By Karen Stokes
Voters had the opportunity on Saturday to network and to listen to various candidate’s visions for their office during the political candidates’ forum, at the Community Brainstorming Conference.
Prior to Milwaukee’s spring general election in April, the goal of the Community Brainstorming political candidates’ forum, held at St. Matthews CME Church, 2944 N. 9th St., was for candidates to inform the community on their experience, present their positions on the issues and give the audience an opportunity to ask questions.
Moderated by Tearman Spencer, the invited panelists included:
STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
Superintendent Dr. Tony Evers (incumbent), Dr. Lowel E. Holtz
MILWAUKEE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, BRANCH 47
Fox Point Municipal Judge Scott Wales, Kashoua (Kristy) Yang
MILWAUKEE MUNICIPAL JUDGE, BRANCH 1
William Crowley, Judge Valerie Hill (incumbent)
MILWAUKEE SCHOOL BOARD, DISTRICT 4
Aisha Carr, Director Annie Woodward (incumbent)
MILWAUKEE SCHOOL BOARD, DISTRICT 5
Director Larry Miller (incumbent), Kahri Phelps Okoro
MILWAUKEE SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 6
Dr. Tony Baez, Jonatan Zuniga
(seeking the seat being vacated by Tati Joseph)
MILWAUKEE SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 7
Joey Balistreri, Paula Phillips
(running for the seat currently occupied by Claire Zautke, who will not seek re-election)
The candidates were passionate on a variety of subjects including: bilingual education, special education and funding for public schools.
Director Larry Miller gave facts and statistics on the inequality of the state budget for Milwaukee Public Schools.
“The inequality for the state budget funding formula was based on property tax in 1993,” said Miller. “MPS gets $10,261 per student, Whitefish Bay receives $11,248 per student and Shorewood gets $11,626 per student, if we had that funding we would not be in a deficit right now. Fox Point schools receive $13,577 per student.”
“At one time, special education received 70 percent funding from the state, now its 26 percent,” Miller said. “46.8 million was taken out of the MPS budget and given to the voucher program.”
Wanda Montgomery, president of the local Black Child Development Institute, asked the question, that if the people on the school board would invite the public to come and sit in on meetings, would they respect the people?
“I had an opportunity to serve on a committee and I had to tell the school board person that I was not there wasting my time because they already had predetermined decisions before I came into the room,” said Montgomery. “If you invite me, I’m going to come and bring my opinion to represent the children.”
The Community Brainstorming Conference began in 1986 at the conference center of St Matthew’s Church by an invitation from Samuel Johnson and Reuben Harpole to attend a meeting for the purpose of “brainstorming” about an array of problems, issues, and concerns regarding the African-American community in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. The current chair is Russell Stamper, Sr.
The Community Brainstorming Conference and its now well-known and highly regarded “Fourth Saturday Breakfast Forums,” conceived and operationalized. The CBC has been able to realize one of its fundamental purposes “a continuous drawing together of the visible and voiced and the invisible and voiceless in the community, for the sake of advancing the interests and good of African Americans in particular, and the city in general.”
Vivian, a resident of Milwaukee who is new to Community Brainstorming, attended last month and looked forward to attending this month because it was going to be about elections.
“I came this time thinking let me hear what the people running are talking about,” said Vivian. “A lot of things that were said opened up my mind and gave me a lot to think about.”
The Spring general election will be held on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. You may register to vote on Election Day. Voter ID is required.