It’s no secret Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan is running for mayor. Donovan, who’s done little to distinguish himself as an elected official in the 15 years since he was first elected to represent Milwaukee’s 8th, has announced he’s not only running for Mayor of Milwaukee, but he’s also going to seek reelection to his aldermanic seat.
While Ald. Donovan’s intentions are no big secret (especially given he never met a microphone or TV camera he didn’t love), what many may not realize is Ald. Donovan has an opponent for the aldermanic seat he currently occupies. While Donovan has been busy raising his profile and pandering to the angry conservative voters who would comprise his base in a mayoral election, 8th District resident Justin Bielinski (pictured, left) has been busy knocking on doors and introducing himself to the residents of the district. I recently had an opportunity to sit and chat with Bielinski about his campaign to unseat Ald. Donovan, and he shared his thoughts on the race, the issues facing the district, and his motivation for running.
Bielinski, who moved into the district in 2007 and fell in love with the area, chose to stay in the 8th District when he got married and he and his wife bought their first home together. Asked how he came to the decision to run against Ald. Donovan, Bielinski said his decision to run came about because as he lived in the district and started paying attention to Ald. Donovan, he found himself first confused and then angry about the manner in which Ald. Donovan conducted himself and chose to do his job. Bielinski cited Ald. Donovan’s scuffle with an apparently drunken man who had urinated in front of a grocery store in Donovan’s district as just one example of Ald. Donovan’s irresponsible behavior. Bielinski also noted when he attempted to contact Ald. Donovan’s office as a constituent, he was dismissed by a staffer in Ald. Donovan’s office, leaving him to wonder how many other constituents of Ald. Donovan’s had been dismissed by his staff.
As a final reason for his decision to challenge Ald. Donovan, Bielinski said he feels that the district is in worse condition now than it was when Ald. Donovan was first elected to represent the 8th District. Beilinski noted the district had changed (and not for the better) and that Ald. Donovan hadn’t done much during his 15 years in office that led to tangible improvement in the district.
Asked to cite differences between himself and Ald. Donovan, Bielinski noted he has no desire to serve as Alderman as a stepping stone to higher office, unlike Ald. Donovan. “I believe in serving leadership,” said Bielinski, noting he has gotten involved in his community as a way to lead and serve. Bielinski also said that while Bob Donovan’s solution to every problems seems to be “more police,” he’d rather take an approach that attempts to solve problems from multiple perspectives by involving community stakeholders in the problem-solving process. “I would try to build consensus, or at the very least listen to the concerns of residents and stakeholders,” Bielinski said, adding he believes leadership shouldn’t be a “top down” approach but should instead start at the grassroots level.
Among the issues Bielinski said he’d focus on if elected alderman, bringing more jobs to the district was at the top of his list. Bielinski said along with bringing jobs to the district, he wanted to increase public transit options for residents of the district, and he pointed out that he regularly rides the bus home from work. Bielinski also said he wanted to see more resources brought to bear on combating the causes of poverty, as a means of increasing public safety.
As our conversation drew to a close Bielinski said the race in the 8th District really boiled down to two contrasting visions for the district. Said Bielinski, “Bob Donovan wants things to be just like they used to be, but I want to bridge the past with the present and the future.” Bielinski noted the district had changed since Bob Donovan was first elected Alderman, adding that while the district had changed, Donovan had not.