By Dylan Deprey
An “angry white man” expressing his fear for the children of Milwaukee and its lead pipes. A woman whose sewer system broke was charged by the assessor’s office and could not pay off her mortgage and the fine at the same time putting her house into foreclosure. A woman who had to get her car repaired after a diving into pothole having trouble with the new card system while taking the bus line.
Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton and City Clerk Jim Owczarski heard the many gripes of the community during the May 28 Community Brainstorming.
After multiple date and location changes the Brainstorming moved from the usual Saint Matthews C.M.E. Church a few miles south to the Wisconsin African American Women’s Center.
With new appointments and position changes the Common Council wanted the community to have a one-on-one with President Hamilton as well as share their problems with him directly.
While not trying to turn the Brainstorming into a high school civics class, City Clerk Jim Owczarski gave the group a breeze over of how Milwaukee’s local government works.
“If you go on Wikipedia and take a look at what it says about the city of Milwaukee, it will say that it has a strong mayor and weak council system,” Owczarski said. “I’m personally at war with this amorphous blob who keeps changing this.” Owczarski said that Milwaukee’s local government is more modulated and complicated than one side being weak and the other being strong. “If each (Common Council member) were a municipality, they would be their own mayors,” Owczarski said.
He added that the Common Council meets every three weeks. The only way to have an issue presented during one of meetings was to having previously spoken to an alderperson about the issue so they can present it. Once its presented it falls into a committee to be discussed.
“Everybody wants to think about the end,” Owczarski said. “But you have to think three weeks back.”
“Some people say that this system is too slow but it is built to be deliberative,” Owczarski said.
Once President Hamilton had the microphone he announced that he wanted this Community Brainstorming to be an insight on what his position entailed as well as why he put certain council members on committees.
Hamilton said that the people’s concern on poverty and cost of public resources as well as the government being transparent as possible were all pieces in the selection process of committee.
He also added that although the community may not agree with certain council members the people in those areas voted for them and the Council had zero say on the matter.
Hamilton also shed some light on the two hot ticket issues he has been receiving, licensing and public safety as well as listening to the communities issues at hand.
“One of the big issues that was reoccurring in your concerns was that certain establishments in certain areas of the city get treated different than other areas in the city,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said that the licensing committee was comprised of members whose areas held the multiple concerning stores and those that actually wanted to be on the committee.
Hamilton addressed the complaints about Ald. Bob Donovan being the chair of the Public Safety Committee.
“In order to be a chairman over the City of Milwaukee Public Safety committee you have to be open to the ideas the community is calling for and the types of things they would like to see implemented,” Hamilton said.
“We can’t lock him up in a basement, he is an Alderman,” Hamilton said. “Give him a chance.”
Hamilton opened the floor to the rest of the group to talk about their problems with the city.
Bernadette Albouras was one of the many to step in line and tell her problem to the Common Council President. Albouras had issues meeting with her Alderman after the assessor’s office billed her for a broken sewer line. After paying her mortage for 26 years her bills piled up and her house went into foreclosure. Albouras said that although council members say “keep me accountable” they do not listen. She is hopeful for the new Common Council president.
“I think he (Ashanti Hamilton) is a breath of fresh air and is vested in the community but we will see what happens,” Albouras said.