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Bravo to our many community colleagues — the African American Roundtable (AART), Liberate MKE, BLOC, Coalition On Lead Emergency (COLE), Hephatha Lutheran Church, and so many others who provided public testimony during Tuesday’s City of Milwaukee Common Council hearing to discuss the Mayor’s Proposed 2021 Executive Budget. As a member of the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network and supporter of the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Poverty Network, I stand in solidarity with those organizations working to ensure adequate investments in community health, housing, education and community development.
Among the many concerns over the proposed budget is that the City of Milwaukee Health Department, which currently receives only 2.2 percent of the total budget, and neighborhoods, which receive 2.9 percent, would again be seriously and dangerously underfunded. The proposed budget is disgraceful and will not serve our residents in addressing COVID-19, lead abatement, tobacco use, and the many other health and economic disparities that cripple our community.
In extreme contrast, 45.2 percent of the budget is allocated to police. Surely, there is a need for a more balanced approach that recognizes health, housing, educational and economic disparities as issues that demand increased support and attention. Doing so could help reduce the burden on law enforcement by increasing treatment options for those suffering from mental and physical health disorders, improving our educational system, providing more stable and affordable housing options, and creating jobs and training opportunities for residents in our neighborhoods.
Developing and increasing access to smoking cessation and addressing other preventable health problems through public health initiatives would also reduce the burden on local healthcare systems, help to address health inequities, and save the City money in the short and long-term, while also saving lives. Cost-savings could then be reinvested in the community. COVID-19 has already deepened gaps created by decades of discrimination, segregation, disinvestment, and unequal access to health care. We should not allow the City of Milwaukee’s 2021 budget to create even greater inequalities for our residents.
Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network Member
Renew Environmental Public Health Advocates, Inc. (REPHA)