Milwaukee residents are being given opportunities to weigh in on the city’s public safety issues. Sadly, this plan does not address societal underpinnings of crime and poverty that have plagued Milwaukee since deindustrialization.
Alderman Bob Donovan said, “This plan is not the venue for suggestions around the need for jobs and youth development, but to improve policing and the criminal justice system.”
But how can you share ideas and feedback around a Public Safety Action Plan without addressing and taking action steps on some of the city’s greatest issues and needs?
I attended the first Public Safety Committee listening session on Saturday, Oct. 8, at Morse Marshall High School, on the city’s far northwest side. I was not surprised to see a room of no more than 35 or so residents. I believe residents do care about public safety issues, but just may have not been engaged.
If these listening sessions are going to be effective, the information must reach the individuals that this public safety plan would affect most; young people, people of color, especially black males, business owners and the community as a whole. My concern has always been that the right people would not know about the listening sessions and not have an opportunity to weigh in on public safety issues. So I’ve asked the aldermen who were present that Saturday about their efforts to turn out residents.
Alderman Jose Perez, who’s helping to host a listening session at South Division High School on Saturday, Oct. 22, said that he was working with community-based organizations, community organizers, and neighborhood associations in his district. We will see how his efforts pan out. But it appears Alderman Chevy Johnson, who also replied, appears not to have taken steps to actually canvass the neighborhoods and reach out to churches, businesses and other organizations.
These listening sessions will continue to be ineffective if elected officials do not make it their priority to go outside of their offices’ walls and put boots to the ground. Great opportunities are missed when the critical step of engaging with the community, as the elected officials did during election season, are not occurring on a consistent basis.
The Public Safety Action Plan states that the problem that must be addressed before any of the others is public safety or more specifically, the lack of it. The others include include joblessness, housing issues, multigenerational poverty, breakdown of the family, widespread drug use and a seriously challenged education system.
The Public Safety Committee has two more listening sessions on the city’s South Side, Saturday, Oct. 22, at 9:30 a.m. at South Division High School, 1515 W. Lapham Blvd., and Saturday, Oct. 29, at 9:30 a.m. at Pulaski High School, 2500 W. Oklahoma Ave.