Tag Archives: disparities

UPDATED: Racial justice advocates, environmentalists oppose water diversion to Waukesha

UPDATED: A coalition of progressive, racial justice groups in Wisconsin is opposing Waukesha’s quest to divert water from Lake Michigan.

The announcement was released on Aug. 28, meeting a deadline for public comment to the state on the issue.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources held three public hearings earlier in August to hear testimony on the city of Waukesha’s Great Lakes Water Diversion application and in response to the department’s release of its draft Environmental Impact Statement and Technical Review on June 25. The DNR held hearings in the cities of Waukesha, Milwaukee and Racine and saw well over 450 attendees, of which at least 100 provided verbal testimony to the DNR.

In addition, comments were submitted to the DNR outside the hearings.

Cheryl Nenn of Milwaukee Riverkeeper, said, “We were impressed but in no way surprised at the great turn out at all three public hearings. This is an important issue for our state and our region and a decision that will affect people’s lives and our Great Lakes, which are only 1 percent renewable by rain or snowmelt. The number of people at the hearings sends a very clear message to the DNR that the public is taking this diversion decision very seriously and they should too.”

The NAACP-Milwaukee Branch, Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and environmental attorney Dennis Grzezinski filed comments with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The groups asked the state to deny Waukesha’s application for diversion of water from Lake Michigan.

The groups object to the application because diverting water to the suburbs will worsen segregation and racial disparities in the region, according to a news release.

“Thus far, the environmental impact study has utterly failed to address, much less resolve, the needs and concerns of communities of color,” said Karyn Rotker, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Wisconsin.

“Allowing a Lake Michigan water diversion to enable continued unrestrained sprawl and job migration will have the inevitable effect of perpetuating racial and economic segregation in the region, to the clear disadvantage of persons of color, especially African-Americans,” stated Fred Royal, president of the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP.

The release from the coalition said it is one thing for a water diversion application to seek to serve an existing community that has no other alternative. It is quite another for a community to seek to divert water not only to meet its current needs, but to support and undergird industrial, commercial and residential expansion — especially when the benefits of that expansion exclude communities of color, mostly African-Americans, in the region.

“And the requested diversion is not needed to serve an existing “community” in need of water, as the Great Lakes Compact requires,” said Grzezinski.

As comments and studies submitted by others, such as the Compact Implementation Coalition, make clear, the city of Waukesha could meet its water needs without diverting Lake Michigan water. That it wants more water to support future growth and expansion outside the city limits does not justify the diversion, the coalition said.

“If a diversion is not used to increase development in the Waukesha suburbs, then there’s more incentive for those jobs and employers to locate or relocate in the city of Milwaukee,” added the Rev. Willie Brisco, MICAH president. “And we all know that is something our community needs.”

Also, on Aug. 28, environmental groups in Compact Implementation Coalition of environmental groups planned to submit comments “to the DNR expressing concerns that the city of Waukesha: 1) has not justified why it needs a daily maximum supply that is more than double its current use; 2) does not consider all reasonable alternatives to provide potable water for its residents; and 3) has not removed its request to divert Great Lakes water to communities who do not need it and who have not employed water conservation measures. The Compact requires these actions before an entity can request an exception from the ban on diversions.”

The CIC comments were written by more than a dozen legal and technical experts from nine local, state and regional environmental organizations.

“While the CIC’s comments will be some of the more extensive comments in opposition to Waukesha’s request for Great Lakes water, they will not be the only ones,” said Ezra Meyer of Clean Wisconsin. “People from all across the Great Lakes Basin and across Wisconsin care about this world-class resource. They fought hard to see the Great Lakes Compact passed to protect the Lakes for the long run and now they don’t want to see the compact or the lakes compromised. People from Ohio, Michigan and Illinois came to DNR’s hearings last week to tell our natural resources protection agency to say no, as did dozens of people from Racine, Milwaukee and Waukesha. Residents and ratepayers in Waukesha know this is a bad deal. We are confident that the written comments submitted to the DNR by today’s deadline will reflect an even broader base of grassroots support for the Great Lakes and against Waukesha’s fatally flawed proposal.”

Since the DNR released its draft Environmental Impact Statement and Technical Review on June 25, the CIC has been working to make sure the public is aware of the consequences of approving Waukesha’s water diversion application as it stands.

“What happens in Waukesha doesn’t stay in Waukesha. People from all across the Great Lakes region are concerned that Waukesha’s diversion application does not meet the requirements in the Great Lakes Compact,” said Marc Smith, policy director at the National Wildlife Federation. 

“The public has spoken: Waukesha’s application to divert Great Lakes water is not in the best interests of the Great Lakes region,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin of Midwest Environmental Advocates. “Wisconsin DNR must maintain the integrity of the Great Lakes Compact in both letter and spirit, by holding Waukesha’s application to its requirements and by making certain the science is sound, the data current, and the public’s questions answered before the application is approved.”

The DNR plans to release its final decision in December.

