Jan Pierce, challenger, MKE 14th Aldermanic District

More than a few months ago I promised profiles on the candidates for the aldermanic seat from the Milwaukee 14th district. Some family issues kept me from the initial timely follow up I proposed and after that there was a fair amount of procrastination on my part. So I owe both Mr. Jan Pierce and Alderman Tony Zielinski an apology for my character failings.

Shortly after he announced his candidacy for Milwaukee alderman in the 14th district, I met with Mr. Jan Pierce and talked about his candidacy and his goals for the district. That event was quite some time ago, so I have had a number of casual conversations with Mr. Pierce and have heard him speak a number of times since then. This blog will be a combination of things I’ve picked up from these various occasions.

Currently a real estate and business attorney with the law firm of Marwicke and Goisman, SC, Mr. Pierce became involved with helping a number of area businesses and non-profit agencies. He started to see ways that he thought an alderman could help Bay View progress. When Alderman Zielinski announced his candidacy for Lt. Governor in 2010, Mr. Pierce first considered running for alderman. But earlier this year he knew his ideas for Bay View were still important and he decided to take on the incumbent directly.

Mr. Pierce stated that he isn’t interested in running an anti- campaign and would rely on projecting the contrast of his vision for Bay View!

His goals include working to build out Bay View as a walkable neighborhood and encourage the continued growth of small and medium businesses in the empty store fronts found throughout the area. He feels that Bay View has developed a vibrant atmosphere and is attractive to entrepreneurial and creative types. Along with the store fronts he would encourage growth in the number of professional services available in the neighborhood as well.

It is important that the alderman provide leadership, to inform and listen to the area residents and act as a liaison with the city government he’s said.

Mr. Pierce promised to run a grass roots campaign. And if you have followed him at all on Facebook, you know he’s done exactly that since he announced the start of his campaign: visiting the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, attending local events and manning information booths He also feels that too often elected officials tend to endorse each other: that’s how the game is played. He wasn’t going to seek such endorsements and prefers to capitalize on the endorsements of his friends and neighbors, the residents and business people of the district. If you visit the endorsement tab on his campaign website, you’ll see that, with just one or two exceptions, he’s kept that promise.

The Jan Pierce for Alderman Campaign leveraged the grass roots connections he’s developed over the past six months and secured the maximum signatures required to appear on the spring ballot in just four days. He was the first candidate in the city to turn in his completed nomination papers, doing so on December 4th.

One of the things he’d like to encourage is organic business growth in Bay View, where the active businesses draw in like minded businesspeople with complimentary businesses. He’d like to see the local business improvement district reach out a bit more and help new businesses get established. This could include mentoring in city red tape and permitting processes, working with landlords via rent structures that support start ups, supporting a ‘business incubator’ culture in the BID and just basically getting new businesses pointed in the right direction. When elected alderman, he would encourage that type of cooperation.

Mr. Pierce recently stated that he would work toward streamlining the city’s permitting processes for new businesses and try to reduce the effort and red tape involved in getting city permissions to get started. He would also like to end ‘aldermanic privilege’, the current practice where common council or city committees defer to the recommendation of the local alderman in matters of permits and licenses. That type of arrangement puts too much authority in the hands of the alderman and can have substantial effects on the residents, the district and the city he feels.

Mr. Pierce has also proposed an architecture committee made up of area residents. Their purpose would be to advise the alderman on new construction or major renovations in Bay View so the neighborhood has input on keeping the look and feel of Bay View while supporting growth and development.

Along with running a very strong grass roots organization, Mr. Pierce has worked hard to build a social media presence. Besides his personal Facebook page, his campaign has maintained a Jan Pierce for Alderman Facebook page and of course the official Jan Pierce for Alderman website. The Facebook pages have been a constant flow of talk about the campaign, anecdotes from the doors, and announcements about events and milestones.

And from his personal page, Mr. Pierce has linked to any number of articles about world events, national issues, economic issues, and personal thoughts and messages.

But what has been surprisingly lacking is commentary on the things that have been going on in the city itself. Unless I have missed it, I haven’t seen discussions on the street car that Mayor Barrett is championing, the effect of the state budget cuts on the cities finances, the Occupy Milwaukee movement and police response to it, or the recently passed city budget and property tax issues. Since these are the very things that he will confront in city hall from day one, I’d expect some commentary on his view of the issues.

And with all of the major issues confronting the City of Milwaukee as a whole and Bay View in particular, I find it rather unusual that one of the three major issues outlined on his website and mail brochure is “Advocating to Improve Neighborhood Schools”. City government really has very little to do with the operation of the Milwaukee Public Schools and an alderman has very little input. The best an alderman can do is act as a liaison between the residents and the local school board director. A fact that Mr. Pierce clearly acknowledge in his comments: “As alderman, I will lend a strong voice of support behind the parents of District 14…”. So why waste one of three issues featured in your literature on an item you have little control over?

By the way, his other two issue points are important to a vital Bay View: “Engaging Residents to Build Stronger, Safer Neighborhoods” and “Supporting Local Entrepreneurs”.

There have been a number of knocks on Mr. Pierce for being elitist (myself included) and acting entitled. And he may have done himself no favors by recently holding a major fundraiser at his law offices (full disclosure, I attended) in the toniest part of the east side. He did use local Bay View sources for his food and beverages which he was proud to acknowledge. But the event was intended to reach out to the members and clients of his law firm, who has encouraged him in his campaign. There were Bay Viewers in attendance and a number of Mr. Pierce’s business clients to show their support and of course a number of his campaign staff and volunteers.

Here is another link to Mr. Pierce’s website. His home page includes a questionaire that you may want to complete if you are a district 14 resident.

Later this week, I will try to get my profile of Alderman Tony Zielinski published here on Blogging Blue.


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