By Lynda Jones
The number one highlight that Milwaukee can finally celebrate was the Juneteenth Day legislation being signed into law in December of 2009. Wisconsin became the 32nd state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. The announcement of the legislation brought out many community leaders who had worked on making this a reality for years. It even brought home a former Milwaukeean, Dr. Ronald Myers, Sr. who is the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign chair. Since leaving Milwaukee, Dr. Myers has worked tirelessly at making Juneteenth a national holiday. He is even asking Congress to enact legislation to make Juneteenth a national day of observance in America.
Dr. Myers said that he was so full of emotion on that day in December in Milwaukee, he could barely put any words together.
The second top story would have to be the debate on changing the governance structure of Milwaukee Public Schools. The mayor and governor are pushing for a mayoral takeover of MPS in order to establish as they say more accountability. Legislators are divided on the entire issue and it looks like the debate will still continue into the new year.
The third top story is not a pretty picture, but it is reality for Milwaukee, Black male employment reached a historic and national high with percentages slightly over 50 percent. The 3rd Annual SDC Symposium on Poverty put a spotlight on this figure even before it hit national news. As of May 2009 the Milwaukee unemployment rate was 9.7 percent, and for African American males of working age, more than half are out of the workforce. And while this percentage figure does vary in reports, it still remains in the range of 51-57 percent, making Milwaukee a close second to the most unemployed Black male population in Buffalo, New York.
The fourth top story has been an ongoing investigation into the daycare practices here in Milwaukee, which has had a spotlight on many Black owned day cares here. The entire daycare system is being looked at closer by the state, and reforms are being made under the direction of the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, Reggie Bicha. Locally, Common Council president Willie Hines has also expressed an interest in being a major part of the reforms to daycare regulations. He stated in a recent article that he intends to introduce legislation at the next full meeting of the Common Council that will work toward giving the City of Milwaukee a much stronger voice in child care regulations.
Bicha has already been working with the district attorney’s offi ce and others to help on the breaking of the law spectrum of operating day cares. A recent newspaper article also addressed ties to drug trafficking to the financial end of a number of day cares as well.
Rounding out the top five stories would be the ousting of Dr. Darnell Cole, president of MATC in February 2009. Dr. Cole had been cited with a DUI. His lapse of judgment, which he publicly acknowledged was used as a key ingredient for his firing as the head of Milwaukee’s largest technical college. Reports had been made that the school’s board and union were not fans of Dr. Cole, and despite the outrage of students, organizations and community activists the board voted to fire him. He is suing.
Other stories included the attack on Mayor Barrett when he came to the defense of a woman and child following a night out with his family at the Wisconsin State Fair, he is still healing from a hand injury.
Governor Doyle surprised many with his announcement that he would not seek another term in office. Following his announcement, Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton announced that she would run for the seat only to change her position later, stating personal and family reasons and pulled out of the race. Mayor Barrett eventually announced his intention to run, and the no surprise to this governor’s race was County Executive Scott Walker, who has been positioning himself to run for the seat for many years.
Milwaukee Fire Department Chief Douglas Holton announced his retirement, after 32 years of fire fighting service with plans to move on to a teaching position. On Dec.1, Chief Holton began serving as the Associate Dean of Human and Protective Services at Madison Area Technical College, and has one of the largest fire and police training programs in the state of Wisconsin.
And finally State Senator Spencer Coggs deciding to enter the race for Lt. Governor.