Tony Zielinski, incumbent, 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.

After serving as Milwaukee County Supervisor from the 12th District, Tony Zielinski was first elected as Milwaukee Alderman from the 14th District in 2004 and was easily re-elected in 2008. Besides degrees in political science and business administration, Ald. Zielinski holds a law degree from Marquette University.

Ald. Zielinski says he went into high gear for a campaign immediately after Attorney Jan Pierce announced his candidacy for alderman. He said it takes a totally different frame of mind to run a campaign and when not working on city issues, he’s always out there getting the campaign geared up. He promises to focus on running a positive campaign.

Over the past eight years, Ald. Zielinski has actively supported the renaissance in the Bay View area. He’s been instrumental in developing the restaurant and bar area around the Kinnickinnic and Lincoln intersection…including the recent development for an Alterra coffee location including their wholesale bakery currently under construction. When the Alterra plans were originally revealed, Ald. Zielinski held two public hearings featuring the owners and planners for the development. Although many residents were concerned about a threat to Bay View’s existing coffee shops and cafes, the local owners didn’t feel it was an issue and the Alterra plans were generally accepted by the local residents.

Just north of Lincoln, Alderman Zielinski strongly supported closing down Chasers bar which was a known trouble spot. The location is currently The Backyard. And across the street, he brought Omega Burgers and Custard to revamp the closed Burger King location. More recently, after Omega also closed, Ald. Zielinski suggested the location to the local franchisees of Hamburger Mary’s.

He has also supported the new apartments being constructed on Kinnickinnic at the intersection with Conway. This 5 story, 70 unit complex replaces a group of colonial revival apartments built in 1903 and the Trading Post that was right at the corner.

Ald. Zielinski is also a champion of renewable energy, working on the recently announced solar initiative that provides city homeowners with no money down, low interest loans for solar panels. He also worked with Bay View residents on a compromise on placement of the wind turbine that is scheduled to be built next to the Port of Milwaukee administration building on Lincoln Memorial Drive east of the Hoan Bridge.

Other city wide initiatives that the alderman is particularly proud of: leading legislation to make Milwaukee the first major US city a Fair Trade city. This requires the city to purchase fair traded items. And Ald. Zielinski protecting American workers via legislation which prohibits the City of Milwaukee from purchasing items manufactured in sweat shops.

Bay View has been fortunate that one of Milwaukee’s major urban farming projects, Sweetwater Organics, chose Bay View for its initial location. They now need to expand and Ald. Zielinski has supported city help in their planned expansions. Possible future expansion includes a new building and facility on the old Army Reserve property on Bay Street north of the Buelah Brinton play field.

In an email to me, Ald. Zielinski promised continued empowerment of the constituents in the 14th district. He will continue to hold meetings in his district, particularly on major projects that will affect the residents. He will continue to work towards improvements in public safety with new programs similar to his efforts against graffiti and installation of security cameras by the Kinnickinnic Business Improvement district. He will continue to support a strong Milwaukee Police Department presence in the community.

Realizing that good jobs that pay well and provide benefits are a recurring issue in the district, the alderman will work toward more developments that provide industrial jobs that provide family supporting wages.

Ald. Zielinski feels that he has been a proactive advocate for the district at not only the grassroots level but at the macro level as well. That he has a proven track record of being proactive, hard working and responsive. The alderman also stated “Every year as I grow I become a more effective advocate for my district and the greater community”.

Being the incumbent and a known quantity, Alderman Zielinski has accumulated a large number of endorsements from elected officials and organizational leaders as well as business people and residents of the district. Some of these are: District Attorney John Chisholm, State Senator Chris Larson, County Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic and Jason Haas, State Representative Christine Sinicki, the Milwaukee Police Association, and Milwaukee School Board Director Terry Falk.

Alderman Zielinski says that he is responsive. And from my own experience (even before I was involved in politics or blogging), when I had an issue he always responded to my emails or phone calls within 24 hours. Now I won’t always say that I got exactly the answer I was looking for…but he responded. I have heard of issues where the alderman was brusque in his responses to some residents, but I don’t have any particular instances that I can relate. But it is quite possible that that could occasionally occur.

There have been the usual plaints that the alderman is a career politician. And looking at his history, yes, certainly he has been in public office for sometime. And it is an open secret that Ald. Zielinski would like to advance to higher office at some point in his career. Early in 2010 for instance, he started to campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. But it will be up to the voters in April to decide if he’s the best fit for alderman in 2012 and forward.