If approved by the Wisconsin DNR, all eight Great Lakes states governors will have the power to approve or deny the proposal and the premiers of two Canadian provinces will formally weigh in on the decision. 

Young Gifted and Black Coalition: Open letter to Madison Police Chief Michael Koval

An open letter to Madison Police Chief Michael Koval from the Young Gifted and Black Coalition:

Dear Police Chief Koval, 

We are writing you to explain our position and our demands as they relate to your police department. 

First, we think that in comparison to departments in other cities you have done well in protecting our right to free speech at our weekly actions. 

Our targeting of the police department relates to the violence that Black people have faced at the hands of police in the murders of Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee, Eric Garner in New York City, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and countless others, but it also relates to the violence of heavy policing and arrest rate disparities in Madison. 

Although Madison’s model of community policing and attempt to build trust between the community and police, even acting as “social workers,” may be a step above certain other communities, our arrest rates and incarceration disparities still top the nation. The relationship that we desire to have with the police is simple: no interaction. Our ultimate goal is to be able to hold our own communities accountable and to expel what we consider an occupying force in our neighborhoods. Our people need opportunities for self-determination, not policing. 

The situation in New York City where police have decided to police less, has led to no changes in the crime rates. Thus we can draw the conclusion that decreasing policing in our communities will not lead to an increase in crimes. It is also safe to assume that decreasing policing in our communities will lead to a decrease in the disparity rates we see in Dane County. 

We understand that the system of policing and incarceration is closely linked to the system of slavery and the continued oppression of black people. Our ultimate goal is finding alternatives to incarceration and policing, and our steps forward as a community should reflect the values of community control and self-determination. 

One of our publicly-stated demands is for the immediate release of 350 Black people from the Dane County Jail, with the ongoing demand to keep this number out of the jail in order to remove 350 beds from the facility. This means that, every month, 350 Black people must be prevented and/or diverted from entering the jail, as there are typically 3,900 Black people that cycle through the jail every year. This would eliminate the need for 350 beds in the jail, and also eliminate the need for renovations due to safety and mental health concerns. If there was no structural racism, the jails and the arrest rates should be proportional to the demographics of the population. In a jail of 800, without structural racism and a demographic of 5% Black population there should be closer to 40 Black people, rather than the 400 Black people currently incarcerated. 

Therefore, we demand that Madison and Dane County act swiftly to address structural racism and bias. One of the key reasons that Black people are incarcerated is because of poverty. Jails should not function as poor houses. 45% of people who are incarcerated, are incarcerated because they have not paid bails of $1,000 or less. Therefore, they are not incarcerated for a public safety concern, but rather because they are poor. The proof of this, is that people with money, who have bails of both less and more than $1,000 are not kept in jail—and this is not considered a public safety issue. Therefore we demand the immediate release of people incarcerated due to crimes of poverty. 

This includes arrests for crimes of poverty such as public urination, intoxication, sleeping, retail theft for survival, and low level citations. 

While this is a goal that needs the involvement of other areas of government such as the Municipal and Circuit Judges, other police departments, judges, the DA, prosecutors, Clerk of Courts, public defenders, and those in our community with influence in areas such as education, employment, housing, and health, you and the MPD do have a large role to play. We also include the Mayor’s office, the Criminal Justice Council, and the Common Council as decision-makers in these areas. 

We want to see a plan for how the Madison Police Department is going to do the following to address racial disparities:

Dramatically reduce the number of police contacts with Black people and poor people. 

Significantly increase voluntary referrals to community-led resources and programs when police do contact Black people and poor people. 

Cut in half the number of Black people and poor people arrested to address racial disparities 

Of those arrested, refer as many people as possible to community-led alternatives to incarceration. 

Given that the arrest rate shows that Black people are eight times more likely to be arrested than white people, we demand that disparity cut in half by the end of 2015. (While our emphasis is on the disparity, we also desire to see fewer arrests for everyone–not just Black people–that Madison police come into contact with.) To do this will require an immediate and thorough public review of all Madison Police Department policies and practices to determine which need to be changed or eliminated in order to immediately reduce the racial disparity in arrest rates. 

We want to see the plan involve accountability measures. For example, if you do not reach a particular goal, there will be potential for a funding cut or some other consequence. Also, we would like your plan to include a citizen review board for questions of police misconduct in addition to Public Safety Review Board and the Police and Fire Commission. We aim to move towards community controlled policing with advisory boards in communities throughout Madison and Dane County. We also need you to follow the recent advice of the Department of Justice and release data about arrest demographics in order to address racial disparities. 

Your plan may include diversity training and recruitment of people of color as staff; however, we do not see these steps as significant remedies to existing problems. We believe that change needs to happen at a systemic policy level. It will also involve closer connection to social service agencies and increased restorative or transformative justice programming. 

Your plan should seek to identify best practices from other locations, but not be limited to them, as this is a problem that faces many cities around the country. We need to think outside the box, and we want to lead the way in doing so. 

