Milwaukee Talks: Ald. Michael D'Amato
Podcast: Ald. D'Amato chats with Molly about Riverwest's Center Street and more.
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Ald. Michael D'Amato is near the end of his third term representing Milwaukee's Third District on the Common Council. It appears he will face challenges from Sura Faraj and Nik Kovac in the April election.
Prior to taking office in 1996, D'Amato served as the executive director of the East Side Housing Action Committee. The ESHAC is a neighborhood organization that worked to improve economic development and housing conditions on Milwaukee's northeast side.
Ald. D'Amato and his wife, Becky, have three children — Nicolas, Lily and Jack -– who attend Milwaukee Public Schools.
The Third District includes part of the Riverwest area, Lake Drive, East North Avenue, Oakland Avenue, Brady Street and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The district's population is extremely diverse; featuring students, artists, skilled factory workers, professionals from all fields, professors, families, older citizens and business owners. Socioeconomic conditions range greatly, but according to D'Amato, the people in his district have the same concerns.
In the latest installment of Milwaukee Talks, OnMilwaukee.com sat down with D'Amato and discussed a wide range of topics including the upcoming election, crime, the possibility of two-way traffic on Farwell Avenue, Alterra Coffee coming to Riverwest, the smoking ban and more.
OnMilwaukee.com: What does an alderman do? Is it a full-time job?
Ald. Michael D'Amato: It is absolutely a full-time job. We are like the mayor of our little district -- all the things that affect you every day: police service, fire service, garbage service, street repairs, etc. In addition, we do planning -- that's very important for the neighborhood. We do zoning, so we are involved in a lot of new developments and building inspections.
In this district, certainly, it is a full-time job. I probably work about 60 hours a week, and in addition to that, do three night meetings a week, either with the Riverwest Neighborhood Association, Water Tower Landmark Trust or the Downer Avenue Merchants' Association. We go to all of the association meetings. There are about 30 of them in Riverwest. It's a lifestyle as well as a job.
OMC: If you had a "magic Milwaukee wand" and could grant three wishes for the city, what would they be?
MD: I have always said that there are three things that create a stable city, and these would be my wishes: Everybody who wants to own a home can own a home, everyone who wants a family-supporting job that pays a good wage and health benefits could have it, and that every child got a quality education all the way through high school and college.
To me, home ownership, job creation of good-paying jobs and education stabilize the city and make it great. That's the foundation that everything else is built upon.
OMC: Do you think Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is capable of providing a good education?
MD: It always disturbs me when people lay the blame on MPS or lay the job of fixing societal problems on MPS. MPS teaches students that come to them with all types of baggage. Where you see schools with parents who care, you see good schools with good students, but where you have less than that -- students who don't have clean sheets to sleep on or students who don't know where their next meal is coming from -- that's where the problems are. And MPS absorbs those problems. It's gotta be a holistic approach to solve these problems, and until we do that, MPS will continue to have problems.
OMC: The Third District is very diverse, with 40,000 people from many different walks of life. How do you find the middle ground that will appease people living on Holton Street and those living on Lake Drive?Page 1 of 3 (view all on one page)
The alderman talks about all the parking restrictions by UWM and how theyre fair but what about the rest of the eastside? You can park anywhere!! Its very hard to be a resident who has to DRIVE to work and when he complains to his alderman about the restrictions and the $1,000s in parking tickets he has accumulated over the years and he says take a bus then. Well, I am all for mass transit and light rail, but we dont have those systems yet and thanks to a state legislature that keeps dragging their heels on the issue, we probably wont for a long time! So the alderman needs to get it through his thick head that residents cannot continue the constant harassment they receive from parking maids because each month it seems that the legal parking times get lower and lower!!!
Farwell and Prospect are main thoroughfares of the east side. Similar to the main arteries that feed the Chicago's loop from I94. In Chicago the main arteries are one way to keep the flow of people moving and keep areas attractive. I lived on Prospect for a while and loved it, it would have been less enjoyable if my commute was an extra 10 minutes everyday due to turn lanes and cross traffic. The two way portion of Farwell should be extended down to Ma Fischers. Two way traffic through that area would help the small businesses on those 3-4 blocks and enliven the intersection of North and Farwell. "They" should then replace the parking lot across from Blockbuster with a new building with retail and student housing and the biggest below ground parking garage that man has ever seen. (I wish I was a developer with connections)
Turning either street into two-way is atrocious! It's obvious there's enough car and foot traffic to support the local businesses as it is. If either got turned we'd have problems with congestions because both streets are pretty much a highway into and out of the east side. Not to mention it would mess with the bus routes, the bike routes, and the PARKING! Let alone any hope we have for a guided bus system.
Turning either street to two-way is atrocious! Slower traffic means more congestion. Both act like a highway to get in an out of the East Side for pretty much anyone with a car. Plus it would screw up the bus routes and the bike lanes AND the parking. Plus think of all the condo owners up and down prospect trying to get out, including those in the new buildings going up. Also, if theirs any hope for a connector program, guided buses or light rail, both would need to remain one-way. It's obvious that it already attracts enough car and foot traffic to support the businesses in the area.
east side business owner | Nov. 7, 2007 at 4:58 p.m. (report)
I have not rec'd any "favors" or favorable treatment from D'Amato, but when I have had concerns he has been there to help me address them and as a resource to make my business better. I also have been at neighborhood meetings and development meetings where there has been an uproar over nothing (people resisting change) and D'Amato has listened to everyone, presented his opinion eloquently and thoughtfully, and when the time came for a consensus and a vote the majority of people have changed their mind and gone with what probably was truly better for the situation and not with where all the bitchin' was coming from. I think he is intelligent and professional and truly cares about all the people and businesses in his district. Term limits are for people who don't want the best candidate to win just because he was the best candidate previously also. That doesn't make sense. Good job D'Amato, keep up the hard work, your district is better because of it.
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