Realtors poll shows desire for leader with integrity, focus on taxes, crime education
By David Niles, of SBT
Milwaukee residents want their next mayor to be a strong leader with integrity, and someone who will help bring jobs to the city, reduce crime and improve schools.
That’s what the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors (GMAR) found out in its Spring Survey 2003, conducted March 3 and 4.
The results were similar to those of a Small Business Times mayoral poll which was reported on in the paper’s April 4 issue.
Milwaukee voters next April will select a mayor to replace John Norquist, who first took office in 1988 but who is not seeking re-election.
When SBT readers with businesses in the city of Milwaukee were asked about the characteristics the next mayor should possess, there responses included relationship skills, strength/vision and integrity.
The GMAR polled 400 likely voters in the city, seeking to gauge the political environment in the city. What the organization found was a city facing change and voters who are preoccupied with their pocketbooks, according to a report prepared by Public Opinion Strategies of Washington, Denver and Los Angeles, which conducted the survey.
The GMAR will use the survey as a benchmark for further analysis of the mayoral race, said Mike Ruzicka, president of the organization. The group will have two more polls conducted prior to the election. Additionally, the survey results will be used as GMAR officials determine how the candidates stack up to the poll findings and to GMAR goals, he said.
"I think we have a good basis of issues we want to see addressed in the campaign," Ruzicka said. "We’ll be able to dial down and see where the candidates stand on our issues."
The GMAR survey summary says:
— The Milwaukee political environment is very negative and indicates that voters are looking for a change. Only 33% of voters say things are heading in the right direction in Milwaukee, while almost two-thirds of voters say things in Milwaukee are on the wrong track.
— Some important conservative leaning and swing coalition groups are leading the "wrong track" sentiment: conservative independents (76%), soft Republicans (74%), women 18-54 (66%), working women (64%) and Republicans (63%).
— The two top issues for voters are the "economy" (25%) and "holding the line on city taxes" (23%).
— Voters are very aware of the budget problems facing the city, and when faced with the prospect of cutting spending for critical programs or raising taxes, a slim majority of voters chose spending cuts, even if it affected critical programs (51%).
When SBT’s Milwaukee readers were asked about the top issues, the leading responses were taxes, transportation, infrastructure and crime.
When GMAR survey respondents were asked to list the priority the next mayor should have, 25% said job creation and economic development, 23% said holding down city taxes and spending, 16% said fighting crime and improving public safety, 13% said improving the quality of public education and 9% said making health care affordable.
But 62% said the next mayor should have integrity, while 61% said he should be a strong leader. On the other hand, only 30% said the new mayor should be a "fresh face in Milwaukee politics," while just 19% said he should be a reformer.
On the city’s financial situation, while the conservative groups and African Americans support spending cuts, municipal employees, union members and homemakers support raising taxes. Those results came when survey participants were asked if, in response to a projected $10 million city budget deficit, cuts should be made in critical services or taxes should be raised by $100 to $200 on average per property owner.
Ruzicka said the survey team noted it was very significant that there was a 10-point discrepancy between those who want services cut and those who want taxes raised.
Ruzicka added that the GMAR believes Norquist has been good for the city, with the mayor’s efforts leading to greater property values, a resurgence of downtown residences and initiatives to improve schools and fight crime. "John Norquist, in our eyes, has done a very good job," Ruzicka said.
The schools and crime issues are vital issues to homeowners, he added. "You always hear ‘location, location, location’ in real estate," he said. "But if you scratch the surface of that, you find the issues of crime and schools – they are the two big drivers of where people live."
While the GMAR survey did not ask respondents about potential candidates, Ruzicka said the organization has worked well with aldermen Tom Nardelli and Marvin Pratt, and that former Congressman Tom Barrett is appealing. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke "appears to be good, too," Ruzicka said.
The Small Business Times poll, conducted by Business Development Directives of Eagle, did pose names to survey respondents.
When asked about their familiarity with names of people who say they will run for the mayoral post and those whose names are mentioned as potential candidates, the following responses were given, with 5 being the most familiar with the name and 1 being the least familiar: Barrett, 4.2; Nardelli, 3.6; Pratt, 3.6; Clarke, 3.4; Alderman Michael D’Amato, 2.2; Milwaukee County Clerk Mark Ryan, 2.1; State Rep. Pedro Colon, 1.8; developer Randy Roth, 1.3; Municipal Judge Vince Bobot, 1.2; businesswoman Sandy Folaron, 1.1.
The entire Public Opinion Strategies report on the GMAR survey can be found at www.metrorealtors.com.
April 18, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee