Alderman Cavalier Johnson: Governor Thompson Could Be Ally On Corrections Reform

An Op-Ed piece from Milwaukee Alderman Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson on corrections reform in Wisconsin and how former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson can be a valuable ally:

Last week Wednesday I was in the audience at Marquette University when Mike Gousha interviewed former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson. Governor Thompson spoke about his journey from a modest childhood in Elroy, Wisconsin to rising through the Wisconsin State Assembly on to the Governor’s Mansion, serving as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in President George W. Bush’s administration, and becoming a successful businessman after his lengthy career in public service. Governor Thompson went on to candidly discuss a few missed opportunities from his time in office, and highlighted that even someone who made history as Wisconsin’s first four-term governor has regrets.

In the 1990s, Tommy Thompson’s welfare reform programs gained national attention, and by his count, his name was in virtually every major newspaper in America. With his reputation as a reformer, Governor Thompson says that he had a moment in time, 1996, when he should have capitalized on his notoriety and run to serve as President of the United States. He didn’t. Instead, he yielded to Bob Dole and Bill Clinton recaptured The White House that November. Governor Thompson says that he regrets that decision and missed opportunity.

Outside of politics, the thing that Governor Thompson says that he regrets the most was also born during the 1990s: Mass incarceration. Under Tommy Thompson’s leadership Wisconsin was no exception to the allure of laws like Truth in Sentencing — however misguided. Fast forward 20 years, and we can all see the results.

• With more than 22,000 inmates, Wisconsin incarcerates about twice as many people as Minnesota, a neighboring state more similar to ours than not
• Wisconsin’s prisons have more inmates than proper space to house them
• Reducing the prison population has become a focal point in our 2018 gubernatorial election
• The sitting governor has expressed that there is no value for him to visit state prisons run by his Department of Corrections
• At $1.2 billion annually, Wisconsin’s taxpayers spend more on locking people up than we do on education — including crucial early childhood education which could stem the flow into prisons in the first place
• Wisconsin is home to the most incarcerated zip code in the United States, 53206

Governor Thompson reflected on his regret to presiding over a massive prison building boom in Wisconsin and now realizes the error of locking so many people up, not helping them to gain the necessary skills to reintegrate into society, and labeling them felons which strips them of many opportunities to enter the workforce. On top of that, the message from the Department of Corrections upon release is, “don’t come back” — even though their return is all but guaranteed.

When democrats have reached across the aisle — even in hyper-partisan times like these, they have been able to deliver for their constituents and the state. Democrats with an eye toward bipartisanship led the charge to shutter Lincoln Hills. Democrats with an eye toward bipartisanship are working to ensure that expungement means a clean slate.

My message for democrats is simple. Take Governor Thompson at his word. Democrats want to reverse the bullet points mentioned above. It only makes sense that they capitalize on this opportunity for bipartisanship by working with Governor Thompson who a) was an architect of the prison boom and b) is probably the most popular republican in Wisconsin’s history. In a world where the GOP controls which bills are or are not heard, it would not be such a bad idea to have Tommy Thompson advocating for the same cause.

Chevy Johnson
Milwaukee’s 2nd District Alderman

Authorized by Chevy for Milwaukee.

Copyright © 2018 Chevy For Milwaukee, All rights reserved.

Consideration for publication donated by Blogging Blue.

Why do cities even need an official flag?

A while back a group decided to hold a contest to pick a new flag for the City of Milwaukee. Admittedly the current city flag is kludgy, busy and old world…sort of like Milwaukee.

The winning flag (which I can’t stop seeing as a Corona beer logo) has been selling very well and is displayed in some volume in some neighborhoods around town. To me it’s something of a hipster thing but it’s being promoted as a symbol of pride and unity.

The supporters of the ‘People’s Flag’ appeared before a common council committee and effectively got blown out of the water. Some media coverage for your reference HERE and HERE and HERE.

From the common council discussion, it sounds like this proposed flag isn’t, at least in City Hall, a symbol of pride and unity. A lot of Milwaukee feels left out of the decision making process. And the flag doesn’t really say Milwaukee…a sunrise over a lake is pretty representative of hundreds of towns and cities across the nation. Should it be more Milwaukee?

But after all of that background…why do we even need a city flag? Really.

Home Town Proof That We Need Universal Healthcare NOW!

Since earlier this year, as stories about the Milwaukee Health Department’s mismanagement and issues with not following up with lead poisoning issues, growing issues with STDs, and now woman not getting cancer screenings and mammograms, it’s obvious that the health department is a hot mess. I am not going to get into all of that now…but the latest issue supports moving to universal single-payer healthcare now.

Here are the issues in a nutshell:

More than 100 women were left waiting for breast and cervical cancer screenings after the City of Milwaukee stopped providing those crucial services earlier this year.

Some of those women had symptoms such as lumps in their breasts, or reported pain or burning sensations, according to documents obtained by the Journal Sentinel through an open records request.

The Well Woman program provides cancer screenings and other services to women with little or no health insurance coverage. The program pays for mammograms, pap tests and cervical cancer screenings for high-risk women as well as other tests.

Many of those left waiting were low-income women, he (Alderman Michael Murphy) said.

The drop-off in crucial cancer-screening services was linked to a contract with provider Healthfirst, which ended in January. As the Journal Sentinel reported last week, that contract ending also disrupted the city’s family planning services.

