John Hofmeister (second from right), chairman of the National Urban League Trustee Board and the founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy, received a token of gratitude from the Milwaukee Urban League during its 52nd Annual Equal Opportunity Day Luncheon held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, downtown recently. A former executive with Shell Oil company, Hofmeister was the luncheon’s keynote speaker. Presenting the award to Hofmeister are (left to right): Jerry Fulmer, MUL board chair; Michelle Crockett, vice president, community affairs for Genesis Behavioral Services, Inc.; and Ralph Hollmon, MUL president and CEO. (Photo by Yvonne Kemp)
by MCJ Staff
it didn’t come without opposition, the Milwaukee Public School Board voted Tuesday night to close, move and expand several schools within the district.
After countless public hearings and months of protest, the Board voted to close eleven MPS schools at the end of 2011-2012 school year. While some of the closures are from traditional MPS schools, others will come from contracts for charter schools either being mutually terminated or canceled, primarily due to poor student performance.
Despite parent protest, citing an adverse affect to the school’s special-needs students, 65th Street School will close, as will John Burroughs Middle School
Two schools that had the original recommendations to close were saved Tuesday night. In a unanimous vote, the board elected to keep George Washington Carver Academy open; the school will enter a one year limited enrollment phase before applying to become a charter school.
Similarly, the board voted against the recommendation to close the program at 68th Street Early Childhood School. The program, however, will be relocated at the end of the school.
Charter schools slated for closure at the end of the school year include: Wisconsin Career Academy, Montessori High School, SUPAR (School for Urban Planning and Architecture), and WORK (Where Opportunities Require Knowledge) Institute. The district will not renew contracts with these schools.
While the district elected to not renew several contracts with existing charter school, board members decided to convert several traditional schools into charter schools., including James Madison Academic Campus and the Milwaukee School of Entrepreneurship.
The board also approved renewing charter contracts with Carmen High School for five years, Alliance School for three years, and Community High School for two years.
After Tuesday’s board meeting, several successful programs are set to expand. Hamland Garland Elementary, Hayes Bilingual Elementary, McDowell Montessori, and Golda Meir School will all move into bigger buildings and greatly expand their programs. For some, the news of expansion of some schools offset the painful closures of others.
Board members quickly made decisions on the recommendations to allow parents affected by the change time to place their children for fall of 2012..
Milwaukee sets goal to reduce rate to historic low by 2017
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It is being reprinted as part of a partnership between the Community Journal and Journal Sentinel to help address a critical issue in our community.
In the face of perpetually poor birth outcomes, city officials Wednesday will announce a goal of reducing Milwaukee’s infant death rate to a historic low by 2017.
It is the first time city officials have set such a target for reducing the rate, aiming to improve the city’s status as one of the worst for infants in the nation.
The goal is to reduce the black infant mortality rate by 15%, and the city’s overall rate by 10%.
Mayor Tom Barrett and Commissioner of Health Bevan Baker say focusing on the death rate for black infants will help the city reduce an unacceptable racial disparity. That disparity, which a decade ago had black babies dying at 3.5 times the rate of white babies, is now at about 2.5, also one of the worst in the nation.
Meanwhile, a coalition that is coordinating community efforts to reduce Milwaukee’s infant deaths is about to set an even more ambitious goal: The Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families aims to completely eliminate the racial disparity by 2020.
“We agree with them100%,” Baker said of the coalition’s goal. “But there has to be an actionable and reachable step along that path.
“We’re just setting the first milestone. Zero disparity is what we all want. We’ll continue until the disparity is eliminated.” The Journal Sentinel has been reporting on the many facets of the city’s infant mortality crisis this year in its Empty Cradles series.
The infant mortality rate has never been below 13.5 deaths per 1, 000 live births among blacks – the threeyear average from 1990 to 1992, according to city officials. The city’s goal is to reduce the current black rate – a 2008 to 2010 average of 14.1 deaths per 1, 000 live births – to 12.0 by 2017.
Meanwhile, the city’s over- all rate has never been below the current 10.4 deaths per 1, 000 births; the goal would push the number down to 9.4 by 2017.
Current white and Hispanic infant death rates are 5.4 and 8.7, respectively. Specific goals were not set for those groups because the city is targeting “the toughest neighborhoods where the problem is worst,” Baker said. “We’re not going to leave anyone out, but we have to focus on where the problem is.” Baker said there still may be a “rolling disparity” if the infant death rates for whites and Hispanics also decline.
