Election 5Q: Haas, Kraeger in Dist. 14 County Supervisor race
With all the attention focused on the races for Supreme Court Justice and Milwaukee County Executive, Jason Haas and Steven Kraeger have been quietly campaigning for the 14th Supervisory District seat on the Milwaukee County Board, covering Bay View and most of the south side of Milwaukee. The seat was vacated after Chris Larson was elected to the state senate.
This is not the first time Haas or Kraeger have taken a shot at the seat; both ran in 2008 and lost to Larson. The winner will serve the remainder of Larson’s term, which ends in 2012.
Haas is a community activist, a member of the Bay View Neighborhood Association and has worked as a writer and photographer for the Bay View Compass. He was also active in planning and building the Bay View Hide House Community Garden. He is married and has two small children.
Kraeger owns a trucking company on Milwaukee’s south side, and is experienced in road and sewer construction. His is active with senior citizen groups and a member of the Disabled American Veterans. Kraeger describes himself as a fiscal conservative, and his campaign slogan is “Milwaukee County is Open for Business.”
ThirdCoast Digest asked each candidate to explain why they are seeking the job and what they will do if elected to the County Board.
Q: Milwaukee County stands to lose millions of dollars in state aid in the proposed 2011-2013 state budget. How does the county adapt?
Haas: “We need creative solutions to adapt to the sort of budget realities we’ll be facing in the next two years. Milwaukee County already has a problem trying to balance our services and revenues, and Governor Walker’s budget isn’t going to make it any easier. I am reluctant to raise property taxes, but at the same time I do not want to cut the vital services that the county provides that contribute to our economic development.”
Haas believes the board can find savings and sources of revenue that do not involve property taxes. He is proposing a “Super Pass” that would raise revenues through county-run venues such as the Zoo, Mitchell Park Domes and other attractions.
Kraeger says he would audit the county books down to the penny. He believes the county spent too much when the economy was good and needs to change that practice.
“Don’t assume that just because we did things one way in the past that we should continue to do things that way going forward,” Kraeger said. “In this recession the state has to cut $3.6 billion to balance the books. The key is probably having the state drop many of its unfunded mandates to the counties and let us adjust to the changing environment and not raise taxes.”
Q: Are there departments, programs or land (e.g. parks) owned or funded by the county that could be eliminated, privatized or consolidated, and why?
Kraeger pointed to Crystal Ridge, a county park located near 76th and Loomis Road, which is currently for sale. He is skeptical that it will be sold, however, because the site is a contaminated, clay-capped landfill that was converted to a ski hill. But he didn’t rule out putting other parks on the block, questioning whether the county has enough money to support the current 150 parks and 15,000 public acres.
Haas would like to look for duplications in services and explore consolidation. He wants to be able to preserve public-sector jobs while doing so. Another area Haas wants to explore is the vacant Park East land.
“While the City has rebuilt upon much of its land, the county-owned (portion of the Park East land) has been vacant grassland for years,” Haas said. “That is prime real estate. Selling it could help make up short-term county budget shortfalls, and developing it could lead to some long-term county revenues.
Q: Engineers are inspecting the Hoan Bridge to determine whether to repair it or rebuild. You have both expressed concerns about tearing down the bridge. What will you do if the inspectors make that recommendation?
Haas: “Regardless of the inspectors’ recommendations, the Hoan Bridge is a vital means of transportation between my district and the heart of downtown Milwaukee. The Hoan Bridge makes commuting faster and is critical to our community’s economic success.”
Haas added that as county supervisor, he would use his relationships with state legislators to ensure that funding for the Hoan Bridge comes to Milwaukee, repairs are made on schedule and commuters are safe.
Kraeger is clear that if the recommendation calls for the demolition of the bridge, he would work to have it rebuilt using the same footprint.
“The DOT and I are waiting for the results of the $650,000 engineering inspection currently underway by Graef-USA. Until we get this report we have to deal with the old bridge and the $7.1 million resurfacing that’s going on currently,” Kraeger said.
Q: What are a few specific ways the county could spur economic development?
Kraeger said he would work to keep taxes down to develop the economy.
“Illinois is waging a campaign to attract businesses from Wisconsin, claiming that Wisconsin taxes are higher and has the 40th worst business environment… Keep government red tape down so it makes it easier to do business here.”
Haas feels the county can be instrumental in spurring economic development.
“The first is supporting our quality of life. We need dedicated funding for parks and transit so that talented workers want to live here and businesses want to locate here.
“We can also encourage trade by making sure we support our transportation system,” Haas added. “General Mitchell International Airport, for example, provides the means to transport our goods and services all over the world. It helps bring people from across the globe to Milwaukee for business and travel. I support the development of the Aerotropolis as a way to bring new businesses to the county and ensure the county-owned airport remains vital.”
Haas also touts his “Super Pass” plan to encourage tourism in Milwaukee, by giving people the ability to buy a single ticket to county attractions.
Q: MCTS continues to cut service and increase fares. How does public transit fit into Milwaukee County’s future, and what needs to be done to get it there?
Haas said Milwaukee cannot be an economically successful county without public transit. His answer is to find a dedicated funding source for MCTS, such as the sales tax approved by voters in 2008.
“Companies are choosing not to locate here precisely because effective transit options do not exist,” he said. “We need dedicated funding to provide robust transit and bus service, which is exactly what the people of Milwaukee County voted for three years ago.”
Kraeger believes Milwaukee County buses are the future, but with a caveat.
“I believe that cuts are likely to be made due to the fact that the county projected diesel fuel to be selling for $2.40 per gallon in 2011,” he said. “The last purchase as of Feb 28 was $2.98. This will increase the cost of operating the buses by, I suspect, at least $1 million this year. I believe we will have to audit to cut back wherever we can and try to not compromise on the most needed services.”
Haas and Kraeger are on the ballot next Tuesday, April 5.