Milwaukee Common Council is having their annual session for public testimony on the budget on Monday, October 4, at 6:30pm. This is the single opportunity the government creates specifically to get yelled at by residents about what budget priorities should be.
This year the hearing will be virtual, due to the pandemic. Register online now! Registration closes at 4:30 PM on Monday.
Virtual testimony is much less fun, easier for politicians to ignore or silence, and generally alienating. There are many important reasons to get vaccinated, but if somehow none of those have convinced you yet, please just do it for us. Do it so that more people can more effectively make a scene and shame politicians at these public hearings. Thank you.
You don’t have to yell at the common council, you can also testify in a calm, personal way. We believe in diversity of rhetorical tactics. The African American Round Table (AART) does these great trainings on how to use your two minutes wisely by attempting a human connection with the politicians. As we know, many politicians have sold their humanity to get or stay in office, but shreds always remain, like an echo of their former selves, floating behind their vacant, sold-out faces.
Anyway, it’s also a good idea to focus on a clear, relevant demand. Like the LiberateMKE demand to take $75 million from police and invest it in things that actually produce public safety, like collective housing, economic opportunities, and non-police violence prevention. If you’d like to see more of AART’s tips, they made a video from one of their recent trainings, led by Devin Anderson. It’s available online.
The ARPA dough
This year, the budget process is going to be a little extra, because Milwaukee also has $394.2 million in federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) coming in. The common council has already spent $7.15 million of that money on traffic enforcement, as if having cops and inattentive sheriff deputies chasing reckless drivers doesn’t just add to the cars speeding around and killing people.
Moderate democrats in congress also gleefully and morbidly celebrated giving ARPA funds to the white supremacist gangs (that is, law enforcement). Those gangs literally went to war against residents of every major city during the 2020 pandemic summer. The people of Milwaukee need to recover from the violence of policing and capitalism as well as infectious disease. To ensure police don’t take more of the remaining ARPA funds, we are going to need to fight.
Mayor Tom Barrett padded his proposed budget with ARPA funds, including a plan to hire 195 new cops. These cops are going to add to Milwaukee’s long-term pension crisis. AART has a new, detailed report about different ways to stave off the budget disaster that Barrett is leaving us with before jetting off to Luxembourg.
The short version is: police pensions will bankrupt our whole city unless we stop them.
The best time to stop them is now, before Barrett’s proposition gets approved. Monday’s testimony is just the first opportunity to send that message loud and clear. Between then and November 5, the common council will take the mayor’s proposal, our testimonies, and work out a final budget plan. We need to spend October flooding alderpeople with comments, calls and emails, and we need to remind the city that we mean it when we say DEFUND THE POLICE!!
When we engage, we can win.
On June 17, dozens of people testified before the county board in favor of spending ARPA funds to prevent landlords from getting away with illegally evicting people. The measure funded a right to council for everyone facing eviction who couldn’t hire a lawyer. It passed the county board on July 19, and was recently adopted by the common council. We turned up to meetings, yelled at politicians, and we won.
The more input ARPA decisions have from residents, the more likely the money will go to actual recovery, rather than entrenching the power of elites who used the pandemic crisis as an opportunity to exploit people more. The best way to involve residents is to give them actual control through participatory budgeting.
Participatory budgeting is a process where city money gets controlled by people directly, rather than politicians who are made to sell their humanity. One of the groups that alderpeople specifically sell out to is cops. Police associations hold massive sway in city politics across amerika, and Milwaukee is no exception.
Milwaukee’s police association are a bunch of class traitors parading themselves as a union. Their headquarters is at 6310 W Bluemound Rd, for anyone who might want to know. They are out there grabbing alderpeople’s ears, offering them campaign contributions, threatening them with disorder, and lying nonstop about how endangered but essential police officers are to public safety.
Their influence surely played a role back in January, when alders Nikiya Dodd, Ashanti Hamilton, and Chantia Lewis flipped on the public demand to refuse federal COPS grant money. After initially voting with the people, they ended up hiring 30 more bloodthirsty members of Milwaukee’s white supremacist gang (MPD). Police also tried to get funds from from Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act. LiberateMKE fought them, and, thanks to the protests and ongoing conversation around defunding police, most of the CARES act money was used for direct assistance to the people of Milwaukee.
We can win on the remaining ARPA funds, too. LiberateMKE is demanding no more ARPA money to police, and $75 million of ARPA money be taken from control of alders in MPD’s thrall and split $5 million per district and then allocated through participatory budgeting.