In advance of the February 15 primary, MPA sent all mayoral candidates listed as “Certified for Ballot Placement” by the City of Milwaukee Election Commission a survey with five questions to better understand their perspectives on historic preservation topics including 1) favorite historic places; 2) historic preservation, equity, and sustainability; 3) balancing historic preservation and new development; 4) preservation regulations; 5) the future of the Mitchell Park Domes. The answers provided below represent the unedited responses from those candidates who submitted responses to the survey and have advanced beyond the February 15 primary to be included on the April 5 ballot. The candidates not included in the below responses have not returned answers to MPA.
Note: MPA will continue to reach out to all candidates on the April 5 ballot to provide all candidates the opportunity to share their views.
MPA does not endorse or oppose candidates for public office.
QUESTION 1 What is your favorite historic site, building, or neighborhood in Milwaukee, and what is your personal connection to it? How would you foresee your role in preserving Milwaukee’s older buildings, characteristic neighborhoods, and other important historic resources that make up a vital part of our city’s culture, economy, tourism, and perception as a world-class city?
Cavalier Johnson: One key memory as an older child is going east on Locust Street, up the huge hill just east of Dr MLK Jr Drive, and realizing there’s a whole world east of there, from the river, to the UWM campus, to Lake Michigan, and on to downtown. My father always said, “get off the block.” My own favorite place Bay View High School, where my father went before me.
We have a tremendous history in Milwaukee, both good and bad, and many stories of perseverance and struggle. All of that history, from our Indigenous ancestors to the German brewers to the Polish flats to the Black factory workers to the Mexican migrants, all of it is part of our story. I will continue to be a partner to the Preservation Alliance in maintaining our history and building our new stories.
QUESTION 2 Preservation of the existing built environment can help promote equity, sustainability, and affordable housing, all of which are critical issues for Milwaukee. If elected, what specific efforts would you make to promote and incorporate the reuse of existing buildings into the city’s health and equity goals as well as its sustainability programs and policies?
Cavalier Johnson: Reuse is critically important and we must think about how in creating housing for our soon-to-be growing population we think about mitigating our climate impact. In every case, if we can repurpose and reuse buildings we should do so.
QUESTION 3 Historic preservation can also be a tool for economic development and urban vitality. If elected, how do you foresee the role of preservation of older and historic buildings and sites within the city playing out in the development and economic plans for the city as it grows? How would you balance new development with historic preservation?
Cavalier Johnson: I think the question answers itself – we need a balance. We need to preserve our history while at the same time creating a vibrant city that attracts new residents, commerce, and activity. By blending old and new we can build on our strengths.
QUESTION 4 If elected, what would you do to strengthen Milwaukee’s historic preservation regulations to ensure continued protection for Milwaukee’s vital historic buildings, sites, and places?
Cavalier Johnson: I’m open to your suggestions for how we need to ‘strengthen’ historic time preservation. There are a number of rules already in place and if you feel that we need more, I would consider those in the coming months and years.
QUESTION 5 Efforts have been underway for many years to determine the future of the Mitchell Park Domes. What role do you think the City could play in determining a long term plan for the Domes? What factors are most important to consider when thinking about the future of the Domes?
Cavalier Johnson: I love the Domes, but the Domes are county property, in a county park, so our role is almost entirely advisory. There are significant concerns about the long-term sustainability of the Domes due to their design and construction. Any decision about their future must take into account the short- and long-term cost. We need a great Conservancy and great Botanical Gardens, and I hope the County finds a path forward to maintain that history at Mitchell Park.