Dirty politics in southside aldermanic race

MILWAUKEE -- A southside Milwaukee alderman says someone is playing dirty politics in his reelection race. Official-looking postcards have been sent to voters, saying their taxes have gone up - but the information is false.

These politically-charged postcards have been sent to registered voters on Milwaukee's 12th Aldermanic District, where incumbent Jim Witkowiak is in a tough race with challenger Jose Perez.

The mailing says southside homeowners pay between $300 and $1,500 more than other parts of the city in taxes, and the card asks: "why must we pay more than our fair share of taxes?"

The information on the postcards is wrong. In a statement, the city assessor says: "The mailing is fake, and was not sent by the city assessor's office."

There is no return address on the cards, so it is unclear who sent them. Alderman Jim Witkowiak hinted it may be the work of his opponent - a charge Perez strongly denies. In fact, Perez says he got one of the cards in the mail. "I'm just focused on what's really important to people. Other than receiving (a card) at my home, I have nothing to do with the postcards. My team doesn't have anything to do with the postcards. What's really important are the issues that people at the doors are telling me about: city services, access to jobs and crime," Perez said.

Witkowiak says this is an attempt to make him look like a bad guy right before the election. Voters in the district say the information would make them less likely to vote for Alderman Witkowiak. "I'm not going to vote for somebody who is going to make taxes higher," Jolene Dzibinski said. That's why Witkowiak says he's concerned.

"An attempt to get people riled up and say 'my alderman's not doing his job. He's raising taxes.' I have nothing to say about this. It's all lies," Witkowiak said.

Regardless of who might have sent the postcards, voters say they're sick of dirty tricks. "Let the people decide for themselves if you want higher taxes, but don't throw mud or sling mud, as they call it," Jeremy Mesick said.

The irony in all of this is that a city alderman has nothing to do with setting property tax assessments. A state formula determines that, so it shouldn't be an issue in a race for alderman - something both Witkowiak and Perez agree with.

In last week's primary election, Perez received 49 percent of the vote, and Witkowiak got 36 percent.