Martha Collins-De La Rosa Seeks to Unseat Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander on Northwest Side
Plus: Game-changing April 5 elections for Milwaukee County officials
Milwaukee County government will face a multitude of changes after the April 5 spring election—not just due to the new and returning office-holders. Thanks to a Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele-backed state law, on April 18 Milwaukee County supervisors will go part time and have their salaries cut to $24,051, but most importantly Milwaukee county government will lose its very important “check and balance” that prevents fraud and abuse by the county executive.
These changes not only empower the county executive, but they weaken the board. Instead of devoting themselves full time to attending hearings and being a full check on the executive branch, part-time supervisors will have less time to devote to county affairs and most will need to work another job in addition to serving the 50,000-plus citizens who live in each district. Those who oppose the change fear that the weakened board won’t be able to thoroughly research policies or be able to provide the constituent service that is required of a public servant.
Even though the legislative branch will be further diminished after the election, there are a slew of candidates who want to serve on the board. One fascinating race to watch is District 18 in the county’s far northwest corner, where Wisconsin Jobs Now Executive Director Martha Collins-De La Rosa is taking on conservative first-term Supervisor Deanna Alexander. We spoke to Collins-De La Rosa about her candidacy; Alexander didn’t respond to the Shepherd’s requests for an interview.
District 18’s Martha Collins-De La Rosa
Martha Collins-De La Rosa recently became the executive director of Wisconsin Jobs Now; previously she was the Wisconsin chapter director of 9to5: National Association of Working Women. She said she plans to keep her job if elected but will recuse herself from votes if there is a conflict of interest. A single mom of two sons, Collins-De La Rosa is the daughter of immigrants; her mother was a certified nursing assistant who worked two jobs to afford to purchase a home.
Collins-De La Rosa said she is running for office because as a long-time resident of the district she’s concerned about its decline and the prevalence of poverty.
“There is a sense in District 18 that there is a lack of community,” Collins-De La Rosa said.
She said she’d like to work on safety issues, perhaps by adding more activities and jobs for youth in the parks and partnering with the city on safety efforts. She said she’d also like to improve bus service to the district, since many residents have to walk up to a mile to get to a bus stop, and some business centers don’t have bus service at all.
“This is a real issue,” she said. “It’s keeping people away from jobs and easy access in and out of our district.”
She said she’d also like to revisit the living wage ordinance passed by the board—and vetoed by Abele—in 2014. (District 18’s representative, Deanna Alexander, opposed the living wage ordinance.) Thanks to the ordinance, county workers and employees of contractors now earn $11.66 an hour, but she said that could be raised. She said she’d like to restore the powers of the board that were taken away by the Abele-backed state legislation and also get involved in the pending Office of African American Affairs.
“I want to be one of the folks in the room to flesh it out to make sure that it creates tangible benefits for our African American constituents, and helps everyone too, not just one demographic,” she said.
Collins-De La Rosa said her experience and family background are more reflective of this majority-minority district than the incumbent, Deanna Alexander. Nor, Collins-De La Rosa said, did Alexander pass any legislation of consequence during her time on the board.
“What has she done for District 18?” Collins-De La Rosa asked. “What has she done for a community that is broken? She’s just not a voice for her constituents.”
Alexander, Abele’s closest ally on the county board and a supporter of ethically challenged state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley, has been trying to carve out a niche for herself as the most conservative and insensitive board member.
For example, Alexander refuses to use Hillary Clinton’s first name and refers to her as “Ovary.” And after African American supervisors wore T-shirts saying “I can’t breathe” to make a public statement about police brutality against unarmed African American men, Alexander tweeted: “Well, I broke down and bought myself a present: A ‘Breathe Easy, Don’t Break the Law’ T-shirt that is a take-off of the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ slogan that followed the death of Eric Garner in New York.”
“The current county supervisor does not reflect or represent this district, or me, or my children or the next generation of children,” Collins-De La Rosa said. “She has made racially derogatory comments and statements. This next generation doesn’t have time for that kind of divisive, fear-mongering racism. This supervisor has said a lot of hurtful things and hateful things and that’s not right. It’s not acceptable at all.”
To learn more about Martha Collins-De La Rosa, go to facebook.com/martha4progress.
County Races on the Ballot
In addition to District 18, a slew of candidates for county offices will be on the April 5 ballot, including:
County executive: Incumbent Chris Abele has already poured $2.7 million of his own money into campaign ads and literature. Despite that wave of cash, state Sen. Chris Larson won the Feb. 16 primary and is making Abele’s power grabs and lack of attention to the Mitchell Park Domes a centerpiece of his campaign.
County comptroller: Incumbent Scott Manske faces no opposition as he seeks another term in office.
Competitive races: In District 5, where Supervisor Martin Weddle is not seeking re-election, Michael Glabere and Marcelia Nicholson are on the ballot. In District 7, Supervisor Michael Mayo is being challenged by Valerie Sauve. In District 8, David L. Sartori and Tony Bloom are vying for the seat opened up by Supervisor Patricia Jursik’s departure. In District 9, Supervisor Steve F. Taylor is facing Patti Logsdon. In District 11, which has been without a supervisor since Mark Borkowski’s departure last year, Patricia Najera will face Dan Sebring. In District 14, Supervisor Jason Haas will face Franz Meyer. In District 16: Supervisor John F. Weishan Jr. and Scott Espeseth will be on the ballot. In District 17, Supervisor Tony Staskunas will face Timothy J. Johnson.
Supervisors without opposition: Because they are running unopposed, these board members are returning after the April 5 election: Board Chair Theo Lipscomb in District 1, Marina Dimitrijevic in District 4, Jim “Luigi” Schmitt in District 6, Supreme Moore Omokunde in District 10, Peggy Romo West in District 12, Willie Johnson Jr. in District 13 and Eddie Cullen in District 15.
New faces on the board: Two new candidates have already won their districts because they are vying for open seats and didn’t draw and opponent. In District 2, Sequanna Taylor will replace Supervisor Khalif Rainey, who is running for Milwaukee Common Council. In District 3, former Democratic state legislator Sheldon Wasserman will fill the seat long held by Gerry Broderick, who is retiring at the end of this term.