Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele signs new ordinance to address racial equality amid COVID-19

Posted at 9:21 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 00:16:44-04

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele signed a new ordinance Wednesday that aims to address racial inequality in the county further.

The executive did this during the daily Milwaukee County coronavirus task force briefing. The resolution commits the county to achieve racial equality by eliminating racism in policies, procedures, and practices.

Abele said he couldn't be happier that this was the last ordinance he will sign after nine years as County Executive. He framed it around the disproportionate amount of African Americans infected with COVID-19.

"The disparity in these numbers during this crisis is the most starkest illustration and most tragic you can ask for of conditions that have lasted for decades and decades and decades," said Abele.

The ordinance says to transform the Milwaukee County government, employees at all levels will first focus on solutions "which directly address power structures and institutional practices contributing to racial health disparities of County residents," including a diverse and inclusive workforce and a customer-focused design.

County Executive Elect David Crowley was also on the call and will now have to assume responsibility for following the ordinance when it comes to budgeting, hiring and awarding contracts. Crowley takes office as County Executive next week.

"Racial equity will be achieved when race no longer predicts the health outcomes," said Crowley.

City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik, who is usually on the call, was absent. She was sharing Milwaukee's story on race and COVID-19 on a national roundtable of health officials.

Kowalik shared with the group that especially early on, the majority of cases of COVID-19 and fatalities from it were in the African American community. She said the long term solution to racial equity will involve an overhaul.

"We're not going to fix it unless we are willing to dismantle the system and rebuild it," said Kowalik.

Abele called the ordinance the most robust legal commitment to racial equality of any municipality in the country.

Read the full ordinance below:

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