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Politics & Government

Walker and Burke Talk about Milwaukee Problems, Solutions

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Gov. Scott Walker and business executive Mary Burke met for the second of two debates Friday night in Milwaukee.

During the debate, moderated by WUWM’s Erin Toner, the gubernatorial candidates were asked a variety of questions of special importance to Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin.

One topic was Milwaukee’s high rate of black male unemployment. Republican Gov. Walker pointed to investments he’s already made, through his Transform Milwaukee initiative. Its goal, according to an April 2014 news release from Walker’s office, is to “restore economic vitality to the industrial corridor, adjacent neighborhoods, and small business development connecting Milwaukee’s 30th Street Industrial Corridor, the Menomonee Valley, the Port of Milwaukee, and the Aerotropolis.” In the debate, Walker also highlighted a task force, which he created, that focuses on minority unemployment.

Burke, the Democrat, said under Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin is on a slow path to recovering from the recession. She said if she’s elected governor, she would encourage entrepreneurship and job training, including programs that would transform boarded up buildings into businesses. Burke also said she would support a program that would encourage “anchor institutions” to help grow surrounding businesses. Burke said Wisconsin needs Milwaukee to thrive, in order for the state to thrive.

In another Milwaukee-specific question, Walker and Burke were asked what they could do to reduce gun violence in the central city. Walker said he would support expanding the use of ShotSpotter, technology that alerts police to the time and location of gunfire. Burke said Walker has made it harder for police to combat violence, by cutting shared revenue payments to municipalities.

The candidates also were asked whether the state should allow the Menominee Nation to build a big casino complex in Kenosha. The tribe says it needs the development, to increase the standard of living of tribe members, who are struggling. The Potawatomi tribe has been a major opponent, fearing the project’s competition with the Potawatomi casino in Milwaukee. Both Walker and Burke said they want to gather additional analysis of the Kenosha casino’s impact, before making a decision.

As was the case in the candidate’s first debate one week ago, Burke and Walker were firm, yet civil, in their responses.

The final debate took place as the race for governor remains extremely close. The most recent poll from the Marquette University Law School, released this week, shows the candidates are tied among likely voters.

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