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Listen MKE: Electrical fires' impact on Black Milwaukee renters

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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WUWM
From Left To Right: Raquel Rutledge, Justin Padway, RoseMary Olivera, State Sen. Latoya Johnson, and Mitch.

A recent investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that Black renters are disproportionately impacted by electrical fires in the city. It also found these electrical fires happen five times more frequently in the city’s 53206 zip code.

WUWM has been partnering with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Public Library on an initiative we call Listen MKE. The latest event focused on this investigation by the Journal Sentinel. The event took place on Facebook live on Tuesday night and was hosted by reporter Raquel Rutledge.

Justin Padway was one of the participants. He is representing the family of Clarence Murrell who died in a suspected electrical fire. "We have the Department of Neighborhood Services, who is documenting the electrical wiring issues, requiring a permit to fix those issues, and we have no fixing of those issues. So in this type of situation, it's a willful disregard, even a step beyond negligence."

Padway says the wrongful death lawsuit is in the discovery phase. He says Murrell's family is looking for someone to be held accountable for his death.

"He was somebody that was incredibly musical and incredibly kind and just really always had that joyful smile and that way of life about [him]. In this situation particularly, he was there at that residence because he was helping Patricia Colston move in," says Padway.

Panelist RoseMary Olivera is a landlord. She has seen her fair share of buildings that don't meet safety standards. She recounts trying to buy a home that had pipes leaking onto exposed wires, and the problem was never fixed until she bought the property.

"I feel my responsibility is the ultimate responsibility to keep my tenants safe, and I'm just dismayed to hear this kind of thing, where landlords simply broker their properties among these absentee landlords that are actually just investment companies, " Olivera says.

The event took place on Facebook Live on Tuesday and you can find the full conversation here:

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