The Health Department analyzed 41 years of city data to come up with its goal, Baker said.
While the city’s goal may appear modest, those working on the issue say it is a realistic one.
“You try to achieve a balance,” said Veronica Gunn, medical director of community services at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. “You absolutely want to stretch. But with the complexity of this issue, you don’t want to establish something that is unattainable.
There is the risk of shooting too high and audacious, and failing. Then you get a sense of fatalism within the community to which this is directed. It is critical that, as a community, we’re all in this.”
While Gunn was chief medical officer for the Tennessee Department of Health, she helped lead efforts to reduce infant mortality in that state.
In a meeting with Journal Sentinel reporters and editors, Barrett said setting a goal allows the community to rally around something concrete.
He and others have pointed to successful communitywide efforts to reduce teen pregnancy – an approach that also began with a specific goal.
Barrett and Baker stressed that the whole community must be invested in improving the city’s infant mortality rate. They singled out health care providers, saying some systems are more invested than others.”It’s about a mission change for many of them,” said Baker. “Their historical mission is sick care.” Health care providers could go into the community with nurses and social workers to focus on prevention.
Hospitals could “adopt” specific ZIP codes to focus their efforts, they said.
“Hospitals are opinion leaders and resource providers,” Baker said. “The city is out front because it is our responsibility to lead. We need others to come with us.” Hospitals and doctors should not distance themselves from the problem if their health care systems are less aggressive or not involved, he said.
Said Barrett: “The positive reinforcement would be: ‘When we call, get on board.'” Maintaining a woman’s access to health care throughout life, and not just through pregnancy, is vital to the effort, Barrett and Baker said. They also said they are concerned about possible cuts to the state’s Medicaid program.
Collaboration The city is a member of the steering committee setting goals for the Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families, an effort in four Wisconsin cities with high infant death rates.
The three other cities are Beloit, Kenosha and Racine, and each city has its own steering committee.
The $10 million Lifecourse effort was launched in 2009 by the Wisconsin Partnership Program and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The funding comes from the conversion of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin to a for-profit corporation.
The Life Course Model operates under the premise that health at each stage in life, including pregnancy, is shaped by the life stages that precede it. Thus, the healthier the mother, the better the chance her baby will be healthy.
United Way of Greater Milwaukee also has focused on reducing infant deaths in Milwaukee.
It announced an initial $200,000 grant this summer toward that goal, money being used to pay for an additional nurse-social worker pair to visit homes of women during and after pregnancy.
The Milwaukee Health Care Partnership invested in United Way this year, allowing the organization to leverage its dollars to help reduce infant deaths, said Nicole Angresano, the local United Way’s vice president of community impact.
“No one agency can do it alone,” she said. “It is imperative that our community work together to address this issue. This is the reason why the teen pregnancy efforts have been successful to date: collaboration and cooperation.” Successful programs addressing infant mortality must be brought to scale, and new models must be adopted, she said.
“The city’s goal is a goal to keep us on track and hold us accountable,” she said. “The goal is set at the current landscape and is academically informed.” Beyond the numbers The factors that drive infant death are complex and involve individual risks as well as socioeconomic factors.
Those who may think the city’s goal isn’t ambitious enough must look beyond the numbers at the difficulty of changing factors such as poverty, cultural barriers to breast-feeding and safe sleep practices, and the stress of racism, Gunn said.
From 1978 to 2006, the city’s black infant mortality rate went up and down from year to year but essentially was unchanged from the 16.4deaths per 1, 000 live births in 1978 to 16.3 in 2006, noted Geoffrey Swain, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health and chief medical officer for the Milwaukee Health Department.
Considering the economy is worsening, the city’s goal is ambitious, but also realistic, Swain said.
“Is it more likely we can maintain a 3.5% drop annually, as we’ve been seeing the last four years, or is it more likely the 28 years of no movement is the underlying trend?” The city’s goal assumes an annual 2.3% decline in the rate from mid-2009 to mid-2016, Swain said.
The Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP is eager to re-introduce itself to Milwaukee’s African-American community in 2012. With the advent of new leadership—current President James Hall was elected in November 2010 and began serving earlier this year— and a newly formed Young Adult Committee, made up of local community members between the ages of 21 -40, Milwaukee’s NAACP has announced a bold new initiative called “ONE MKE.”
The first major project under the new initiative will be a kick-off event, ONE MKE Summit, organized by the Young Adult Committee, on Saturday, January 7, 2012 at MATC (700 West State Street).
“With all that our community is facing, it is time to come together like never before,” said Milwaukee Branch President James Hall. “The purpose of the ONE MKE Summit is to unite City of Milwaukee stakeholders and organizations in an effort to collaborate on one theme, one focus, and one front in order to implement strategies that create positive outcomes as we move towards one voice for 2012 and beyond.”
Whether the topic of discussion is the state of inner city schools or the city’s disparate unemployment rate amongst African-Americans, there is no shortage of significant issues facing Milwaukee’s African American community.
The ONE MKE Summit is a day-long event focused on providing key community figures with the platform to develop action plans that will then be implemented through the year. The agenda includes six breakout sessions, two working luncheons—one for youth and the other for adults and young professionals—and perhaps the most intriguing meeting of the day, the President’s Breakfast.
Beginning at 7:30am, the Presidents’ Breakfast will bring together top executives from area corporations to discuss issues facing the African-American population, chiefly the stark unemployment rate in Milwaukee’s African-American community. Each executive will be asked to engage in discussion, ultimately offering solutions that they themselves can help implement.
“The goal is to leave at the end of the day with a set calendar and specific action items on how to pool resources to make a greater impact and drive outcomes on a grander scale,” says Young Adult Committee Chairperson, Jasmine Johnson.
All of the workshops and breakout sessions are invite only except for the Stakeholders Town Hall Meeting from 9:30am – 11:30am, which is free and open to the public. Doors open at 8:30am to the Town Hall, and complimentary health screenings will be offered.
In a new Economic Policy Institute report, A jobs-centered approach to African American community development, Algernon Austin, Director of the Race, Ethnicity and the Economy program, explains that jobs are essential to improving African American communities. The report identifies jobs as the backbone of community development and outlines a plan for the federal government to ameliorate joblessness within black communities.
The plan has three components: the creation of public sector jobs, job training with job placement programs and wage subsidies for employers.
“Our economy should be one in which everyone who wants to work can find a job, but this goal has been elusive for African Americans in good times and bad,” said Austin. “A concerted national program is needed to reduce racial disparities that leave African Americans twice as likely as whites to be unemployed.”
The report concludes that federal intervention to aid black community development is necessary for the following reasons:
African Americans still reside mainly in separate and unequal communities. In 2010, in the 100 metropolitan areas with the largest African American populations, 62.5 percent of African Americans would have had to move to achieve full African American–white integration.
Unemployment rates for African Americans have been far higher than those of whites for the past 50 years, even in good times. In fact, since 1960 the African American unemployment rate has been about twice the white rate. Had African Americans had the same unemployment rate as whites in 2010, an additional 1.3 million African Americans would have been employed.
Parental unemployment, and not simply low income, has negative effects on children’s educational outcomes. African Americans are twice as likely as whites to have had 10 or more spells of unemployment over their prime working years.
Joblessness, although by no means the only factor producing higher crime rates in African American communities, appears to play a significant role.
Neither educational advances nor suburbanization by African Americans has translated into reductions in the African American–white unemployment rate ratio.
If a bold new approach is not developed to address the racial unemployment disparity, it is likely that African Americans will be condemned to unemployment rates that are twice those of whites into the foreseeable future.
The federal government should implement this three-part plan in counties and metropolitan areas of 25,000 people or more that have experienced unemployment of more than 6 percent every year in the previous 10 years.
The proposed program is at a scale large enough to produce a significant reduction in unemployment, and the effects of the proposed program are likely to be felt for several years after it is phased out. It is hoped that positive experiences with African American workers reduce employer biases, possibly leading them to institutionalize the outreach and hiring of African American workers.
Austin notes that since the policies would be applied to any community with persistently high unemployment, it would provide benefits to Latino, American Indian and some white communities.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, nonprofit think tank that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States.
