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Milwaukee Mayoral Candidate Lena Taylor Says Inequality Is The Main Thing We Need To Change

Teran Powell
Milwaukee mayoral candidate Lena Taylor at her primary victory party.

Ahead of the April 7 general election, we’re profiling candidates for state and local races that are important to southeast Wisconsin. That includes the two candidates for Milwaukee Mayor: Incumbent Tom Barrett and state Sen. Lena Taylor

>>Meet The Milwaukee Mayoral Candidates

You can listen to Barrett's interview here. Below is a portion of our interview with Taylor:

What role does city government need to play in this coronavirus pandemic and what would your priorities be as mayor on this issue?

"City and state governments and federal government and county government all play a role in this. The government's job is to help make sure that we have a safety net for our citizens, for our residents [and] for the businesses in our community," says Taylor.

She says collaboration is necessary to prevent a surge of positive tests, and that the city of Milwaukee has dropped the ball on testing and tracing. She says she would prioritize testing, isolation and tracing, and institute robust education and outreach efforts in the community so people understand the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Milwaukee, the cases of the coronavirus have been largely in the African American community. How would you take that into consideration as you help the city grapple with this pandemic?

"Well, the black residents have been hit the hardest with everything in the city,” says Taylor. “It's one of the reasons I'm running. It's the tale of two cities. There's a lack of health care or a different quality of health care for black residents than it is for others.”

She says this global epidemic is not about race. “It is about the infection of our residents. And it doesn't matter if they're black or white, male or female, north side or west side or south side or eastside, or whether they're Milwaukee or Madison, or Richmond, Wisconsin — the issues are all the same.”

She says it’s about testing, isolating and tracing. And even though Milwaukee and Dane counties are very populated, “what I would do for Milwaukee is no different than what needs to happen anywhere else ... we need to have a sense of urgency.”

Milwaukee mayoral candidate Lena Taylor's full interview with WUWM's Maayan Silver.

What do you see as the biggest economic problems for Milwaukee going forward based on the pandemic?

"I think the largest piece is being able to help businesses to get on their feet again, and putting money in our residents' hands so that they can spend those dollars on the things that they need in order to exist and survive,” Taylor says. 

She wants to rebuild industry in creative ways and incorporate technology hubs and agriculture "because our people need to eat and we have a lack of grocery stores for many of the residents in the city of Milwaukee, especially in the areas where minorities are.” Taylor says in those areas, there are few grocery stores, few hospitals.

“And so those are some of the areas that I believe that we rebuild we need to rebuild with equity in mind, with balance in mind in order for us to make a stronger and a better Milwaukee,” she says. 

What are your top three priorities in the next four years if you're elected?

“One of the top priorities is the inequity that exists in our city. The county executive said, if someone is running for office in Milwaukee, and they are not talking about the inequality that exists [here], then they're missing it. They're missing the main thing that we need to change," she says.

Taylor says Milwaukee leads in the nation in segregation, in the mass incarceration of black men, and has the worst achievement gap between white kids and black kids.

“The other area that I would speak to is the budget and auditing the departments," says Taylor. "The departments have not been audited for 10 years. That has to happen. You cannot be effective and efficient with your dollars if you do not know how your money is being spent."

She also wants to focus on education. “To partner with the schools and wraparound and bring city departments in order to be able to not only help the children but help the families, " says Taylor. "Hopefully in more of a preventative way ... because I believe that if we help people on the front-end, it's going to help us have better public safety and better outcome.”

What is the top reason voters should give you a chance instead of Barrett?

“He has been there for 16 years,” says Taylor. “What will he do in the next four that he could not have done in the last 16?”

She says Barrett's mismanagement led to a difficult relationship with leadership in Madison — and says that didn't have a good outcome for the city's people.

"We need a mayor that will show a love for the people, a desire to be inclusive and transparent with the people. So that what we can do is make it a Milwaukee that is in Milwaukee for all of us. And there is no question that I'm ready and able to do that.

“We have to have someone who will not be afraid to speak to the hard issues that have to be addressed in the city: segregation, racism, inequality, lack of access, horrible outcomes in 53206, and so many other neighborhoods that exist in this community,” says Taylor. “And we have to have someone who's willing to be innovative and think out of the box.”

What do you want to know about the 2020 elections and the DNC convention? Submit your questions below.


Maayan Silver has been a reporter with WUWM’s News Team since 2018.