It has been about a year since Alderman Ashanti Hamilton was elected to the presidency of the Milwaukee Common Council. The election took some by surprise, but others had already noted Hamilton’s rising political star.
Hamilton's rise to the head of the Common Council was the result of a South Side and North Side alliance, which seemed unlikely to some observers. His first year in office has not been without controversy.
"He has not, I think, turned out to be what some people would have hoped he might have been. Namely, some kind of foil against the mayor's office. But I'm not absolutely convinced, nor certainly is Ashanti Hamilton convinced, that that would have... served any real, useful purpose, in terms of getting the city's work done," says writer Erik Gunn.
Gunn wrote about Hamilton's rise and his first year as the president of the common council in the April issue of Milwaukee Magazine. The piece, "Can Alderman Ashanti Hamilton Rise to the Challenge," analyzes the high and low points of the past year, and gives some insight into perhaps the most galvanizing moment of 2016 in Milwaukee: the unrest in Sherman Park.
The Common Council made waves when its safety council's draft plan was revealed to the public, calling for stiffer penalties for juvenile offenders and more cops on the street. The plan upset many residents who felt the Common Council was ignoring the main complaints coming from the community - namely that a lack of opportunities and investments weren't being addressed. Many claimed that greater policing would merely exacerbate the problem.
Hamilton publicly collided with his South Side colleagues, specifically Alderman Bob Donovan whom Hamilton had appointed to head the safety council. Still, Gunn contends that despite some public clashes, the Common Council has been effective under Hamilton's leadership.
"Things are ultimately getting done," he says. "A budget passed and a deal worked out to potentially ensure that the new basketball arena will have a broader employment mandate for reaching the less-served parts of the population. So it may just be that people weren't used to seeing all of this stuff quite out in front in the way it's been."