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Collective community action vital to Milwaukee's proposed climate & equity action plan

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Mike McAlister
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One attendee at a public forum in late October. The task force hopes to engage folks from around the city in crafting a plan that addresses climate and equity.

Three years ago a task force started getting serious about two critical and intertwined challenges facing Milwaukee – climate change and environmental justice.

The City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity created a plan around what it calls 10 big ideas to address both. The group will present its draft to the Milwaukee Common Council early next year with a goal of it becoming city policy.

READ Task force hopes to engage Milwaukee residents to help bring climate and equity plan to life

In the meantime, Mandi McAlister, a member of the task force's eduction and outreach workgroup, says community outreach continues.

“We put together a climate justice in Milwaukee presentation with the goal of really explaining what climate change is. So that when we talk about making a plan for climate change, people have that background information, and we can really start connecting the dots between the issues and concerns people have in their community right now and what this plan is trying to address,” McAlister says.

Creating family-supporting green jobs is a cornerstone of the proposed plan.

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Mike McAlister
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(Left to right) Deneine Powell, state Rep Supreme Moore Omokunde and ECO director Erick Shambarger at public forum in October.

“There's an opportunity here to break down barriers, to create collective action, to drive people into new jobs and sectors if we do this right, but we have to start with the conversations in the community,” says Deneine Powell with the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office. Powell came on as senior fellow specifically to coordinate community outreach.

“We are having those conversation now. The month of November while the climate plan is posted and available for public review, we’re actually making our way through the city and talking to different groups about that very thing. What's going on in your neighborhood? What do you like in your neighborhood? What would you like to see more of in your neighborhood? How are you being impacted by climate? How's your neighborhood being impacted, ” Powell explains.

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Mike McAlister
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Pam Ritger de la Rosa

Pam Ritger de la Rosa says gathering feedback across the city and county will ensure the plan is on the right track.

Ritger de la Rosa served on the task force as a representative of Clean Wisconsin. Recently she joined the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office as environmental sustainability program manager.

She says both engaging neighborhoods and forming partnerships will be key to the plan’s success.

There’s so much good work going on in Milwaukee, we really want to make sure we are opening up this plan as well for those future partnerships that are going to help to really implement some of the recommendations that are in here," Ritger de la Rosa says. "We as a city have limited resources so a lot of this is also going to depend on partnerships and really getting that buy in from the community."

We want to make sure the plan folds in future partnerships. We recognize we have limited resources, so a lot of this will depend on partnerships... It's going to take all of us,” Ritger de la Rosa says.

All three say fostering resilient neighborhoods also requires intentional planning so that residents can remain in the neighborhoods.

"So that we an have these amazing communities that people can afford to live in, but then also to protect those who are already there, to protect that legacy and to ensure that if you're a longterm resident of a neighborhood, you're not in any danger of loosing your home," Deneine Powell says.

Mandi McAlister is confident the plan can support the community if the task force gets the community involved in the conversation now.

"I think that if we're really intentional about the implementation, I think we can protect the neighbors who are currently there and their living situations and the organizations and businesses that they love because they've been included in the implementation, they're getting funding to implement, they're secure in the work they are doing," McAlister says.

The public can comment on the proposed climate and equity action plan through November. It's then slated to be considered by the Milwaukee Common Council in February.

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.