For Peter Munoz, solving problems is a matter of seizing opportunities. The 61-year-old mayoral candidate should know. He flew to this country from Cuba in 1962 with only the clothes on his back.
Since then he has been a photographer, a dairy farmer, a 45-year-old college student, a mayoral aide and, most recently, the executive director of Centro Hispano, a nonprofit social service organization serving Dane County's Latinos.
Tighter budgets, job creation and quality municipal services are his top priorities if elected.
Munoz is no stranger to adversity, or frugality. As a teenager, he arrived in New York City with his mother and sister and forewent finishing high school so he could support his family. He held odd jobs - busing dishes and making leather garments in Greenwich Village - while he studied at the New York Institute of Photography.
He ...worked for the state Department of Natural Resources and became involved in the Madison community.
In the [M]ayor [Bauman's] office, Munoz worked with the public and with a number of agencies as a problem solver, Bauman said. Jim O'Keefe, another Bauman aide, remembered Munoz being instrumental in the merger of the city and county health departments, though the project wasn't completed until after Bauman left office.
He also pushed hard last year for the Madison Police Department to improve officer training in handling the mentally ill. After police shot and killed a disturbed, knife-wielding man on Williamson Street, Munoz called for a system developed in Memphis, Tenn. "Why in the world have we not looked into this?" Munoz said. The program, used in 70 departments nationwide, trains officers to deal with mental health cases humanely and safely.
Munoz declared his candidacy more than six months after former school board member Ray Allen announced he would challenge Cieslewicz. Munoz didn't start sooner, he said, because of a death in his family. He realized, however, that he can't miss this opportunity....
Growing up in Milwaukee in the 1950s and '60s, Ray Allen would visit the foundry where his father earned a living. Allen still remembers the deplorable conditions: smoke and grime, oppressive heat, 100-pound molds the foundry workers carried. More than that, he remembers the words his father told him one day.
"This is what happens when you don't have an education," his father said. "This is why I worked to get you an education so you don't have to work in a place like this."
Now running for mayor of Madison, the 55-year-old former school board member carries that lesson as a reminder of the importance of education in solving social problems like poverty.
"I think the role of government is to enhance the quality of life of its citizens," Allen said. "We do that by allowing government to focus on those problems that cannot be solved without its involvement."
Since coming to UW-Madison 30 years ago to study journalism, Allen has established himself as a well- respected leader in the business community. He owns two small businesses, the Madison Times weekly newspaper and Paradies Madtown, which manages retail shops at the Dane County Airport. On the campaign trail, Allen touts his business credentials saying, "I don't only talk about job creation, I do job creation."
His nine years on the Madison School Board, however, is what developed his experience as a politician and decision- maker.
Veteran school board member Ruth Robarts remembers working with Allen to negotiate contracts with the teacher's union, something she considered one of his great successes before he stepped down two years ago. Allen helped standardize negotiating practices, easing years of tension between educators and the school district. Politically, Robarts said, "Ray is generally what Ray portrays himself as: A middle-of-the-road kind of guy."
Although Allen tends to draw support from a conservative base and until recently has been an active member of the Republican Party, when the Madison School District became the first governmental unit in Wisconsin to offer domestic benefits to unmarried and same-sex couples, Allen voted for the proposal.
He said his three top concerns are crime, poverty and general management of the city, but education plays a role in addressing those issues.
To address poverty in neighborhoods like Allied Drive, Allen believes the city needs to partner with Madison Area Technical College, of which he is a former board chairman, to deliver more training and job opportunities.
"MATC and the private sector can provide an entr e for those individuals to get into the work force, which provides stabilization in their lives," he said.
Allen wants the city to be more engaged with the school district, even though the two entities operate independently. Rather than interfere with school business, Allen believes the city can encourage the creation of after-school programs, internships and apprenticeships, because the roots of crime need to be addressed in that 3-to-5 p.m. period, he said.
At some point between building the eighth wonder of the world and writing the history of the Finnish people, Will Sandstrom decided to run for mayor again.
From his log cabin origins in rural Minnesota to his alleged run-in with the KGB, Sandstrom draws upon a lifetime of stories and theories to explain why he should be elected.
The first thing he talks about when discussing his candidacy is his pledge to reduce property taxes by demanding that Washington politicians return the trillions of dollars that "Bush has wrongly spent" on programs like the Iraq War. By restoring income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans to levels that existed during the Roosevelt administration, Sandstrom argues, the federal government could return more money to public education and local governments.
He also has plans for Madison. He's against a proposal to build a trolley system and would rather see expanded Metro bus service; he wants to add more police officers to patrol areas near the university; and he opposes building more swimming pools because "we've got lakes."
He would like to standardize the city's overnight street parking rules, so that alternate side parking would only be in effect during snow emergencies.
Parking regulations hold personal meaning for Sandstrom. In 1970, he tried running for governor, but says he was thwarted when he was arrested for an outstanding parking ticket while trying to file his candidacy at the state Capitol. News reports say he was disqualified over questions about nominating petitions.
This time around, Cieslewicz, 47 (the youngest in the field of four), casts himself as the candidate of experience. He still considers himself to be the candidate of ideas, many of which would build on the successes of his first term.
On his watch, he said, the city has added 26 police officers, the first fire station in 25 years and the first new ambulance in 15 years. To keep up with growth, he wants to build another fire station in 2008. "We've addressed public safety and made that a priority," he said.
To address the roots of crime, he's bolstered funding for after-school programs and established the Allied and Emerging Neighborhoods Fund, which is designed to nip neighborhood problems in the bud. He wants to continue redevelopment of troubled Allied Drive and has introduced an apprenticeship program to help the neighborhood's families escape the cycle of poverty.
He opened the city's first public swimming pool and identified sites for future pools.
He may be best known, though, for some of the controversial successes from early in his term. Cieslewicz helped enact laws that ban smoking in workplaces, require developers to build more lower-income housing and increase the minimum wage.
His opponents have chastised him as promoting a political agenda rather than focusing on city management. They worry about record borrowing in the 2007 budget, and blame problems such as elevated levels of manganese in city drinking water on the mayor being "asleep at the wheel."
Some business operators still say he is not doing enough to accommodate economic development. Terrence Wall, whose Madison-based company has developed several local office parks, said at least some of his peers are unhappy.
"They're all frustrated and as a result have packed their bags and are focusing their efforts in adjacent communities," Wall said. "The mayor has focused too much of the city resources and city staff time on processing and chasing dozens of frivolous anti-business regulations put forth by Progressive Dane and him."
In response to the criticism, Cieslewicz noted that the city rejected a request from Wall for tax subsidies for one of his projects.
Ã¢?Â¢ DEBATES, FORUMS
The following mayoral debates and public forums have been scheduled before the Feb. 20 primary:
League of Women Voters Forum: Will be taped Monday at 7 p.m. at Channel 12 (not open to public); airs 3 p.m. Feb. 7, 8 p.m. Feb. 9, 3 p.m. Feb. 17, 8 p.m. Feb. 18; also will be available online at www.mcc12.tv.
Progressive Dane Forum: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7, Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 Northport Drive.
Young Professionals Forum: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 8, Concourse Hotel, 1 W. Dayton St.
Elvehjem Neighborhood Association Forum: 10:30 a.m. Feb. 10, East District Police Station, Cottage Grove Road at Thompson Drive.
Communities United Forum: 7 p.m. Feb. 11, aired live on 1670 WTDY-AM
Northside Business Association Debate: 8 p.m. Feb. 13, Esquire Club, 1025 N. Sherman Ave.