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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Text of Michael Bonds's open letter re: Mayoral Takeover

by folkbum

Via the Educators Network for Social Justice, all the bold and underlining in the original, from President of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors Michael Bonds:
September 1, 2009

Dear Governor Doyle, State Superintendent Evers, Mayor Barrett, Common Council President Hines

On August 31, 2009, Mayor Tom Barrett and Common COuncil President Willie Hines held a press conference in which they cited the problems that Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is dealing with (financial, governance, and racial achievement gaps) as a justification for a mayoral takeover of the district.

As an individual, I ask, do we really want to turn MPS over to mayoral control, given the City's current fiscal problems, governance issues, racial disparities in Milwaukee, its recent history of corruption, its lack of expertise in education and its lack of an educational reform plan? Listed below is the City's record on the same issues.

Mayor Barrett (2004-present) & Common Council President Hines' (1996-present) Record on those issues:

(1) City of Milwaukee's Financial Crisis & Mismanagement:
  • Cost overruns on a no-bid computer contract (increase from $25,000 to $600,000).

  • $78 million budget deficit for 2010. It will result in service cuts and lay-offs.

  • City property taxes have risen 10% in the last 5 years.

  • Approximately, $800 million backlog in in capital improvement projects (street repairs, sewer replacement and repairs, light repairs, etc.).

  • The City continues to burden its residents with a variety of new and increased fees such as wheel tax (new vehicle registration fee of $20), snow removal fee, sewer fees, increased water rates, garbage removal, etc. This does not even include increases in city licenses, city permits, parking fees and fines, and fees for other services which the public needs from the City. SOme city fees have increased by 100% since 2003.

  • The City has had close to a combined $100 million in cost overruns in recent years associated with the City Hall renovation project ($30 million-$40 million), construction of the new police communication center, annual police overtime budget, and so forth.

  • Increased diversion of millions of federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) dollars annually from neighborhoods to balance the city budget. CDBG funds are designed for low-income and minority communities to deal with issues associated with poverty, deteriorated housing, and blight.

(2) Racial Gap in the City of Milwaukee: Where does the City of Milwaukee Rank?
Nationally, Milwaukee ranks at the top of or near the top in the following racial gaps:
(a) highest black unemployment rates in the nation, (b) most racially segregated housing patterns, (c) leads the nation in the incarceration of African Americans, (d) leads the nation in housing and business loan rejections for African Americans, (e) the Black infant mortality rates exceed that of some third-world countries, (f) major racial gap in pot hole repairs (g) some of the highest black poverty rates, and (h) highest racial gap in income.

Numerous national studies have shown Milwaukee to be the worst place in America for African Americans to live.

(3) Need for Change in the City Governance & Municipal Service Delivery Issues:

The current leadership in city government has shown its inability to: (a) develop the vacant Park East Freeway land downtown; (b) deal withe the loss of thousands of city jobs and loss of companies; (c) deal with city poverty (Milwaukee is the 7th poorest city in America); (d) solve a several-decades-long stalemate on federal transportation funds in a timely manner, (e) deal effectively with issues of violent crime and unsafe neighborhoods; (f) control regular flooding of thousands of city residents; homes each year; (g) control the number and cost of parking tickets issued to city residents, (h) control damage to hundreds of city residents' vehicles that hit city street pot holes due to delays in repairing them; (i) control the Common Council's history of liquor license problems, (j) reduce the delays in garbage collection, and (k) reduce the number of alderpersons convicted and sentenced for corruption in the last 10 years.

(4) Mayor Barrett's & Willie Hines' Education Experience & Academic Reform Plan:
  • Both stood on the sideline for years while the MPS declined financially and academically. It is only with the "potential" of receiving federal dollars that they are now interested in MPS!!!

  • On Monday August 31, 2009, the Mayor and Willie Hines did not have an education reform plan. Instead, the Mayor stated that it has to be developed!!! Do we want to turn MPS over to people who do not have a plan?

  • The City does not have the expertise or infrastructure to run MPS.

Are MPS's problems a reflection of the broader issues facing the City of Milwaukee?

Sincerely,

Michael Bonds

CC: Milwaukee Board of School Directors, Superintendent Andrekopoulos, State Legislators, Common Council
For those who don't remember, Bonds was not the "union" candidate in his election, so you can't sell your reflexive anti-union crap on this one. This is also his field: He's an associate professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at UWM, with a history that includes working as a fiscal analyst for the city of Milwaukee, so it's not like he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Also worth noting: Larry Miller, a freshman on the Board, has a blog against the takeover.

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