By Ana Martinez-OrtizIt’s important to vote, there’s no doubt about it. However, it’s equally important to know the names of the persons on the ballot and what everyone represents. Earlier this week, Amani United Neighborhood Association hosted a forum for the candidates running for Milwaukee County Sheriff and the 16th Assembly District.
The forum, monitored by Milwaukee NAACP President Fred Royal, gave candidates the opportunity to address the community and answer their questions. It focused specifically on the sale of menthol products, youth development, incarceration and drug abuse.
The candidates present for the 16th Assembly were Rick Banks, Brandy Bond, Kalan Haywood, Danielle McClendon-Williams and Supreme Moore-Omokunde. Richard Schmidt was the only candidate present running for Milwaukee County Sheriff, although Robert Ostrowski’s opening remarks were read by Royal.
While each candidate brought their unique voice to the forum, overall their answers only varied slightly. In general, they agreed that by reforming the education system, the lives of future generations would improve and that there needs to be a more hands-on approach when it comes to improving the 16th Assembly and Milwaukee.
“It has to start with the quality of education our children are receiving,” Bond said, on how to improve the quality of life.
Moore-Omokunde remarked that the 16th District has some of the biggest challenges in Milwaukee, but that it also has some of the most wonderful centers. To improve, he said the community needs to start recognizing its assets.
On the topic of education, the candidates all agreed that something needs to change. Haywood and Banks each mentioned the necessity for programs to keep kids engaged, with Haywood adding that it’s a matter of allocating resources.
“I just feel like our schools are very outdated,” McClendon-Williams said. She suggested the introduction of trades in middle school and urged that students’ talents be recognized.
By far, one of the most important topics addressed that night was the increasing use of menthol in younger generations, as it was addressed during the forum and again during community questioning.
While posing the questions, Royal told the crowd that advertisements for cigarettes and menthol are two to three times more commonly seen in predominately black neighborhoods. He asked candidates to outline their concrete steps to tackle this disparity.
McClendon-Williams, who answered first, put it simply: her plan is to remove them.
“It’s just logic,” she said, “pass the bill and get the job done.”
Moore-Omokunde and Haywood said that there need to be stronger measures taken when it comes to prevention. Haywood, the youngest candidate, said the taxes on tobacco products should be raised and then used to pay for prevention actions like funding addiction services.
Royal also asked Schmidt several questions regarding his campaign in the race for Milwaukee County Sheriff. Schmidt is the current acting sheriff since former Sheriff David Clarke left in 2017.
Schmidt explained that during Clarke’s term, which saw the deaths of several inmates, he was not at the county jail, and after he took over he brought in the National Institutes of Corrections (NIC). Six months later, he had the whole place cleaned up and NIC issued Milwaukee County Jail, “a clean bill of health.”
“Not one bad outcome since I took over as sheriff of Milwaukee County,” he said.
If elected, Schmidt plans to combat Milwaukee drug epidemic, which caused 420 deaths last year according to him. He also plans to change how county parks are patrolled but told the crowd there are 144 parks and only 15 officers. The amount of resources the county gets is all dependent on how the county votes.
At the end of the forum, Royal thanked the candidates for their participation, before addressing the crowd.
“Please do not forget to vote,” Royal said, “and take someone with you.”
To learn more about the candidates running for County Sheriff and the 16th District Assembly, please visit their websites.