People have overwhelming come out to say: we want fewer cops, and more investment in people and communities. But right now: our work is at risk!
Politicians in Milwaukee are making decisions that will either continue the city’s carceral and white supremacist approach to public safety, or depart from it to invest in people and communities. This is a time when we need the whole city talking about the budgets, and particularly about defunding police. If you haven’t contacted your local representatives yet, on both the city and county level, now is the time.
What’s at stake this week:
195 more cops. Mayor Tom Barrett proposed three police recruit classes of 65 cops each, which will cost Milwaukee $6 million. Common council will approve it next Monday unless we stop them.
Harm reduction in the jail and house of corruption (HOC). A committee of the county board is hearing a resolution about giving people held in the jail and HOC free phone calls and video visits on Friday, October 29, at 10:30am.
$3 million increase for county sheriff’s office (MCSO). County exec David Crowley proposed raises for MCSO staff, but the county board can shut him down.
$700,000 for lakefront surveillance. Crowley also proposed a system to expand MCSO surveillance and violence on the lakefront.
Divesting $11.3 million MCSO. County board members introduced 24 amendments that will take money from the sheriff and put it into human needs and real public safety.
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.
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Since coming into office, Governor Tony Evers has struggled to reconcile his personal belief in bipartisanship with the highly partisan election that actually put him in office. He defeated the polarizing incumbent Scott Walker by a very slim margin of only 29,227 votes. That victory did not come from Tony Evers winning over republicans with his folksy moderate message. The good ole boys in the grand ole party stood by their man in 2018.
Some pundits have talked about Walker’s base weakening, and the difficulty of running for a third term, but the actual vote count shows that Walker got all the support anyone could ask for. There were 2.7 million voters in 2018, that’s the most ever in a Wisconsin midterm election. Nearly half of those voters went republican. Evers won because his turnout was even higher. According to analysts, his support among “young energetic” voters was key. That energy was fueled by hatred of Scott Walker and Donald Trump, not love of milquetoast Tony.
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[UPDATE: the finance committee meeting was postponed to Monday July 26, because of a sport, and Chisholm’s newest report has appeared. ]
Milwaukee county sheriff, Earnell Lucas has been breaking the law for the last few months. County ordinance 56.02 requires that government agencies with projections of a “deficit of at least one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) or an overtime deficit of at least one million dollars ($1,000,000.00)” must file a report that “shall include the reasons for the anticipated deficit, as well as a recommended plan of action or alternatives to offset such deficit.” Earnell Lucas has exceeded the $3 million sheriff’s office (MCSO) overtime budget by at least three times a million every year, without filing adequate reports as required, by law.
As abolitionists, we don’t much care for laws, but we also despise law enforcement hypocrisy. We have found that, when it comes to following, rather than enforcing them, cops and sheriffs don’t much care for laws either.
So, here’s how Marklein’s “normal legislative process” works: popular, well-crafted, bipartisan reforms get squanched by republican leadership in favor of unpopular, slip-shod, and logistically impracticable bills designed as veto-bait to rile up the party’s base with racially coded messaging. Calling that “good” is hilarious. Howard Marklein wins king of comedy in this session.
On Thursday June 10, the budget of Wisconsin’s prison system (DOC) went before the joint finance committee and, despite statements of broad bipartisan support for shrinking the system, lawmakers passed a budget that expands prisons and will kill people. The atmosphere was one of jovial comradery as issues of life and death were raised, silenced, and voted on.
This legislature is so gerrymandered, broken, and corrupt that even members of the ruling party can’t help but make jokes at their own expense. Apparently there was some kind of dysfunction going on with republican members of the committee. They delayed their June 8 session more than 5 hours and started Thursday’s session 90 minutes late. Even then, all of the republican senators other than the senate chair, Howard Marklein (r- Spring Green) failed to appear, prompting Jon Erpenbach (d- Madison suburbs) to jokingly remark “I don’t know what you did to your team, Howard,” during roll call. Marklein laughed and joked back: “I’ll need your vote, Erpenbach.” Everyone laughed.
[UDPATE: The meeting happened Thursday June 17. Jason Haas put these items at the very end of the 31-item agenda, requiring everyone who wanted to testify to wait on the phone 7 hours for the chance. Only Ryan Clancy’s proposed right to council for eviction defense had as many public testimonies, Haas scheduled that as item 25. It passed. Haas also tried to invoke parliamentary rules to silence Clancy on the CART program. When that failed, he invented new rules. Willie Johnson Jr took over chair duties during the discussion of sheriff overtime. He refused to acknowledge at least one of the submitted eComments because it brought up the spurious origin of Ted Chisholm’s position as MCSO chief of staff. We’d counter that Chisholm gaining his position through nepotism and cronyism seems directly related to his inability to write an acceptable report.
The votes: – For CART, only Clancy and Sequanna Taylor voted against creating three new sheriff positions. Chisholm brought in sheriff Lucas and Michael Lappen from BHD, who convinced the rest of the board that CART could not happen without giving MCSO $300,000 to add three deputy sheriff FTEs to the list of vacant deputy sheriff positions they cannot fill because so few people want to be deputy sheriffs.
-For overspending, Chisholm’s report was again rejected because the only “solution” to overtime overspending he proposed was everyone giving them more money. The vote was close: Clancy, Taylor, Liz Sumner, and Joseph Czarneski were in favor of rejecting the report. Haas, Johnson Jr, and Shawn Rolland wanted to let Ted Chisholm and MCSO off the hook.]
The people of Milwaukee want less of our money going to law enforcement, but county officials are letting sheriff Earnell Lucas rake it in. Unsatisfied with their generous budget, the Milwaukee county sheriff’s office (MCSO) has a habit of overspending on overtime. They’ve also worked to take in money allocated for mental health and tried to control the shift to more humane and effective approaches to public safety. Amidst all this resource-hoarding, Lucas is also working to silence his most vocal critic on the county board.
On Thursday May 7, the leaders of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) demonstrated a profound disdain for most people in Wisconsin. They removed 390 items from consideration in the budget process, including very popular measures like marijuana legalization, BadgerCare expansion, education opportunities, youth justice reform, taxing the rich, driver’s licenses for immigrants, and many many others. These were the JFC’s very first votes on the budget, and the way senator Howard Marklein and representative Mark Born ran the meeting showed their eagerness to rip off the people on behalf of their rich friends.
Politicians in Madison want to build a prison, maybe two prisons. They want more cages in this state to hold people in. The leadership of both parties have prison-expansion plans in the upcoming budget, and if we do not fight back, these plans will go forward. More of our friends and neighbors will live behind bars. More people will suffer in solitary confinement. More will face racial or gender harassment, terror, negligence and abuse from prison guards as well as from medical and psychological staff.