“The President’s Perspective”
By Alderman Ashanti Hamilton
Common Council President City of Milwaukee
As elected officials, we have the privilege and duty to represent our constituents in government. Simply put, residents are our bosses. They pay our salaries and decide whether or not we will continue to serve when a new election season comes around. Fundamental to this, we have to make sure that we are doing our best to represent the best interests of our communities when we craft and vote on legislation and fight for our constituents’ priorities when it comes to City services and the budget. None of this can be accomplished without constant community engagement, and staying grounded in the will of people we serve must be a core part of our work.
Often times, this engagement comes in the form of Office Hours in the District, neighborhood walks or community meetings to discuss new businesses coming to the area. These are times when we really get the most genuine interactions with our constituents. This creates the opportunity to have deeper discussions about their priorities for the city rather than just seeing them in passing at an event or at the grocery store. Neighborhood priorities are important and inform the work of the Council. However, this is not the only way engagement works. We cannot limit our community touches to being reactive to complaints and concerns. As legislators, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that open access and opportunity exists for residents to inform our legislative and policy priorities in a more intentional way.
One immediate opportunity to create better pathways for engagement exists with preparation for the Democratic National Convention. Together we can make sure that this event is a success not just for the attendees and greater downtown, but for the neighborhoods that are looking for new economic activity and opportunity. This has been central to the discussions I’ve had with my colleagues at the Council. In order to maximize this opportunity we must have residents as partners, providing input and remaining engaged in the process. Empowered engagement means better policy and greater impact. But beyond the economic prospects, we have an opportunity to ignite the political scene in Milwaukee and bring more residents into our governing process. Regardless of party affiliation, the Convention provides the opportunity to learn more about how our democracy works. Having a front and center seat to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination process can inspire disengaged individuals to become more involved in our government. It is my hope that schools, community organizations and other groups take advantage of this amazing educational opportunity to bring more citizens into the process.
Being an informed and involved citizen is your POWER. The most active and organized residents are the ones that end up at the table where decisions are made. As your Alderman it is my responsibility to maintain an accessible process and system that builds upon the organized voice of the community. This is the very essence of our democracy and is the way that we make sure our processes work for the people we serve.
My encouragement to you today is to tune in to what your elected officials are doing and take advantage of the opportunities to be at the table and allow your voice to be heard. This week, my office and Youth Justice Milwaukee are hosting community discussions around Youth Justice Reform. These sessions will take place on Wednesday, May 29 and Thursday, May 30 from 5:30 p.m. -7:30 p.m. at Destiny High School. Stay tuned for similar opportunities by signing up for the Common Council/City Clerk’s e-notify and scial media pages as well as those for my office (@Ashanti4MKE). As the President of your Common Council, I remain committed to effective community engagement. I look forward to supporting residents as they work with the Council to co-create solutions to address our city’s needs.