Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Milwaukee Police Funding Increasing After 2020 “Defund the Police” Cuts

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‘Rape, robbery, human trafficking, burglary, non-fatal shootings, and carjackings are all up in 2023 over 2022 YTD’

In September 2020, then-Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett proposed cutting 120 police officers from about 1,800 budgeted positions in the 2021 budget.

Barrett proposed the cuts, in part, due to budget constraints amid a national and local clamor to divert resources from policing just four months after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police.

As violent crime continues to skyrocket in Milwaukee, the tone has now changed. Just a month ago, Mayor Cavalier Johnson gave a speech on his 2024 budget where he said, “I am not cutting police sworn strength.”

Johnson even mentioned in his speech new forms of revenue the city could use to hire new police officers. Johnson mentioned an increase in sales taxes that had been approved that the city could tap for more police funding.

In July 2023, the city enacted a 2% tax on most sales in the city of Milwaukee and also mandated a certain level of funding and staffing for police and fire departments.

According to the state, cities must use shared revenue aid payments from the state to increase or maintain police and fire staffing.

The city of Milwaukee stated that within 10 years, it must increase the Milwaukee Police Department’s (MPD) total sworn staffing to 1,725.

The city says the 2023 budget has 1,630 sworn police officers so it must add 95 sworn police officers.

The city said the new sales tax revenue will generate about $28 million to increase police and fire department staffing levels.

In 2020, the city budgeted for 1,956 law enforcement full-time positions, which does not include civilian police jobs. In 2021, that number had dropped to 1,839 budgeted law enforcement positions and then increased to 1,856 in 2022, according to city budget documents.

Police expenditures accounted for nearly half of city spending for what the budget calls “general city purposes” and included all the other city departments such as the health department and fire department.

The city spent $290.6 million on the police department in 2022, or 48.6% of the $597.4 million in total city spending for “general city purposes”. The city spent $305.2 million on the police department in 2020, according to city budget documents. The city has budgeted $305.1 million in 2024 for the police department.

The Greater Milwaukee Urban League and Milwaukee mayor’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment. The Milwaukee Police Department media team referred questions to the city’s budget office. Liberate MKE, an organization that advocates eventually abolishing the police department, didn’t respond to questions about policing.

Violent crime in Milwaukee has remained at about the same levels over the past three years.

The city had 195 homicides in 2021 and 215 in 2022. Through Oct. 20, the city has had 142 homicides in 2023.

Rape, robbery, human trafficking, burglary, non-fatal shootings, and carjackings are all up in 2023 over 2022 YTD, according to Milwaukee crime data.

The Milwaukee Police Department is following a national trend that has seen a big drop in the number of arrests as crime increases.

According to FBI data, Milwaukee police made 336,723 arrests in 2012 and that dropped to 188,069 in 2020 and then fell to 184,334 in 2022.

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Voters Lack Confidence Kamala Harris Can Become President

Vice President Kamala Harris has a fight on her hands if she wants to inherit the Democratic presidential mantle after President Joe Biden’s time is over, according to a new poll.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll shows that voters have serious doubts about Harris’ electability.

The poll found only 14% of voters said it was “very likely” Harris would win a general election for president if she became the Democratic nominee. Another 20% said it was “somewhat likely.”

The poll is especially noteworthy given Biden's age. The incumbent president is 81 years old and appears increasingly in decline.

A moment of confusion for Biden at a June 6 D-Day ceremony went viral last week, the latest in a string of similar incidents. At the same time, Biden remains competitive with former President Donald Trump, though several polls suggest Trump has a lead over the president.

Biden's incidents have led some to speculate that Democrats could or should try to replace Biden at the Democratic convention in Chicago in August. That would be a highly unusual, though not impossible, move. Removing Biden would naturally raise the question about who could replace him, but for now voters seem to lack confidence that Harris could win.

The poll also looked ahead to 2028: “If President Joe Biden were not in the running for president in 2028, which of the following Democrats, if any, would you want to be the Democratic candidate for president?”

While Harris was top of the list among Democrats, she only received 21% support. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg both received 10% support each, while 41% said they were unsure or didn't know.

Only 42% of those polled described Harris as trustworthy, and 44% described her as honest, according to the poll.

Notably, only 36% of those surveyed said Biden should replace Harris as his VP on the ticket.

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GOP Lawmakers Want Legislative Auditors to Review MPS Finances

(The Center Square) – Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol don’t want Gov. Tony Evers to waste the chance to get a good look at Milwaukee Public Schools’ shortcomings.

Evers recently called for an operational and an instructional audit of MPS.

“I’m proposing today to go two steps further with two important goals: the first, to audit MPS’ programs and operations in their entirety, and the second, to audit the effectiveness of teaching and instruction of our kids in classrooms across the district,” Evers said.

The governor, however, wants to keep the audit within his administration and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said that’d be a mistake.

“I’m glad that Gov. Evers has called for an audit of the Milwaukee Public School System. Gov. Evers and DPI should work with Joint Legislative Audit Committee Co-Chairs [Eric] Wimberger and [Robert] Wittke to discuss authorizing the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau to audit MPS, DPI and any other involved stakeholders,” LeMahieu said. “The LAB is more than capable of handling this important undertaking independently and transparently without the use of outside contractors.”

The worry is an audit controlled by the governor’s office will not fully look into MPS’s shortcomings.

The calls for audits in Milwaukee Public Schools come after the state withheld nearly $17 million last week because of incomplete and late financial reports. One of those reports was due to the Department of Public Instruction in September 2023.

Evers has asked MPS leaders to be a part of any audit process but warned that not everyone will be invited.

“I also have to say – I’m exceedingly disappointed by the politicking and jockeying I’ve seen since this situation came to light by opportunists who’re seizing this moment to serve their own selfish goals instead of worrying about what matters most: our kids,” Evers added.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos took to social media to accuse the governor of being the one who is playing politics.

“And who do you think [Evers] will suggest conducts the audits?” Vos asked. “The same failed DPI bureaucrats who allowed this to happen or his administration who wanted to dismantle the school choice system so all kids were forced into this MPS mess? We need real reforms to the current mentality where MPS has been protecting the bureaucracy and Gov. Evers has been advocating for shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars into this broken system.”

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Biden’s New Staffing Requirements Put Most Illinois Nursing Homes in Peril

An industry group says the Biden administration’s new staffing regulations for long-term care facilities are unrealistic.

The mandate requires that all nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding provide a total of at least 3.48 hours of nursing care per resident per day. Plus, nursing homes must have a registered nurse onsite at all times.

Research by SeniorLiving.org shows 82%, or nearly 12,000 facilities in the U.S., will need to hire staff or face being shut down.

Spokesperson Corie Wagner said Illinois is home to the fifth highest number of understaffed nursing homes in the country.

“If we were to apply the new policies and new standards to nursing homes in Illinois today, 84% of facilities would need more staff, and that is really significant,” said Wagner.

The mandate will be phased in over three years, with rural communities having up to five years.

Nursing home operators strongly objected to the minimum staffing proposal in September, saying they already struggle to fill open positions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September announced a $75 million campaign to increase the number of nurses in nursing homes.

Nearly 1.2 million residents live in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified, long-term care facilities, but Wagner said that number is expected to increase.

“It’s called the Silver Tsunami, so more Americans are aged 65 or older than ever,” said Wagner. “It's one of the largest segments of our population but the infrastructure we have is not keeping up with our population shift.”

A resolution aimed at overturning Biden’s nursing home staffing mandate has a legitimate chance to pass the U.S. Senate.

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