The Milwaukee County government has been committed to understanding the link between race, government and health and how their institution has contributed to inequities. As a government body, we recognize our power to make change at a systemic level. Milwaukee County passed an ordinance that commits them to identify and address policies, practices and power structures that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, work in favor of white people and create barriers for black, brown, and indigenous people. The ordinance ensures racial equity is a top priority of Milwaukee County government and remains larger than any one government leader. Officials signed the ordinance one year after Milwaukee County passes a first-of-kind resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis in May 2019.
The ordinance was signed on April 29 by former County Executive Chris Abele, Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson, Director of the Office on African American Affairs Nicole Brookshire.
The ordinance was signed days before newly elected County Executive David Crowley took office. Crowley is the first elected African American County Executive and the youngest, having recently celebrated his 34th birthday.
“As a black man who grew up in poverty in this community, this work is personal. Racial equity will not only guide our response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will inform the way Milwaukee County does business moving forward,” said County Executive David Crowley.
Milwaukee County’s 18-member Board of Supervisors elected Marcelia Nicholson as its chairwoman. Nicholson is the first Black and Latina person to hold that role.
“Milwaukee County is on the right side of history. As Chairwoman, I will continue to ensure our policy decisions at Milwaukee County are made with an eye toward racial equity. It’s an opportunity to constantly ask ourselves, who benefits and who burdens from the decisions we make,” said County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson.
The ordinance holds Milwaukee County to focus on five areas that will transform the services it provides and create a system that works for all residents. Milwaukee County will:
- Build a more diverse and inclusive workforce in which employees reflect the diversity of the community at all levels and where differences are welcomed and valued.
- Ensure a diverse array of Milwaukee County employees at all levels are involved in designing equitable programs and services that meet the needs of the community.
- Design Milwaukee County services to meet residents’ needs, rather than asking residents to fit their needs into existing Milwaukee County services.
- Track and analyze data to better understand the impact of County services and find solutions accordingly.
- Generate new sources of revenue and implement additional efficiencies to address the structural deficit and make needed investments that advance racial equity.
“The Office on African American Affairs will continue to assist all Milwaukee County leaders as well as those across our state to institutionalize racial equity,” said Nicole M. Brookshire, Executive Director of Milwaukee County’s Office on African American Affairs. “This ordinance elevates public participation, which will ensure community members’ voices are represented as we advance racial equity throughout the County, especially during these uncertain times.”
Milwaukee County is a member of GARE and they have provided technical assistance throughout this journey for Milwaukee County to achieve racial and be the healthiest county in Wisconsin.