The campaign for the open Milwaukee County Executive seat is just beginning to heat up.
Five candidates are vying for the seat – current acting County Executive Lee Holloway, philanthropist (andVital Media Group, LLC partner) Chris Abele, State Rep. Jeff Stone, former State Senator Jim Sullivan and community activist Ieshuh Griffin.
In the coming weeks, ThirdCoast Digest will talk with each of the candidates about their plans to get our fair county back on track. This week, I spoke with candidate Ieshuh Griffin, who made national headlines last year when she ran for retiring State Rep. Annette “Polly” Williams’ seat as an independent.
In that race, Griffin wanted to exercise the right to describe her political position as “NOT the White Man’s B**ch” on the ballot. However, the Wisconsin Election Commission and an appellate court ruled against the phrase on the grounds that its language was obscene.
But the community activist is not deterred. In addition to running for County Executive, she is also seeking the vacant 10th County Supervisory seat, left empty when Elizabeth Coggs won election to the assembly in Madison. Today we focus five questions on Griffin’s quest to be the first female, African-American County Executive in the state.
Milwaukee County is facing a massive budget hole and fiscal crisis. What is your fiscal plan for Milwaukee County?
If elected County Executive, Griffin promises to examine the concrete amount of Milwaukee County’s actual fiscal capacity, according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
She would look at the fiscal policies implemented in the county’s history, focusing on those that promote progress while reviewing those that have contributed to the county’s current fiscal failures.
“There needs to be a thorough analysis of the symptoms and the root of the current fiscal crisis in order that the same mistakes are not repeated in implementing a sound and secure fiscal policy within my administration,” Griffin said. “My fiscal plan would have a special emphasis on the influence of macroeconomic productivity levels by decreasing tax levels and restoring [or] increasing public services, creating jobs and increasing employment.
“As it relates to spending cuts and tax policy, if elected I would exercise coordinated fiscal discipline. The fiscal restraint would include tax decreases, spending cuts on non-core programs as well as adjusting production to the needs of the communities within Milwaukee County.”
Milwaukee County’s mental health system has been exposed for weaknesses and mismanagement. What is your plan to care for the mentally ill?
Griffin would like to install cameras to monitor staff actions and performances, conduct an in-depth review of the records kept relating to the mental health care facility and its actions, and recruit female psychiatrists to the program. She would institute regular performance reviews of the staff in addition to unannounced inspections.
“I plan to have a thorough internal review, including personally speaking with every patient admitted [to] the county facilities.”
It’s been suggested to disband county government or trim its reach. What is your opinion of the role of county government?
“County governments exist as creations of the State of Wisconsin. Milwaukee County government has acted in excess of the powers assigned to it.”
“If the Milwaukee county government is eliminated, the county’s pension and health care expenditures, also known as legacy costs, would have to be distributed to the governments that take over county functions. If the legacy costs are not distributed, approximately $81 million annually would be the county taxpayers’ burden.”
“Furthermore, about $5 million in annual debt service costs would remain for capital assets that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to transfer to alternative governments. I personally believe there has to be a strong, bold and vigilant reconstruction of the county government and its operations.”
Why should the citizens of Milwaukee County vote for you? How are you qualified to be the administrator of a $1.3 billion enterprise?
“What makes me qualified is the fact that I, like the other candidates, meet the minimum prerequisites to be on the ballot. And as such if elected I will, unlike the other candidates, execute the maximum performance of servitude necessary to meet the service needs of the residents of Milwaukee County.
“The citizens of Milwaukee County should vote for me because I am the only candidate running that is more like them than not. I have no associations with private interest groups. I too have been adversely affected and denied effective and proper services. I am the only candidate that is ready, willing and able to perform a personal analysis of each county department on a function-by function basis and the legal, logistical complexity associated [with them].”
Griffin said it is not clear if there has ever been a qualified administrator, as evidenced by the current conditions.
You’re running for two seats – County Executive and County Supervisor. Why both, and do you lessen your chances by diluting your message?
“Both the County Executive seat and the 10th District seat have lacked the proper representation effectively needed for those represented. I truly feel I am the best candidate for both seats. I am running for both seats because I have the right to run for both seats, as well as the voters have the right to elect me to both seats if they in fact choose to exercise their power to do so.
“To the contrary, my message is anything but diluted. There is strength in numbers and strength in the will of the people. The decision is the voters’ and the voters’ alone. I am simply offering them the best options for a proper servant to effectively represent them, their interests and needs.”
Griffin and the other candidates will appear on the Feb. 15 primary ballot. The top two vote-getters in that contest will move onto the Spring General Election on April 5. A debate featuring all the candidates and co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Press Club and Marquette Law School happens Friday, January 21, from noon to 1:15 p.m. Detailshere.