WisPolitics: Milwaukee born, McDonald believes its his time to be mayor
By Arthur Thomas
Edward McDonald thinks he is ready to be mayor of the city he grew up in and says he wants to take Milwaukee “back to its rightful place of being the envy of the country.”
“I want to see that happen, that’s my goal, that’s my desire,” the UW-Extension faculty member told WisPolitics.com . “This is a country, this is a state, this is a city, that appreciates dreamers, and they support dreamers as long as they have done the things to equip themselves to handle reality.”
McDonald is one of two candidates to file to challenge incumbent Mayor Tom Barrett. The other candidate is Ieshuh Griffin, who gained attention in 2010 when she sought unsuccessfully to have the slogan "not the whiteman's bitch" appear next to her name on the ballot for state Assembly.
McDonald says the roots of his desire to become mayor trace back to when he was 12 or 13 years old. Encouraging his son to focus on school in what would be their final conversation, McDonald says his father suggested that a young Edward could someday be mayor of the city.
His father passed away later that day. Running home from school after hearing the news, McDonald said he repeated his father’s final suggestion over and over in his head.
The idea of becoming mayor stuck with McDonald. It was there as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Still there when he attend Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Even after he had left his hometown to work in the Twin Cities, the idea of being Milwaukee’s mayor drew him back.
“For 40 years I’ve been preparing myself for this moment,” McDonald said. “I believe I’ve equipped myself to become mayor of my hometown, not only to honor my father, but to fulfill a deeply personal dream, but on this journey, to fulfill this dream, I’ve learned that, in public service, the dream that matters most is the collective dream of a community.”
Despite speculation that current Milwaukee’s current mayor, Tom Barrett, may run against Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election, McDonald says he is focused on his own campaign.
“I haven’t really assessed it from a standpoint of him doing it that or not doing it,” McDonald said. “I think Tom would be a very good governor and if that’s his dream, then I think he should pursue his dream, much like I’m pursuing mine. I want to be mayor of the city of Milwaukee.”
McDonald says he believes he has the skill set “to work with my hometown, people of my hometown, every neighborhood, to build Milwaukee.”
According to his campaign website, McDonald would like to expand community based policing and fire services, as well as community and cultural arts. He would also like to address fresh food access and childcare, youth and elderly services. He would also like to implement his “Build Milwaukee” plan, targeting specific areas within the city. On the face of it, McDonald’s plan could be costly, but he says the money is available.
“Surprisingly, there is quite a bit of money that is appropriated at federal, state, and local levels to do pretty much all those things. It’s about prioritization and directing the money around community driven priorities,” McDonald said.
He says about 40 percent of the funding could come from existing redevelopment resources, by targeting them into specific areas.
“The other 60 percent would come from leveraging the tax revenues generated by the city, county, and state, which is roughly about $20 billion dollars, that all have to be deposited with some depositor,” McDonald said.
As a condition for receiving the tax revenue deposits, McDonald says financial institutions would be required to show they lend within the targeted areas and help with implementation of redevelopment plans.
“That would constitute the money that is needed, not asking for anything more,” he said.
McDonald also calls for more of the Milwaukee’s bidded contracts to be awarded within the city. Right now he says roughly 80 percent go to vendors outside of the city.
“We need to shift that, it might need to be just the opposite, 80 percent of those contracts need to go to businesses within Milwaukee, maybe even more,” McDonald said. “We need to make sure that more of that money is recycling and helping with the development and retention of businesses within Milwaukee, they are the ones, along with other stakeholders, who are paying into the funds we use to issue contracts in the first place.”
To those who would argue awarding more contracts within to businesses in the city could cost taxpayers money, McDonald says he prefers to look at the benefit of keeping the money in the city.
“You’re going to have to recycle that money and turn it over more and more within the community and rather than being as liberal as we have with supporting entities that are based outside of our communities. Not that we want to become isolationist, that’s not the case at all, but we have to become a little bit more selfish.”
McDonald says he has enjoyed the early portions of his campaign. In particular, he pointed to going to different neighborhoods and learning about the residents.
“Its the place that I was raised, Milwaukee has made me who I am,” McDonald said. “I’m a brew city kid, through and through...kid that is not distinguished by any neighborhood, growing up loving this city.”
Now the kid who’s father suggested he could go on to become mayor of the city has decided to take his shot.
“I believe its my time,” McDonald said.