Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:24 pm
Political sniping should not daunt former cop in Milwaukee mayoral bid
Vincent Bobot plans to formally announce his candidacy for the Milwaukee mayor’s race at an Aug. 6 ceremony.
Bobot, who resigned as a municipal judge in Milwaukee’s 1st District July 14 to devote himself to his mayoral campaign, says the city’s transportation needs, including the rehabilitation of the freeways, should be "nonnegotiable."
Bobot should not be phased by the slings and arrows of political life, as he has already been in the line of fire – literally.
A former assistant city attorney, Bobot also brings to the race street smarts gained by spending 20 years with the Milwaukee Police Department, during which he was shot in the line of duty.
Bobot received a purple heart award in 1976 after he and his partner, Michael Neeb, foiled a tavern robbery attempt at Second Street and National Avenue. Bobot was shot at close range while struggling with the robber, and the bullet grazed his right cheek and left powder burns on his face. Neeb then shot the perpetrator, who survived to be convicted and sentenced to prison.
"Michael Neeb will be the honorary chairman for my campaign," Bobot said. "We’re still together after all these years."
Other declared candidates for the 2004 Milwaukee mayoral race are former US Rep. Tom Barrett, state Rep. Pedro Colon, lobbyist Frank Cumberbatch, businesswoman Sandy Folaron, Alderman Tom Nardelli, Milwaukee Public Schools teacher John Pitta, Common Council President Marvin Pratt and Martin Matson, deputy director of the city pension office.
Interviews with those candidates will appear in the coming issues of SBT.
Bobot recently discussed his mayoral candidacy with Small Business Times reporter Charles Rathmann. The following are excerpts from that interview.
SBT: Describe what went into your decision to run for mayor.
Bobot: My commitment to the city of Milwaukee and the people who live, work and raise their families here. I want to rebuild Milwaukee and restore it to a place of prominence among other cities in our country.
SBT: Where do you see Milwaukee’s current stature among American cities?
Bobot: It is declining. We are losing population, and good-paying jobs are becoming harder to find. We need to attract business and industry that provides jobs enabling people to support a family.
SBT: Milwaukee has lost population over the last several decades. There has been some return to the city due to downtown residential development, but that development is not family-oriented. Tell me your thoughts on why Milwaukee continued to lose population for so many years and what you would do to restore a higher census count.
Bobot: The main reason for the exodus of our population has been the rising crime rate and lack of confidence in our school system. There has also been a shift in the manufacturing sector. We are entering a global economy that includes the US, as well as nations in the Far East. What we need to do now is realize we have to be better than everyone else. This will take hard work and sacrifice. There will also have to be a coming together of all the different political and business groups serving the metro area.
SBT: There has been an incredible amount of investment in the city under the Norquist administration. Downtown has seen much of that, but other areas of the city also have benefited. Yet, the central city seems to be continually left out of the picture. Yes, there are pockets of reinvestment, but there is still tremendous blight. How would you describe the situation?
Bobot: I would take issue with the statement that there has been incredible investment in the city. The city and the State of Wisconsin have been cheated in bringing federal tax dollars into the state – we have ranked near the bottom for years.
Milwaukee must get its fair share of funding and can no longer be treated like a stepchild. The health and welfare of the state of Wisconsin is dependent on the city of Milwaukee.
The state needs Milwaukee because we are a major urban area profiling what Wisconsin is all about. We need to invest in urban areas because they are the gems of our form of government.
The inner city of Milwaukee, to me, is a diamond in the rough. The people that live in our inner city want to take up the challenge to bring their neighborhood back, but they cannot do it by themselves.
SBT: While Milwaukee has a strong and ingrained socialist culture, Mayor Norquist describes himself as a supporter of market forces in business development. What do you see as the role of government in business and economic development? How far should the city go in promoting and financing business development?
Bobot: Milwaukee must do what it takes to encourage business development in the city. I would not stand for being able to compare on equal footing with other cities and states. I want to stand head and shoulders above. I will actively recruit businesses to come here. I will not sit by idly and watch other people steal businesses from us.
We have a lot of vacant land and vacant buildings that need to be filled with businesses. I would to go to existing businesses first to see what I can do to help them. My next priority will be to see what we can do to get new people to move in and enlarge our economy.
SBT: It looks as though the city’s budget will be severely impacted by the state’s budget crisis. What are your plans to deal with fewer dollars coming into the city? Would you be willing to forego a political future by making unpopular but necessary budget decisions for the city?
Bobot: We must do more with less and must stop increasing taxation of what is already here – that attitude of getting more tax dollars from people who are here. I will make a pledge that I will not increase existing fees or create new taxes. Our city and state are losing jobs and people because we cannot control our spending.
If it means making a tough decision, I will do it. I just want to serve the city of Milwaukee.
SBT: Tell me about the neighborhood you live in and why you live there.
Bobot: I live near 20th Street and College Avenue on the south side, where I was born and raised. It is very clean, safe and located near the airport. There is easy access to shopping centers – and you can still shop and walk the streets at night without fear.
SBT: Earlier this year, Small Business Times polled the owners of businesses within the city of Milwaukee, regarding their perceptions of business conditions here as those perceptions relate to the mayoral race. The top issues they cited for the new mayor to tackle were taxes, transportation and infrastructure and crime. Your thoughts on those issues?
Bobot: The top three may be changing. Taxes – that’s what I see as the No. 1 problem. Education will continue to be a main concern. The recent development is that crime is being replaced by the concern over jobs.
Taxes – we pay way too many taxes in the state of Wisconsin. That must stop. We must begin to realize we are not getting our money’s worth from government. Public officials have to think of themselves more as public servants – and the same holds true for everyone working for a government agency. If you want to make big money, go into the private sector.
On transportation, in rehabilitating our expressway system, one thing is nonnegotiable. That is that the highways system must accommodate present and future needs of our trucking and passenger vehicle traffic.
SBT: That poll and a poll conducted by the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors raised the integrity issue. Will you stand up to the test of high integrity?
Bobot: I have committed myself to public service in the city of Milwaukee. In that challenge, I hope I don’t falter. I will do everything in my power not to let the people down. If I keep working hard and keep my eye on the prize, I believe I can serve the people.
SBT: Milwaukee has a long tradition of multi-term mayors. Do you see the mayor’s position as a long-time job for you?
Bobot: I am 50 years old. If elected mayor, I would commit to at least the next eight years serving the people of Milwaukee. God willing, it could be longer.
July 25, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee