“The President’s Perspective”
By Alderman Ashanti Hamilton
Common Council President City of Milwaukee
Many issues are being debated in the national political arena right now. Among them is the urgent issue of Climate Change. The Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey brought the issue to the forefront, and since then every Democratic candidate for President has been releasing their plan to make sure that our planet survives this existential crisis. Although it will take a national and global commitment to effectively mitigate and reverse the toll that global warming has taken on our planet, we as a City can step up and do our part. It is with that spirit that I am excited to announce the City – County Joint Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity.
As the title suggests, there is a component to this legislation that goes beyond environmentalism. We know that in urban areas like Milwaukee, the places where pollution and emissions are the most concentrated are the lower-income, black and brown communities. As a result, our kids have higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses than wealthier white children. The same neighborhoods tend to experience higher likelihoods of lead contamination through paint and water, increased flood risks due to a lack of green spaces, and other environmental concerns. In 2019, systemic racism impacts the environments within which we live and raise our families. This makes justice and racial equity a key consideration in this work.
In addition to these health and environmental factors, we have to consider the economic impact. As our City and nation continue to combat climate change, there will be new jobs in green energy and tech.
With this economic growth, it will take intentionality and focus to ensure that the economic impact is felt in our most distressed neighborhoods. Vocational programming to help people transition from unemployment or underemployment to family sustaining careers in the green economy will be crucial.
In addition, we have to make sure that people who work in the fossil fuel industry have a clear path to keeping their financial stability if their careers become obsolete. This is all possible with the right collaborations and vision.
Included in this vision has to be the insight of our young people. One thing that has been particularly inspiring about the recent push to look at a Green New Deal has been the amount of young people who have organized and demanded a seat at the table. Climate change will have a greater impact on the livelihoods of the generations to come and our young people have shown a profound understanding of that in the school walk outs and protests that they have organized. Having a representative of our Youth Council on this Task Force is critical so that the perspective of the population most affected exists.
We talk a lot in this City about how we give our children the best possible opportunities for success. After school programs, mentoring initiatives, and youth employment programs have been created to ensure that our next generation can achieve their dreams. We are seeing a renewed commitment to early childhood education and public schools in general from our State government. Youth Justice Reform is on the hearts and minds of many people in this City. The fact of the matter is that if we do not protect our environment and ensure that our planet has a long future, we cannot possibly guarantee that the lives of our children will be better than our own. This issue deserves urgency and action. I am proud to work with the County to establish this Task Force and am ready to get to work.