(emphasis mine in both cases)

The city shouldn’t have to supply low income residents with health services. Milwaukee residents should never be without health insurance. The mess at the Milwaukee Health Department is shocking and unacceptable…but in a preferred world it shouldn’t even need to exist in its present form.

All of these woman should have universal health insurance. They should all have their own primary care physicians, their own ob-gyn specialists. They shouldn’t be waiting for vital healthcare services while bureaucrats get their shit together in Milwaukee.

What the fuck is wrong with this country that we can’t even take care of our own?

Editor’s Note 7/14/2018:
I am calling for the establishment of a national universal single payer healthcare plan. I would expect the federal government or assigned federal agency to be the banker…collect taxes/fees/premiums as required to make it work and pay healthcare providers. Similar to its role today with Medicare.

The Milwaukee Health Department is acting as the actual service provider albeit via a subcontractor, but the actual supplier nonetheless. Not a good thing.

If you want to see more backstory on the issues at the health department, follow these links:

Health officials scaled back family planning services despite Milwaukee spike in sexually transmitted diseases

Protecting Milwaukee’s children: What we know about the latest problems with the city’s lead poisoning prevention efforts

In Ongoing Dispute With Milwaukee’s Mayor, Common Council Makes Worst Decision Ever

No really, if this isn’t the worst idea ever for the Common Council, it has to come pretty close.

After the shine had come off the copper for Police Chief Edward Flynn, there were continued disputes between the Common Council, Mayor Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission and Milwaukee citizens at large. There have been many moving chess pieces…changes in the FPC, the chief moving on to greener pastures and the Common Council working to gain more authority over the firing of the chief. Major changes like that require approvals by the Wisconsin Legislature.

But now the Common Council is discussing changing the way Milwaukee selects its police chief. Currently the chief is hired and vetted by the Fire and Police Commission. The FPC consists of individuals appointed by the mayor and the appointments are approved by the Common Council. So the commission is installed by elected officials but on a certain level should have reduced political influence than straight on electeds. This is a model commission studied by other government entities and emulated elsewhere.

So how would the Common Council improve how we select our police chief? Have the public elect them! Have politicians run for chief. Supposedly the commission picks the most suited law enforcement person they can find…but now we get to select them via yard signs and clip boards and probably outside money and political action committees. I can’t think of anything I’d love more than have one of the Koch brothers’ groups weigh in and contribute campaign funds in a race for Milwaukee Chief of Police. Or to have a chief who will spend time that should be devoted to law enforcement in fund raising or getting ready to run for re-election every four years.

The Common Council is debating a new proposal that would permit the City of Milwaukee to make the position of police chief an elected one — putting the selection process in the hands of the voters. The resolution is sponsored by Ald. Khalif Rainey.

“What we do is we allow the actual public, which is being policed by these police officers, to have a say in the neighborhood, because clearly right now what’s occurring isn’t effective,” said Rainey. “So what I’m attempting to do is to see if there is possibly another means of bringing leadership to our community.”

Now I know that Chief Flynn was unpopular in many quarters. But I don’t think we should throw out the current process for a half assed election process instead just because we didn’t like the chief. If there are some issues with the commission that need to be fixed, let’s fix them.

And we have first hand, right here in our county, proof positive that this is a horrible idea: former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke!

Ald. Robert Bauman argued that “the electoral system is not a guarantee of accountability whatsoever.” He cited the example of former Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., who he called an “absolute disaster” and a “demagogue” who was accountable to no one.

It’s apparently cold in hell today because I agree with Ald. Bauman!

Open Letter to MKE Police Chief and Aldermen: Thoughts around “Families Belong Together” rally.

I attended the “Families Belong Together” rally this afternoon in front of the Federal Building on East Wisconsin Ave in Milwaukee. News reports estimate the crowd at 2,000 or so attendees. As the crowd grew they pushed off the sidewalk into what would normally be a parking lane (except there isn’t one in front of the federal building) and eventually into the traffic lanes blocking traffic between Jefferson and Jackson. I didn’t see a single police officer in the area although my companion thought there were two bicycle patrol officers there early in the rally.

But let’s get back to the absence of police officers. As I said I didn’t see any Milwaukee Police Department officers nor any of the officers that normally patrol the federal building. I imagine there was a conscious decision to reduce police visibility to prevent confrontations with the protestors. That isn’t the worst idea in the world and the event was peaceful and from my vantage point completely without incident. I think the authorities did the right thing at this point.

But, right or wrong, the rally closed Wisconsin Ave at that one block. That in itself wasn’t a good thing. And it probably wouldn’t have gone well if the police showed up suddenly and tried to clear the street. But I didn’t see anyone doing any traffic control either. For eastbound traffic, protesters were blocking the street with a large sign and other protesters were directing cars to proceed around the rally on Jefferson St. I didn’t see what was happening at the Jackson and Wisconsin intersection. I’d add a photo here but I don’t want to get in copyright trouble with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel if I borrow one of theirs.

But with a large crowd occupying the street and civilians performing traffic control, we are one counter protester or road rage individual in a car or truck away from multiple injuries or fatalities if someone drove into the crowd. Why wasn’t there law enforcement present to provide traffic control?

The lack of police presence may have influenced the participants in this rally to maintain a peaceful presence but would it have allowed maleficent individuals to cause mayhem just as easily?

What is the city’s take on protests? What is the MPD’s take on crowd control? At what point does safety over tolerance become a thing? Was Summerfest consuming the available police resources for a Saturday afternoon?

This went really well but it could have been a disaster just as easily.