For many years there have been studies done on how to address racial disparities in the Dane County criminal system and Madison policing that are relevant, but we haven’t seen the concrete action required to make the changes that our communities need. 

Please have your plan completed by the end of February 2015. 

Racial disparities have plagued Madison and Dane County for many years. It is well beyond the time that concrete and intentional efforts are made. We look forward to celebrating with you the decrease in racial disparities at the end of 2015. 

All Power to the People, Young Gifted and Black Coalition 

World on track to close gender gap — in 81 years

The world has seen only a small improvement in equality for women in the workplace in nine years of measuring the global gender gap. And, with all else remaining equal, it will take 81 years for the world to close the equality gap, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

“Much of the progress on gender equality over the last 10 years has come from more women entering politics and the workforce,” said Saadia Zahidi, head of the gender parity program at the Geneva-based nonprofit and the lead author of the report. “While more women and more men have joined the workforce over the last decade, more women than men entered the labor force in 49 countries.”

The WEF has been measuring the gaps between men and women worldwide since 2006, and the ninth edition of their Global Gender Gap Report was released in late October, measuring 142 countries. The report measures gender equity in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival.

That last category features the narrowest gap, 96 percent, meaning women live 4 percent fewer healthy years than men worldwide. That gap has been closed entirely by 35 countries, three of which did so within the past 12 months.

The next narrowest is the educational attainment gap,  measuring literacy and educational enrollment rates worldwide. Women have 94 percent of the academic opportunities afforded men, with 25 countries having closed the gap entirely. 

No country has closed the gender gap in economic participation or political empowerment, and both gaps remain wide. Economic participation narrowed by four percentage points to 60 percent worldwide, meaning women get six-tenths of the income and labor force opportunities of men.

By far the largest gap is political. Women have 21 percent of the representation men have in legistlative and executive positions. Only two countries, Iceland and Finland, are even above 60 percent.

Zahidi said, “In the case of politics, globally, there are now 26 percent more female parliamentarians and 50 percent more female ministers than nine years ago. These are far-reaching changes. … However, it is clear that much work still remains to be done, and that the pace of change must in some areas be accelerated.”

With no one country having closed its overall gender gap, Nordic nations remain the most gender-equal societies in the world, according to the survey. Last year’s leading nations — Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4) — are joined this year by Denmark (5).

Nicaragua climbs four places to 6 and Rwanda enters the index at 7, Ireland falls to 8, the Philippines declines four places to  9 and Belgium climbs one place to 10.

The United States climbs three places to 20, after narrowing its wage gap and improving the number of women in governmental positions.

Region to region

Countries from Europe and Central Asia occupy 12 of the top 20 positions in the index. Of that region’s major economies, Germany climbs two places to No. 12, France leaps from 45 to 16, while the UK falls to 26 from 18.

France’s gain is mostly due to increases in the number of women in politics and narrowing wage gaps.

The UK’s lower position can be mainly attributed to changes in income estimates.

In Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines remains the region’s highest-ranked country, followed by New Zealand and Australia. 

Japan moves one place to 104. China falls 18 places to No. 87 — largely due to its uneven sex ratio at birth, an indicator of male preference. And India slumps to No. 114, one of the few countries where female labor force participation is shrinking.

Ranked at 6, Nicaragua reinforces its position as the gender parity leader for Latin America and the Caribbean. This is due to strong performance in eliminatingw health, education and political gaps.

Among the larger economies, Brazil declines to 71 in spite of having closed both its educational attainment and health and survival gender gaps.

Mexico’s drop to 80 is a result of reduced female representation in politics, but is partially offset by improvements in labor force participation and income gaps.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Kuwait, at 113, is the highest-ranked country. The United Arab Emirates falls to 115 but shows major improvement on economic and political participation and remains the second highest-ranked country in the region. The region is also home to the lowest-ranked country in the index, Yemen, which, at 142, has remained at the bottom of the index in every single year.

Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, boasts three countries in the top 20 of the index. The highest, Rwanda, scores well in economic and political participation and is the top developing country in the index. Next is Burundi, which climbs five places to 17, followed by South Africa. Nigeria, the region’s largest economy, falls 12 places to 118.

Nine years of data

Progress has not been even. Although many countries have reached parity in educational attainment and health and survival, the trend is actually reversing in some parts of the world. Nearly 30 percent of the countries have wider education gaps than they did nine years ago, and over 40 percent have wider health and survival gaps than they did nine years ago.

Also, of the 111 countries continuously covered in the report, 105 have narrowed their gender gaps, but another six — Sri Lanka, Mali, Croatia, Macedonia, Jordan and Tunisia — have seen prospects for women deteriorate. 

In the Americas, no country has widening gender gaps.

“Achieving gender equality is obviously necessary for economic reasons,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the forum. “But even more important, gender equality is a matter of justice. As a humanity, we also have the obligation to ensure a balanced set of values.”

On the Web

For more information, visit the World Economic Forum’s website, weforum.org.