It is with sincere sadness and anger that I note that for the first half of 2015, the city of Milwaukee has lived up to its reputation of being deemed “Kilwaukee.” The carnage that has punctured the very heart of our city within the last few weeks has brought fear and despair not seen in many years.
At the time this article was written, there have been 20 shooting incidents within a seven-day span. Ironically, Mayor Tom Barrett just reappointed Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn to four more years in his position. After the appointment, 8th District Alderman and mayoral candidate Robert Donovan decided to post on social media how there had been nine homicides in the 126 hours since Barrett made the decision to reappoint Flynn as chief. It seemed Alderman Donovan used the unfortunate tragedies as an opportunity to push his campaign for mayor and that type of opportunistic strategy has become a common theme in Wisconsin politics: everyone loves pointing the finger.
How can we think this helps those families who have to bury their loved ones suddenly? How does this help the family of Tariq Akbar cope with never being able to see his smile or hear his laugh ever again? Many people within Milwaukee are tired of seeing the political bantering back and forth between public officials on how they are the better candidate, only to see no change once the election is over. Those who are subjected to the maladies of Milwaukee’s urban neighborhoods could care less about eloquent speeches containing statements of false hopes and broken promises; their everyday experiences are a painful reality that seem to have no end in sight.
Where has the pragmatic approach to rectifying the problems that continue to plague our city gone? Seeing a mother lamenting the loss of her child should be the driving force for our public officials to take action. The level of violence in our city has grown in only a year’s time, yet we are distracted by placing blame on each other instead of approaching this battle head on.
This may seem like an extreme statement, but we are watching extinction in real time right before our very eyes. I had a conversation with an elderly woman recently and she told me that in the 74 years she has lived in her neighborhood, she has never been afraid to come out of the house until now. People are living like prisoners in their own communities so there is no time for rhetoric for the sake of political gain and higher positions.
How can we combine our efforts to reshape the current landscape of this city? That should be what public officials and community leaders talk about. Smear campaigns are becoming more prevalent and, unfortunately, we are continuing to lose people daily. No one person can singlehandedly change the situation, but one person can empower others to get in gear and that is what the citizens of Milwaukee need to see.