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Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

Crime Takes Center Stage in First District Race

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Kerry Flowers, one of five candidates vying to unseat first-term Ald. Ashanti Hamilton from his First District Milwaukee Common Council seat, doesn’t pause when asked about the most pressing issue in the district. “It’s crime,” said Flowers, a Milwaukee police sergeant. “If you took a poll of all the district’s neighborhoods and asked them what their top three issues are, crime would be one of the top concerns in every neighborhood, and the No. 1 concern in most of them.”

Incumbent Hamilton agrees that public safety is a top concern, but said the district has made strides during his four years in office. The alderman said that in addition to pushing for block watches and more police officers, he has taken a long-term approach to preventing crime.

“A lot of people talk about public safety in isolated terms, as if it’s not related to economic development and job growth,” Hamilton said. “The truth is they’re interconnected. The more that you’re able to create familysustaining jobs for people, then the bigger impact you’ll have on crime.”

Hamilton said that he has assisted job creation through the revitalization of business districts. He points to a number of encouraging economic signs in his predominantly black North Side district, which encompasses neighborhoods north of Capitol Drive and west of the Milwaukee River and North 27th Street.

“When we take a look at developments at DRS and the Eaton Corp., and the momentum at the old Tower Automotive site, we’re light-years ahead of where we were four years ago,” Hamilton said. Flowers, however, said that his experience in the police department and as president of the League of Martin, an organization of African-American police officers, makes him more qualified to address crime. In addition to neighborhood watches, Flowers said he would push for more foot patrols so that police would be more visible and could forge friendlier relationships with residents.

C. Orlando Owens works in juvenile and adult corrections and co-owns the property company Olive Tree Investments with his wife. He said that, if elected, he would manage the First District from a customer-service perspective. “Right now, I’m hearing a lot of complaints about non-responsiveness from the aldermanic office. Residents call but don’t get a response, and e-mails and letters are hardly ever addressed,” Owens said. “People are really upset that they’re not getting the services they’re paying taxes for.”

On crime, Owens said he subscribes to the “broken windows” theory of policing. “When you get on top of the small things, it creates the right impression and deters crime,” Owens said. Leonard Goudy is a health inspector who has worked for multiple city agencies over the past 12 years. He said that his knowledge of how city departments operate would give him an advantage in representing the district. Goudy said he would ensure that the police department has the necessary resources to fight crime, but added that he would also hold the department accountable for its response times in the district and for staying within its budget. He would seek a cap on police overtime.

“It doesn’t make sense to pay some officers time and a half when you could use that money to hire more officers that could be on the streets,” Goudy said. The Shepherd Express was unable to contact two other candidates running for the seat, Stephen Fells and Thomas Harris.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com.
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