Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Council Okays Disparity Study, More Cops

Compromise proposal funds study of gender, race disparities and five new police recruits.

By - Nov 10th, 2017 11:46 am
Russell W. Stamper, II

Russell W. Stamper, II

After nearly an hour of debate, the Milwaukee Common Council managed to approve the first amendment to the city’s $1.5 billion 2018 budget. The amendment earmarks $500,000 to study gender and race disparities in city contracting, while also adding five police officers to a recruiting class intended for the end of 2018. The amendment slashes $584,000 in salaries across a wide swath of city departments.

According to the amendment text, “the community disparity study will determine the extent to which minority- and women-owned business enterprises participate in the procurement of contracts with the City in construction, professional services, and goods and services.”

The 2017 budget allocated $500,000 for the study, but because of the estimated $1 million cost, that project had not moved forward. The amendment, sponsored by council members Russell W. Stamper, II, Jim Bohl and Khalif Rainey, will provide the remaining $500,000.

Stamper gave a passionate speech in favor of the amendment on the council floor. Before detailing how he doesn’t want his son to grow up in a city that is regarded as the worst in the country for African Americans, Stamper told the council to “stop complaining and let’s work together to get things done in this city.”

Stamper added that “many other cities are succeeding with a disparity study.”

The central city alderman, who represents one of the most impoverished districts in the city, found support from many of his colleagues. Bohl complained that “I get really tired of reading on social media that Milwaukee is one of the five worst cities for African Americans. I get tired hearing from young, talented African Americans saying that they have to go to Atlanta to succeed.” Said Ald. Milele A. Coggs: “we should all recognize that the tools we currently have are not enough.”

But that wasn’t enough to convince Ald. Terry Witkowski.“Is this the best use of limited resources?” he asked. “I frankly don’t think it is.”

Earlier versions of Stamper’s amendment originally relied on borrowing, cutting other programs, savings from Potawatomi’s streetcar sponsorship and property tax levy support.

An updated amendment offered by Bohl found the savings (and money for five police recruits) through the slashing of personnel costs in virtually every city department except those involved in public safety. It does not detail how the departments should achieve those personnel cost reductions.

The amendment was approved on a 12-3 vote, with council members Witkowski, Michael Murphy and Jose G. Perez voting no.

Future Problems

Maintaining the size of the police department will be a challenge in next year’s budget. As Bohl said, “next year, we’re already hearing, is going to be worse.”

The addition of more police recruits is easier to find funding for in the first year, since they only have to be paid for part of the year, but becomes harder to maintain in the future once they are getting a full year’s salary and benefits. The cost for the five officers, their equipment and fringe benefits is listed at $84,024.

Mayor Tom Barrett‘s 2018 budget proposal eliminates 33 police officer and 75 firefighter positions, but does not include any layoffs. Numerous amendments will be considered today by council members in an attempt to restore those proposed cuts.

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