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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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Readers Blog

Become A Commissioner!

In April of this year  six commissioners will be elected  to the Board of the Social Development Commission (SDC) of Milwaukee County.  If you live in the County, you could be one of them!

The SDC is the federally-designated agency to administer anti-poverty programs in Milwaukee County.  Agencies like SDC were established as part of the War on Poverty program instituted by President Lyndon B Johnson n 1965.  At the  insistence of Rep. Adam Clayton Powell  (D, NY),  one-third of the  leadership board of each agency must represent the client population of the agency.  The Milwaukee SDC Board has 18 members, of which 6  represent elected officials (1), 6  represent community agencies (2) and 6 are elected by district.  Although the elected members are intended to represent the poor, any adult  resident of the district can vote in the SDC election and serve on the Board.  Commissioners are not paid.

The SDC is in big trouble.(3)  One of its largest contracts,  the Wisconsin Works  (W-2) Program,  expired  at end of 2012 and  the $20 million federally-funded Head Start Program is up for rebidding.  CEO Deborah Blanks resigned  suddenly last week, and several other top executives have also left recently.  One hundred employees of the W-2 Program and seven  administrative employees have been laid-off.  Two commissioners have been ousted by the Board, and another resigned over a year ago.

Since SDC is an official agency of Milwaukee County, and the election for district representatives is scheduled for April,  it would be most logical to have the Milwaukee County Election Commission conduct the SDC election as part of the regular Spring Election to  be held on Tuesday, April 2. But that is NOT the way SDC does business.   Instead,   SDC will hold its own election on a Saturday in  April,  the date to be determined.  There will be only two polling places in the whole county, one on the north side and the other on the south side.  Polls will be open only from 10 AM to 2 PM.  Voters must provide identification which indicates their home address, although a photo-ID is not required.  There is no provision for absentee-ballots.

Nomination papers are available at the SDC office,  4041 N Richards Street. Candidates must submit at least 200 signatures of voters in the district and each page of the nomination paper must be notarized (seal required.) (4)   Completed nomination papers must be filed by March 8 at the SDC office.  Write-in votes are acceptable.

To me, many aspects of this process are unduly onerous and unfair.  First, the signature requirement for nomination  is the same as that for alderman, county supervisor and   state representative, even though SDC commissioners are not paid and have far less authority.  Holding the election on Saturday effectively disenfranchises  those who observe Saturday as their Sabbath, both Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists, especially since there is no provision for absentee ballots.  Since poor people live all over Milwaukee County (about 250 square miles), having only two polling  sites places an absurd burden on  voters, manyof whom cannot afford a car  or cab-fare.  

Only the SDC Board can reform its election procedures,  so  readers are hereby encouraged to run for the  district seats.  Meanwhile, I am urging the Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations to protest  the scheduling of   election for Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

Gerald  S Glazer

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 (1)   Appointing officials are the Mayor of Milwaukee, County Executive, Governor of Wisconsin, Superintendent of MPS, President of MATC, and the Chancellor of  UWM .  Some of these appointments require confirmation.

(2) The appointing agencies are United Way, Interfaith Conference, Hispanic and African-American Chambers of Commerce, Milwaukee County Labor Council and Greater Milwaukee Committee.

(3)"SDC faces uncertain future"  in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 14, page 13A.

(4) Notarization of nomination papers  is no longer required  for Wisconsin public offices. 

 

 

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