Obviously Ald. Zielinski is taking Jan Pierce’s challenge very seriously. He’s been at my front door twice this past fall and a few days after yard signs became legal, literally hundreds of orange Re-elect Zielinski signs appeared all over the district. There was one issue with a sign erected on a former barbershop on South Howell Ave. The sign was declared illegal but the alderman said that an enthusiastic supporter erected it. Campaign signs in yards or exteriors of buildings can not be displayed until December 1st of the election cycle and must be removed within 5 days of the election date in the City of Milwaukee. And of course I’ve received a pair of campaign mailings.

But one of the standards of modern campaigning is the effective use of social media. So far this seems to be a little beyond the alderman’s grasp. Although he has a personal Facebook page, he doesn’t have one dedicated to the campaign. That would be a major asset in talking about progress during his campaign. He would have the opportunity to link to events and articles of interest to the district and his campaign…as well as relate anecdotes from the campaign trail. All the cool kids are doing it!

His campaign website is a bit dated looking and needs to be brought up to 2012. The home page lists some of his major endorsements and a bit of biographical background…but I’d think a better use would be outlining his policy positions and campaign theme similar to his mailings and hand cards. And the items need to be updated – the issues should be new and current – there are only two archives shown: one from April and one from June 2011. Modern websites are the perfect place to toot your own horn but they need to look fresh and stay fresh (static sites aren’t that impressive, I know from my personal experience). And please update the photo? A less vibrant tie perhaps? And contemporary versions of Photoshop should make the alderman look more part of his website!

I also would have expected more comments on current city events…such as the trolley, the budget, and other city wide issues.

I recently heard a criticism that Ald. Zielinski had too many pictures of himself with residents. Well, it’s rather quaint that his neighbors and constituents are willing to pose with him when he’s helped them and their neighborhood or business. And doesn’t it dispel any issues about the alderman being not being active and responsive in the area? It just seems like a Bay View kinda thing to do.

Well, there it is…the Tony Zielinski profile. Since there are only two candidates for the 14th Aldermanic District…it will be Alderman Zielinski vs. Jan Pierce on April 3, 2012.


Related Articles

5 thoughts on “Tony Zielinski, incumbent, MKE 14th Aldermanic District

  1. Ed, it sounds like you’ve bought into the Myth Of Tony. I’d encourage you to research your alderman a little further, especially in regard to campaign contributions for new businesses in the 14th, coerced endorsements, and his attendance (or lack thereof) at committee meetings. And, no, he’s NOT visible in the area… only his big orange signs.

  2. PJ

    What I have to go on is my interaction with the alderman…every time that I’ve contacted his office I’ve gotten a reply…within a day…and as I’ve stated in the original text, I didn’t always like the answer I got, but I got one…and Ald. Zielinski and I were on the outs over an issue in my neighborhood but I’ve gotten past that.

    And he’s been at my door in NOT campaign years at least once and sometimes twice asking me how things are going in the neighborhood. And I’ve seen him at any number of local events…so to say he’s not visible…well he has been to me. And since I’ve only been visible for a little over a year or so, he wasn’t visiting me to curry favor.

    I don’t support truancy from official meetings by any elected official.

    The other issues you mention…if someone is willing to go on the record something can be written about it.

    Thank you for your comment!!

  3. He seems to be quite on top of dispensing his orange signage. Made a stop last week during our snowfall after 9pm and proceeded to litter people’s fences, yes fences and lawns. I really don’t care if my neighbor is pro Zelinski. I just don’t need a non-ecofriendly fluorescent ink printed sign facing my home because someone was so inconsiderate as to stick it in a fence on my side of my front yard. Thanks Tony, but I prefer the current landscaping I have in place.

  4. Here’s Tony’s email response to me regarding the Open Meetings Law flouting I see him doing with the KK/Lincoln bus shelter (in cahoots with Marina). This is a typical Tony project: handpicked, press-denied, secret meetings with his donors and then a show-“public” meeting to tell people what they’re getting. Just like Dwell.

    “Zielinski, Tony
    Feb 13 (2 days ago)

    to Tony, Tony, me
    Hi, This is an acknowledgement of receipt of your e-mail. Tony”

    How’s that for responsive leadership? Maybe if I had included a handsome campaign contribution…isn’t that how things are done in the 14th?

    What’s amazing is that he actually used his City (i.e., accountable) email for once. Usually you get some after midnight private email; nothing worrisome about that or about his failure to use a City cell phone/office phone (open records and all that).

    What’s he hiding?

    BTW, to counter the usual pro-Tony “that can’t be true, you must be lying” responses, I will happily forward the original email to anyone who asks for it.

Comments are closed.