May 29, 2012

Milwaukee Courier

What Walker Has Meant for Milwaukee

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Make no mistake, Governor Walker’s first term has not been kind to the City of Milwaukee.  When he first took office over a year ago, I was hopeful that the newly-minted Governor Walker would remember his time as Milwaukee County Executive and his connection to this city. 

Without Milwaukee, Mr. Walker would have hardly had a political career at all.  If he hadn’t climbed the political ladder in Milwaukee, he certainly wouldn’t be jet-setting around the country glad-handing with billionaires and conservative talk show hosts.  Immediately after taking office, he forgot that Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s largest city and the key to its economic recovery.  Instead, he has turned our city a blind eye.  

Since his election, Walker has consistently acted with callous indifference towards the people of Milwaukee.  Earlier this year, he cold-heartedly raided 25.6 million from the state’s settlement with the nation’s biggest banks.  The settlement came as payment for the banks’ deeply irresponsible fraud abuses. The same abuses led to the foreclosure crisis still devastating our city. 

The funds were intended to assist those suffering from foreclosures and would have hardly begun to heal the wounds of the homeless and displaced.  Instead of behaving responsibly, Walker used the money to fill a hole in his own budget, placating his tea party billionaire allies at cost to the common man and woman.  While the people of Milwaukee were literally being turned out on the streets, Governor Walker would go out of his way to kick them while they were down.

Politicians in Madison have long ignored Milwaukee.  We will always be the economic and cultural hub Wisconsin, but we have over and over again suffered the willful disinterest of privileged insiders from across the state.  Walker has done his homework. 

Walker knows that he can advance his political career by keeping Milwaukee down.  More than a few white suburban voters in Waukesha and Washington Counties can’t help but smile when they hear that Walker has stolen our foreclosure relief or cut the education budget by record numbers. 

Walker takes the war on Milwaukee to next level, seeking to blot out our influence in the state entirely.  What, after all, was Voter ID all about?  Ask yourself, how many cases of voter fraud were reported in Wisconsin’s last election?  Less than 20 cases were reported in the entire state.  In the same year, Wisconsin reported twice as many UFO sightings.

Voter ID was never about preventing voter fraud.  It was always an attempt to silence the voting blocks that have every reason to vote for Democrats rather than Republicans.  Specifically, the law was meant to suppress votes among low to middle-income African Americans in Milwaukee, who hold fewer IDs and driver’s licenses.

I do not evoke the ghost of Jim Crow lightly, but voter suppression is alive and well here in Wisconsin.  At least, that is what two separate courts claimed when they ruled Voter ID unconstitutional.  I cannot plain English express the scope of my distain for the Governor’s attempts to intimidate and confuse Milwaukeeans.

Even today, many of my constituents believe they will not be allowed to vote because they do not hold valid IDs.  This is not true!  Everyone can vote on June 5th, but the damage of Voter ID has already been done.  Somewhere, the Koch Brothers are smoking cigars together and patting each another on the back.

The list of Walker’s outrageous policies go on and on, from repealing the Equal Pay law to curbing working people’s collective bargaining rights.  The list frustrates and upsets me, and I cannot help but feel a deep welling-up of anger within me every time I think of all we have lost in last two years.  The story of Scott Walker has been tragic beyond belief.  A man forgot where he was from, and the place he came from paid the price.