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Wisconsin Assembly 48th District primary candidate intro: Fred Arnold
Fred Arnold
Fred Arnold

Isthmus sent the six candidates for the July 12 Democratic primary for the 48th Assembly seat questions about why they're running for office and what they hope to accomplish. Here is what they had to say.

Fred Arnold
Age: 69

Current employment: Retired, instructor at Madison Area Technical College for 34 years
Campaign website:
Relevant experience (in 75 words or less): Ten years in elective office (Madison City Council -- serving as both President and President Pro Tem -- and Dane County Board of Supervisors); union activist at MATC (Grievance Officer, Vice President, Forum Representative, Chair of multiple bargaining teams); Chair, Madison Plan Commission and Dane County Regional Planning Commission; Chair, Stoughton Road Revitalization Project; Co-Chair, Ho Chunk Nation/City of Madison Planning Council

Please answer the following questions in 200 words or less.

1. Why are you running for the Assembly seat?
Ten years of public service as an elected official, a union activist, grass roots organizer, and public education activist have honed a skill set uniquely suited to the needs of the Legislature at this time. Running to make a constructive and significant contribution to an otherwise confused and negative public/political scene is my intent. My breadth of experience, my multiple leadership positions in the community, and my vision of bringing the voice of the 48th Assembly District to the Capitol will bring a voice of reason and maturity. My proven ability to develop collaborative relationships among different constituencies is needed during these polarized times in this state.

2. If elected, what will be your priorities for the district?
Long held traditions of due process and transparency are being ignored at the Capitol. This is not how we do things in the State of Wisconsin. To begin, my top priority will be to protect the basic tenets and traditions of fairness and justice in state government. Once this is re-established, my priorities would focus on economic development, renewing the respect and support to public education so that every child has access to high quality education, and supporting working families.

3. Explain how, as a member of the minority, you can be effective in fighting against the Republican agenda?
My proven ability to develop collaborative relationships among different constituencies will serve the 48th Assembly District well. I am a coalition builder who has earned the respect and trust of people with varying political leanings.

4. Which issues do you find common ground with Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans? If you don't see any common ground, how will you try to sway them to your point of view?
Economic development and a growing employment base are objectives we as a state should work towards. However, we disagree on how to achieve these goals.

It is my belief that supporting working families is the foundation for a strong economy. Gov. Walker's recent budget raises taxes on low-income working families while reinstating tax loopholes for corporations. This runs counter to recognizing the important connection between shared opportunity and shared sacrifice.

5. Closing the deficit immediately has become a rallying cry for the Republicans, and it is one that resonates with many Wisconsin residents. Is it important to balance the budget and if so, how would you do so? If it isn't important, why not?
States cannot continue to run a deficit budget. Although, the latest budget proved it is all about priorities.

Republicans supported increasing taxes on the low-income working families, while reinstating tax loopholes for corporations. In addition, essential services such as public education and health care had their budgets slashed. I will support middle class and working families because they are the foundation for a strong economy.

Additional strategies should focus on eliminating tax avoidance, exemptions and loopholes. I would also support enacting efficiencies in the delivery of state services, and restructuring the state tax code.

6. What role should the state play in protecting the environment? Name some specific programs you would push for?
An activist role.

Agricultural runoff, herbicide, and pesticide use can be minimized, ground water controls enacted, public utility pollution reduced, transit options created, land use standards established, effluent standards applied to industrial sites.

7. Most Democratic candidates -- and most residents in the 48th district -- agree that the state should provide services to the poor, disabled and elderly. At the same time, these programs are among the fastest growing in cost to the state. How can the state simultaneously control these costs while providing better services to people? Are there any grand reforms you would push for?
Dane County has a model program that can serve as an example of high quality human services at a lower cost than the traditional delivery of services approach. That program is Joining Forces for Families (JFF). JFF brings together educators, social workers, law enforcement, employment and training services, religious organizations, service clubs, health care professionals, businesses, and community based organizations in order to develop a coordinated system that works with and for people. I would promote this model throughout the state.

Investment in these types of thoughtful human services offsets the high costs of emergency and purely reactive responses.

8. What reforms, if any, would you make to the Wisconsin tax system? If you wouldn't make any, why do you think the current tax system is appropriate?
As noted in previous responses, I would approach reforming the tax code with an eye toward eliminating tax exemptions, corporate loopholes, and a consideration of the progressiveness of the code overall. Tax delinquency is a problem to address through enforcement and through reducing complexity and ambiguity.

I would explore options to reduce the role played by property taxes as a source of revenue for K-12 education. I would consider a 1% increase in the sales tax with an offset credit at lower incomes as a part of this mix.

9. What reforms would you push for with the school system?
I would advocate for freeing public schools from required national testing. Increase local control. Return the ongoing discussion of teacher evaluation, student performance, school day, teacher prep time, student discipline, teacher discipline, incentive pay, etc., to the collaborative decision making between collective bargaining units, school administrations, and boards of education. Significantly modify school financing. Stop chasing the promise of charter schools. There is no superman.

10. What are the most important issues facing women in Wisconsin?
The most important problem facing women in Wisconsin is the same problem facing women and men. It is the great disparity in income distribution across the percentile ranking of all income earners. The gap between the low and upper income earners is ever growing and diminishes very significantly every option women would otherwise be in a position to exercise. To begin the list: general medical attention, nutrition choices, child care facilities, pre-natal care, education for themselves (women) and their children, transportation options, mental health services, leisure time options, both avoidance of and redress for abuse and violent behavior, general social stigma, belief in a future for themselves and their children, positive self esteem.

11. If elected, what would you do to improve the economy?
The state can best improve the economy by establishing certainty regarding adequacy and efficiency of the broad public service infrastructure. This includes the statewide education system (4K-12 through university and technical college systems) which serves businesses and families alike. Businesses assess both the hard and the soft infrastructure in a state when making decisions to expand, to relocate, or to initiate a new enterprise. Special incentive deals to attract private sector activity are just short-term "noise" too often used at great cost to local communities and seldom provide a positive return on the state's policy.

12. I've touched on some obvious big issues, but are there any issues that the media and general public are overlooking? What are they?
The uneven/mal distribution of income is a huge issue imbedded in the many points above. The ever-increasing disparity in income and wealth generated between the 40th and 90th percentile range indicates a fundamental flaw in applied public policy. All social indicators perform poorly as the income distribution grows more and more unequal. This is a public policy issue, which requires a multidimensional fix.

In the more purely political sphere, I find as I go door-to-door the clear option for some is to simply disengage from the political process altogether. This results from frustration with obvious recent failures to reconcile differences large and small at the Capitol. The 48th District can establish an identity and presence in the Legislature if the will to participate is nurtured. I see this as an opportunity. It can happen through regular listening sessions held throughout the 48th, which would engage constituents not comfortably linked to the Capitol and possibly alienated from politics in general. My goal is to implement a plan, which will help develop identity, community, and a voice within the 48th District.

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