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Three Candidates Will Challenge South Side Alderman Donovan

New district boundaries could impact the race

Feb. 2, 2012
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In a reflection of Milwaukee's strengthening ethnic diversity, the South Side Common Council district long represented by Alderman Robert Donovan has shifted in the newest legislative map. The more conservative Jackson Park neighborhood has been cut out of District 8, and Latino, Asian and African-American residents will now make up a larger proportion of the voting population.

Donovan is running for re-election, but three challengers—Benjamin Juarez, Jennifer Morales and Chez Ordoñez—have jumped into the race, forcing a primary to be held Feb. 21. The top two vote-getters will square off in the April 3 election.

Donovan declined to respond to the Shepherd's candidate questionnaire, but the three other candidates provided their answers. Excerpts are below.

Benjamin Juarez

Juarez is the son of immigrants who escaped the Salvadoran civil war of the 1980s. He graduated from Pulaski High School and Marquette University and earned a master's of public policy from Oregon State University.

Juarez's top three issues are economic development, education supplementation and public health.

To promote the district's economy, Juarez would like to team entrepreneurs with interns from the business schools at UW-Milwaukee and Marquette.

"We have to get the right tools to entrepreneurs here in the district," Juarez said. "I have seen too many small businesses open and then close a year or two later. Much of this is due to the fact that many people have the desire to open a business, but do not have the understanding of how to build that business. Giving them the tools to get started is a big step in this process. A bigger step? Giving them the tools to thrive."

He said the South Side can attract more businesses and residents by focusing on its unique cultural character. He said the district could build on the successful revitalization of the Third Ward and Bay View by encouraging artists to live and work in the neighborhood.

Juarez would like to add more community learning and recreational centers so that students can take advantage of tutoring and other activities after hours and on weekends.

Juarez, a former member of two unions, said that limiting public employees' bargaining rights "will probably end up costing the state in the long run."

To learn more about Benjamin Juarez, go to voteforjuarez.com.

Jennifer Morales

Morales owns an editorial and grant-writing business and is a former director of the Milwaukee Public Schools board. Morales said she is running for the Common Council because the city needs forward-thinking leaders who can provide street-level services and tackle bigger issues at the same time.

Morales' top issues are reimagining and building the local economy, creating real safety with a sense of community, and providing positive opportunities for the district's youth.

More specifically, Morales wants to review city regulations and procedures to identify barriers to economic renewal, consult community members to highlight the district's assets and needs, identify under-used areas that could be turned into green space or safe play areas for children, promote block watches, work with other elected officials to rein in health care costs, and create an intergenerational problem-solving center.

"I'm committed to reviewing all the ways that the city puts up barriers to local business startups and expansions, and will propose alternative strategies that will help businesses succeed while still protecting the public's interest in things like safety and quality of life," Morales said. "I would also like to see the city direct most of its economic development dollars to help locally owned businesses."

Morales, who helped to lead the Coalition to Stop the MPS Takeover, said that improvements in the local economy would help to improve MPS students' performance.

To learn more about Jennifer Morales, go to www.votejennifermorales.com.

Chez Ordoñez

Ordoñez is the former director of communications and media relations within the state Senate and a former producer at 1290 WMCS-AM. Ordoñez, a graduate of Hamilton High School, said he decided to run for the Common Council after participating on the Latino Redistricting Committee and realizing this district needed better representation.

Ordoñez's top issues are jobs and economic development, involving the community in making the district safer, and revitalizing the community with foreclosure preventions, youth development and job fairs.

"We need to ensure our neighborhoods are clean and safe, along with being more job friendly," Ordoñez said. "We also need to train our job force so when opportunities arise, we can put them directly to work."

He said the city needs to grow itself out of the recession, in part by launching a "buy local" program, lifting burdensome regulations on entrepreneurs and small businesses, or implementing a pay-as-you-go model.

Ordoñez, the son of a city worker, said Gov. Scott Walker overreached with his dismantling of collective bargaining rights for public employees.

He denounced Donovan's race-baiting remarks after last summer's State Fair.

"Our city is the most segregated as it is," Ordoñez said. "Do we need more of this? I want to be a connector, not a divider. [Donovan] lives on race-baiting."

To learn more about Chez Ordoñez, go to www.chezordonez.com.


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