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Milwaukee Alderman: Barrett administration has lost Common Council's confidence in lead issue

Posted at 9:37 AM, Jan 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-31 10:37:18-05

MILWAUKEE – A Milwaukee Alderman says the city’s Common Council has lost confidence in Mayor Tom Barrett and his administration on addressing the lead crisis in the city. 

On Wednesday morning, Milwaukee Alderman Jose Perez sent the following statement to TODAY’S TMJ4 stating that the Barrett administration can no longer be trusted to lead the investigation into the broken lead abatement programs within the Milwaukee Health Department. 

The full statement is listed below: 

“Mayor Tom Barrett and his administration can no longer be trusted to lead the investigation into the broken lead abatement programs within the Milwaukee Health Department. Unfortunately, we have a real problem and my district bears a huge burden because of poverty, density and the age of the housing stock. The administration has been asleep at the switch and we had every right to expect better for our children and their families.

The recently-released initial report from the Health Department provided Monday evening only made clearer how detached and unaware the Mayor and his immediate circle were to the mismanagement of the department.  The Mayor, by his actions and inactions, has lost the moral authority to lead on this matter. The Council is done with offering deference to the Mayor. He has failed and we are going to fully engage and take responsibility where the administration has failed.

All options – including fundamental restructuring of the Milwaukee Health Department – are on the table as the Council moves forward. No structure, no process, and no person should consider themselves exempt from scrutiny in the case of a failure this fundamental.  The investigation is only beginning.”

Milwaukee Alderman Russell Stamper also sent a statement to TODAY'S TMJ4 on Wednesday morning saying the Common Council needs more answers on Milwaukee's lead crisis.

The full statement is listed here:

"If we are going to find out the truth about Milwaukee’s lead crisis, we need answers. The Council needs answers and more importantly, the public needs answers.
 
Although the Health Department report that was released Monday on the initial investigation was lengthy, it only leaves you with more questions to be answered. Representing and as a resident of the hardest hit area in the city in terms of high lead levels in children, I'm shocked that this level of complacency has taken place with the futures of my children and my neighbors’ children as well. As public officials we are charged first and foremost with protecting the safety of the public, and this just simply has not happened in this instance to say the very least. 
 
As a result we no longer feel confident to allow a Health Department and a mayoral administration that has failed to protect the public safety so miserably to investigate themselves. To this end we are putting forth a Council resolution to call for an RFP to do a proper follow-up investigation into all areas highlighted in the MHD report. This will be completed and effective immediately.
 
The ball has been dropped and the public has the right to have it picked up by an outside investigator. Whether that is a special counsel or federal agency, it must be done in order to rebuild the public trust in our Health Department and those who oversee it. As the inconsistencies, the incompetence, and the lack of transparency mounts, questions that have been raised won't be answered by those who have already let us down."

An audit says Milwaukee's health department has no record of conducting environmental investigations at more than 100 homes where children had elevated lead levels in their blood.

The report is a response to the health agency's admission this month that it didn't know whether it sent letters to more than 6,000 families whose children tested positive for elevated lead levels since 2015.

The audit released Monday says the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is "deficient in several areas." It cites staffing shortages, inadequate training, high turnover due to low morale and shoddy record-keeping. The agency's troubles led to the Jan. 11 resignation of its commissioner, Bevan Baker. Mayor Tom Barrett ordered the audit.

Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that causes significant harm, including speech and language delays, behavioral problems and death in rare cases.