Justin Bielinski
Press Release

To stop the violence, honesty and hard choices are needed

Perhaps my opponent is right, but perhaps he's not.

By - Jul 7th, 2015 10:17 am

July 7, 2015 – These are trying times in Milwaukee. A deadly spike in violence in the first half of 2015 has left many scratching their heads. It has led to strong feelings from residents, politicians, and civic leaders. No one has been more vocal about these events than my alderman and erstwhile mayoral candidate Bob Donovan. Yesterday, my opponent held yet another press conference decrying the rise in violence, and pointed his finger once again at Mayor Barrett.

Maybe my opponent is right. That’s not a sentence you’ll hear too many politicians say, even when it’s warranted. Maybe there are too few police officers on the streets to effectively deal with the rise in violent crime in our city. Maybe Mayor Barrett doesn’t fully acknowledge the scope of the problem, and maybe we need a leader who is more focused on keeping our neighborhoods safe than building a Bucks’ arena or a new office tower downtown. Maybe hiring 300-400 new police officers over the next two years as he has proposed will help stabilize violence in the city, and provide much-needed peace of mind to our understandably frustrated citizens. Maybe my opponent is right.

But let’s take a minute to consider the implications of this approach. Even using the low end of the hiring pledge, 300 new officers, we’re looking at tens of millions of dollars per year in new spending with salary, benefits, and training, and those officers won’t be on the street for months, even years. What my opponent hasn’t said is how we he would pay for these officers. Is there some secret revenue source we haven’t tapped yet? Will Madison suddenly decide to increase our state aid under a new mayor? Not likely. The reality is, hiring of this magnitude would lead either to significant tax increases, drastic spending cuts, or the most likely scenario: both options.

What would he cut? Road repair? Sanitation? Education? Health care? Libraries? Parks? My opponent has offered no solutions other than eliminating the Streetcar, a project that has already spurred millions of dollars in development that will add to the city’s tax base, and offers a convenient transportation option in the most densely concentrated economic engine of the region, with future expansions planned for locations like Mitchell Airport, UWM, and Miller Park.

Besides cutting spending, how would he raise revenue to pay for 300 police officers? Raise fees? Raise property taxes? Increase the sales tax? Increase municipal fines? None of these sound particularly appealing to me, but perhaps the people are willing to do it. Put it to a referendum. Call it a public safety tax. Put it on the ballot and see what happens.

Perhaps my opponent is right, but perhaps he’s not. Maybe people are broke and turn to theft out of desperation and hopelessness. Maybe we need to address segregation and racial income disparities, two areas in which Milwaukee is sadly a leader. Maybe people need mental health care, investment in public education, and small-business loans to secure better futures. Maybe they need a more robust transit system so they aren’t so dependent on cars, which can be expensive, unsafe, and harmful to the environment. Maybe we need to work with the state to create tougher gun laws and sentencing, so we can keep violent offenders off the streets far longer than we currently do. Maybe we should stop doubling down on the drug war, which tears families apart and does nothing to help addicts recover. Maybe people need good jobs that treat employees with dignity and respect and, most importantly, pay them a living wage. Maybe it’s possible to be tough on crime without caving to the whims of an out-of-touch police union.

My opponent, who has never worked in law enforcement, thinks he knows better than Chief Flynn how to handle crime in our city, and would like you to believe that he’s the only leader in this city who cares about public safety. This is not only untrue, but is an insult to the hundreds of nonprofit employees, volunteers, community organizers, block watch captains, firefighters, teachers, police officers, and neighbors who’ve dedicated their careers, talents, and free time to making Milwaukee a better, safer place.

I’ve spent my career working with kids and adolescents, including facilitating a group therapy program for teens who too often resorted to violence to solve conflicts. As Frederick Douglass said, “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” That’s what we need to focus on if Milwaukee is to become the great city I know it can be. If we need more officers, then we also need more teachers, but we must be honest about how we are going to pay for them. Milwaukee can’t afford to wait; our city needs help now. The answer lies with each and every one of us. Let the police do their jobs, and let us do ours. We can call a press conference every time someone is killed, or we can actually try to do something about it.

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3 thoughts on “To stop the violence, honesty and hard choices are needed”

  1. Tim Rouse says:

    Very well written Justin. You make some valid points to ponder.

  2. MARY GLASS says:

    2016 Candidate Justin Bielinski, 8th District:

    You are to be commended on your attempt for leadership and stewardship as a city charter officer of the City of Milwaukee. More importantly, I hear you recognizing that the problem of violence is NOT those people’s problem but OUR problem with some specifics. I take it “OUR” means all 15 districts – “OUR” means the executive, legislative and municipal branches. You also bring to the table the fact that you are evolving in your due diligence thinking.

