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Milwaukee: Residents urge the council to fund jobs and community, not more police

By staff

Milwaukee, WI – Milwaukee’s city council (called the Common Council) held a joint public meeting for the city’s 2020 budget, October 7. Residents came into city hall that evening, and a majority shared a similar message: put money into city services and divest from the Milwaukee Police Department.

Milwaukee residents came to this meeting with concern about the amount of money being allotted to the Milwaukee Police Department. Most who spoke requested that elected officials put funding into services such as street repair, clean drinking water, and neighborhood services.

Paul Spink, state president of the American Federation of State, City, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) put forth concern on behalf of the members he represents. “We are choosing not to invest in our neighborhoods and our children, and this budget ignores the fact that this community depends on far more than one department in this city,” Spink said.

Billy Spencer, the owner of Spencer Renovation & Construction, talked about the neighborhood services program that helped benefit the uptown community in Milwaukee, and how officials should continue to invest in these programs. Spencer had construction workers standing with him while explaining that the program “gives them the opportunity to enter into the construction industry, to earn a good salary, to learn a trade, take care of their families, help clean up the neighborhood while working within their own neighborhoods and staying out of trouble.” A couple of workers standing with Spencer gave their own testimony, expressing how this program has helped change their lives.

“I speak for all the mothers and children in Milwaukee when I say we want to be lead free,” said Diana Branch, a mother with a child suffering from high lead toxicity as a result of the old pipes found all over the city.

Branch and other residents in the audience held signs asking the city officials to invest in the Birthing Moms Pilot Project, an initiative that helps educate mothers and children about lead toxicity and how to prevent lead poisoning.

Melody McCurtis, a representative of the Metcalfe Park Community Bridges organization, spoke out about housing issues in her residential area. She called for the development of community-owned housing, citing the run-down apartment units on the northside and their high rents.

“Me and my community pay anywhere from $800 to $1200 in rent for housing that should be condemned. There is no rent cap in the city of Milwaukee. Landlords are not held accountable at all,” McCurtis said.

According to the city of Milwaukee’s government website, the finance and personnel committee meets various days at 9 a.m. to discuss budget hearings. Live videos are available online for public audiences to watch. Various groups from around Milwaukee plan to continue applying pressure on the council and Mayor Tom Barrett leading into November when the budget is set to be finalized.

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