By Shauntay Nelson
I’ve dedicated both my personal and professional life to making the city I love a thriving community that uplifts all of its citizens – especially our young people. Like Milwaukeeans across this city, my heart is broken in the wake of this month’s tragic shooting of Sylville Smith and the unrest that rocked Sherman Park. I know that the only way to create the Milwaukee we want, is if all of us come together – civic leaders, churches and the faith community, our business community, and yes, elected officials.
I expect the people elected to represent our communities to understand this, and to lead efforts to bring all of us together. So last week, I asked Sen. Johnson directly why Milwaukee hasn’t seen the type of investment from the business community necessary to spark development in areas like Sherman Park.
I hoped to hear a thoughtful answer that addressed the loss of good-paying jobs in a new global economy, a lack of investment in infrastructure and education by our elected officials, discriminatory housing policy, and the undeniable role that race plays in all of this that leaves communities like Sherman Park behind.
Unfortunately that’s not what happened. Instead the answer shocked me, and not in a good way. Sen. Johnson responded by saying that our children simply haven’t “shown the ability to learn.” He added that Milwaukeeans lack the punctuality and the necessary “appearance” and “work ethic” to invite business investment. He claimed that if Milwaukeeans wanted to convince the business community that we’re worthy of goodpaying jobs and thriving communities, and then we need to bring the proper “attitude.”
Sen. Johnson said that we lack “those basic things.”
He communicated that this was “obvious” based on his personal observation of the results. OK.
Here’s what’s obvious to me: elected officials needs to do their homework. They need to spend more time in our communities. Maybe then, those who agree with a response as such would realize that neighborhoods like Sherman Park have suffered because too many politicians ignore the concerns of those who live in the community.
Comments such as those given in response to my question are not only divisive, but they distract from the very real role that elected officials should be playing to encourage investment here in Milwaukee. Our small businesses, our schools, and our children depend on real involvement in our communities.
We are tired of excuses. We need solutions.