    Our findings show that the violence is due to the environmental strangulation of Enduring and penetrating poverty that is like a metastasized cancer – it grows on its own and depletes good cells and ultimately the immune system and the demise of the person comes. Depending on the time-notification of the cancer and medical care, individuals can live longer and longer with quality of life. Late time-notification and lack of care is massive growth of the cancer with instant death as it relates to quality of life and demise.

    Police/Law Enforcement/Courts/Prisons
    More police is not the end-all especially since they are seen as PART-OF-THE-PROBLEM and the Chief of Police LACK TRUST. We know through experience and huge training and overtime budgeting that throwing money to allow overtime for police (who live outside to the city that pay their salary) is NOT the answer, especially with present profiling, trumped-up rap sheets, biases, murders, and lack of system-check by the Fire and Police Commission and a COMMUNITY/NEIGHBORHOOD led Policing system.

    You ask about funding. Yes. For a while you would get “large funds” deployed. TRUTH & SENTENCING is an example.

    Will it solve the problem? Will it be sustained? NO.

    You and others mention as a cure massive and punitive punishment in incarceration as a blanket throw-our-hands-up solution. Tell me, since when were the industrial complexes cheap or FREE?

    I like your wisdom of looking at what you open the door to – logical, human, family, and cost-effective reasoning and resolution. City of Milwaukee citizens/stakeholders/family members ARE THE PRODUCT OF THEIR DAY-TO-DAY ENVIRONMENTS. The way our government treats them have all to do with their RECOVERY and SELF-SUSTAINABILITY.

    We must re-define, re-brand and un-trap the hidden talent and vetted businesses in the neighborhood that do not see INSPIRATION and HOPE from a billion dollar arena being given to millionaires and billionaires, MILLION DOLLAR real estate THEY HAVE OWNERSHIP OF given to millionaire developers, million dollar housing and apartment developments in Brady area, downtown-east side and Third Ward OR a streetcar project that are given from their tax dollars but NOT for them TO TRAVEL TO WORK and quality of life needs. A family involuntary servitude payment for 30 years (and may never enter the arena or park east).

    They LACK the FUN, FROLIC, excitement and glee of Brewer’s Hill, Downtown BID and restaurant owners like Caladone, when they cannot get support from the Redevelopment Authority, Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation, CDBG, DPW, Neighborhood Services and DCD for to open a business, expand a business or grow a business with new hires.

    This is where you need to be looking at how your candidacy will be different and how real pillars can be put in place that shine a light in the war-torn neighborhoods lacking due diligence of Donovan, his fellow council members, Barrett and the municipal branches. We need a NEW BREED at city hall leading the leadership and stewardship. Are you up to the challenge?

    At the end of the day, Mr. and Ms. Citizenry is facing problematic issues that we get a lot of funds to change; but, by–design discrimination by Tom Barrett, mayor and the entire common council, continue to place institutional disgrace and help to make drug trading, drug use and depravity a CAUSE of violence.

    We must replace the drug economy with viable means of options for quality of life (gainful employment, affordable housing, education and information attainment, safety matters, the American dream and economic development – to be entrepreneurial and presented lifestyles that includes artistic and recreation avenues in the neighborhood with our local, county and state government leading the charge for thriving businesses at the census tract and neighborhood level – that is district-to-district in implementation. The divisiveness caused by pitting one neighborhood (Brady Street, UWM, Third World and downtown against other neighborhoods of Color and Work Challenged is WRONG).

    That’s 60% of the problem. That 60% is on any day fluid to 90%. No city will sustain this type of destruction of families and Institutional racism, discrimination and disenfranchisement.

    As far Alderman and Candidate Bob Donovan not working in Law Enforcement, you seem to be dismissing his knowledge of the Safety Committee and most of all, the logic that one does not have to have cancer to know he/she does not want it for the reasons visible.

    As for Tom Barrett, mayor, he does not have a clue OR gives less than a clue in his due diligence for the People of Color and Work Challenged constituents – over 75% of the population of Milwaukee. Yes. I see and hear his media hype of caring. Where’s the beef in actions? He has the power. He has the resources. He has about 14 months to do something worthwhile rather than take and outsource MORE city of Milwaukee resources that are needed for those his charter says he represents.

    So, you have merit and so does Donovan. However, the big picture calls for more in your last paragraph in a comprehensive plan and resolution. For starters, how about a 3-part government/Intergovernmental measure for minimum 3 decades and billions like the forged NBA Milwaukee Bucks Plan?

  3. Mary, I appreciate your thoughts. There’s too much to respond to all at once, but let me say I am not suggesting we just lock up people and throw away the key. I’m talking about prioritizing violent criminals over drug offenders when we do incarcerate people, offering community service in lieu of punitive fines indigent offenders could never pay, and reforming prisons to truly rehabilitate individuals. Much of this must be done collaboratively with other levels of government, something my opponent has thus far not been able to do effectively.

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