plan to do to fight back against attacks on Milwaukeeans' ability to cast their votes in elections.

This, after national attention has been on the issue of many state, and even national legislators looking to restrict when, where, and how people can vote. Many candidates stressed their existing track record.

"Bring millions of dollars to Milwaukee to acquire PPE for polling sites and to give election workers here in our city a raise, called on council members to come in near midnight to a meeting to protect the city's early voting site locations that were potentially up for a legal challenge," said Acting Mayor Johnson.

"I authored the 'safe vote' program that was on the election boxes and it used city resources to get absentee information to every Milwaukeean in the city of Milwaukee. What I mean by defense and offense means I commit to you as your mayor, that I will use every opportunity and resource in city government to expand voter turnout," said Ald. Dimitrijevic

"We need to continue to fight for more voting places and easier voting places, and accessible. So we have to make sure every voting spot is accessible for everyone, is accessible for everyone that has a disability, you know, continue education efforts," said Michael Sampson.

Another topic at the top of mind -- public safety and equitable policing, something candidates had a lot to say about.

"We will hold those people accountable, and if they are not doing what it is that we expect of them, we have means of which that they will no longer be working in this profession," said Sheriff Lucas, speaking on his time as sheriff, saying holding bad actors accountable is key.

Ald. Dimitrijevic stressed public health funding and getting the right people for the job.

"I'll appoint people from the community that look and feel like they're from our community, it's transparent and they're accountable to our community," said Ald. Dimitrijevic.

Another big topic was addressing the low-income housing crisis..

State Senator Lena Taylor called for sweat equity programs to address the issue.

"[These would] be able to use that to learn skills and trades, and also how to be a good tenant and thus to move into home ownership," said Sen. Taylor.

Former Alderman Bob Donovan suggested replicating other successful programs.

"Tiny homes that are built for homeless veterans, and they need to be duplicated," said Donovan.

Lead abatement to prevent lead poisoning was another topic candidates weighed in on.

Moderators made note that some Milwaukee ZIP codes have higher rates of lead poisoning than even Flint, Michigan.

Michael Sampson, suggested in the short-term focusing on distributing things like water filters, while working on long-term solutions.

"I don't know how good our system is in finding which houses currently house kids that need to be the major focal point right now," said Sampson.

Acting Mayor Johnson made the point that focusing just on lead laterals isn't a real long-term solution.

"The leaking that happens from interior plumbing in the home, that's where the most lead poisoning occurs," said Acting Mayor Johnson.

The forum ran from 7-8:30 p.m. Monday night via Zoom. 

The Milwaukee mayoral primary will be Feb. 15.

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