Black Members Blast Council President
Chevy Johnson won't take on 'status quo and complacency,' says former president Hamilton and six others.
Johnson, who had spent the past year quietly courting votes for the post, was elected by his peers to the position by a single vote.
Now the seven members on the losing side of the vote are blaming Johnson for enabling what they say is the city’s biggest nemesis – status quo and complacency.
Johnson unseated Ashanti Hamilton, who won a controversial election of his own in 2016. Hamilton bowed out days before the 2020 vote, advancing ally Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs for the post, who lost to Johnson after a rather acrimonious council debate.
The three were at the center of another 8-7 vote yesterday, with the council voting to confirm Claire Woodall-Vogg as the head of the Milwaukee Election Commission. After an initial hearing, all cabinet appointments were sent back on June 16th for an additional hearing on racial equity, triggering Woodall-Vogg to send an email removing herself from consideration, and then another a week later jumping back in. In between, she had an email exchange with Coggs, who led the movement to send all of the appointments back.
Led by Hamilton the group had sought to have Woodall-Vogg appear for another hearing.
“When the Election Commission executive director candidate withdrew her name from consideration for the position, she showed clearly her unwillingness to answer the question at hand: ‘What will you do to end systemic racism in your respective department?’ She instead felt herself above the process and above having to answer the questions of the alders charged with representing the concerns and calls of the Black and Brown community of this city,” said the seven members, all of whom are Black, in a press release.
In an email to Coggs, Woodall-Vogg said the council was grandstanding.
“We strongly disagree with her, because asking her and any other candidate what they plan to do to end systemic racism within their department is NOT grandstanding. It is indeed doing what the people have asked us to do which is to bring about change in a city that has been deemed the worst place in the country for African Americans to live,” wrote the group.
The group then pivoted to criticizing Johnson, who is also Black.
“That again requires leadership and yesterday by appointing the Election Commission head and circumventing the process for appointments our Common Council President Cavalier Johnson (in a clandestine act in concert with the circumvention) was devoid of that leadership and in turn our African American citizens were robbed of the chance to ask the candidate the question at hand which bears repeating: ‘What will you do to end systemic racism in your respective department?’,” they wrote.
Johnson issued his own statement on Tuesday.
“The 2020 election cycle is already underway. Applications for absentee ballots are in the mail to hundreds of thousands of Milwaukee voters, and in just 35 days our citizens will cast their votes in the fall primary election and 119 days from now, voters across the country will select who will serve as President of the United States. When it comes to elections, there is a typical hyperbolic statement accompanying each cycle that, ‘this is the most important election of our lifetime.’ While all elections are important, only a select few in my lifetime has lived up to that billing. This time though, I feel confident in applying that standard to the upcoming federal election,” he said. “Claire Woodall-Vogg has a passion for ensuring voting access to all Milwaukeeans — no matter their neighborhood or zip code.”
Johnson included a copy of a document Woodall-Vogg sent to all council members alongside her letter saying she wanted back in. The four-page document, entitled Equity, Inclusion, and Voting in the City of Milwaukee, addressed challenges and potential solutions to equity and inclusion for voting.
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