Shoppers Warned that Hormone-Havoc Chemicals Lurk in Products
New Report Names Toys that Contain BPA, Household Paints with NPEs
State Law Triggers Chemical Reporting, While Congress Lags Behind
Madison, WI – A report released today identifies for the first time more than 650 brand name products that contain two hormone-disrupting toxic chemicals. Based on new industry data, the report names plastic toys, such as PLAYMOBIL play figures and Chicco baby rattles, as containing BPA (or bisphenol A), the same toxic chemical already banned in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups. The report revealed another toxic ingredient, known as NPEs, in nearly 300 household paints, as well as several cleaners, wood finishes and home maintenance products.
The report, Poison in Paint, Toxics in Toys, summarizes the first chemical use reports submitted by product manufacturers under a new state chemical safety law passed in Maine. Similar state laws go into effect in Washington and California next year, and are pending in other states, as Congress lags behind in reforming the federal Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.
“Toxic chemicals have no place being in children’s products,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director. “Most importantly, we should require manufacturers use safer alternatives to toxic chemicals, but at the very least, Wisconsin consumers deserve the same information as consumers in other states. Parents have the right to know if they are exposing their children to toxic chemicals in toys, household cleaning products, and other consumer items.”
“In the absence of federal leadership, state policies are the best way to identify chemicals in products,” said Mike Belliveau, lead report author and executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center based in Portland, Maine. “Now government can make better decisions to restrict toxic chemicals and industry leaders can switch to safer substitutes, just like the infant formula makers who recently ended their use of BPA in metal cans.”
“As a new mom, I’m relieved to finally get some information I can use as a consumer to protect the health of my baby,” said Hannah Pingree, the former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives who sponsored the 2008 Maine law known as the Kid Safe Products Act. “But why are these chemicals still used in everyday products, and what other chemicals aren’t they telling us about?” she asked.
“The report reveals a badly broken federal safety system that allows widespread use of toxic chemicals and keeps us in the dark about chemical hazards,” said Andy Igrejas, national campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “Until Congress passes the Safe Chemicals Act, we’re dependent on states like Maine, Washington and California to lead on safer chemical reform.”
Twenty-five manufacturers reported on priority chemical use in consumer products to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. For a full searchable listing of every brand name product reported to contain BPA or NPEs, visit www.HealthyStuff.org.
Studies have shown that BPA and NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) mimic the sex hormone estrogen. BPA harms brain development, behavior and the prostate gland, among many other adverse health effects. NPEs are highly toxic to aquatic life, degrade into a long-lived chemical that builds up in the food chain, and may harm reproduction and development in humans. Aggregate exposure to BPA and NPEs from all sources threatens the health of children, workers and the environment.
More and more states are enacting laws to protect the health of American families from toxic chemicals in response to the failure of the obsolete federal chemical safety system to protect public health and the environment. In the last decade, 18 states have passed more than 70 laws to ban chemicals in products or create new chemical management programs at the state level. Under Maine’s Kid Safe Products Act, manufacturers must disclose their use of priority chemicals of high concern in consumer products. The state may then require companies to search for safer substitutes. Priority chemicals in products may be phased out if children are exposed and safer alternatives are available, effective and affordable.
In 2010, Wisconsin passed the BPA Free Kids Act, which prohibits in Wisconsin the manufacture and sale at the wholesale level of empty baby bottles and sippy cups that contain BPA. It also requires that these bottles and sippy cups be clearly labeled as being “BPA Free.”
S. 847, The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey), proposes a common sense, science-based overhaul of the 35 year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has never been updated. The Safe Chemicals Act requires chemical manufacturers to provide health information and demonstrate the safety of all chemicals, while requiring immediate action to restrict uses of the worst chemicals based on the best science.
Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe.
No Feasting for the FurriesBy now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising fur kid will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.
Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Choose gifts that are safe.
• Dogs have been known to tear their toys apart and swallowing the pieces, which can then become lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible.
• Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer—and tons of play sessions together.
Forget the Mistletoe & Holly
Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.
Leave the Leftovers
Fatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills.
That Holiday Glow
Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!
Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth.
If your animal-loving guests would like to give your pets a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session.
Put the Meds Away
Make sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.
Careful with Cocktails
If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.
A Room of Their Own
Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub. Sure Fit offersFolding Travel Beds for pets that are traveling with their owners, so that they can have a comfy bed away from home.
If you are traveling with your pet, you may want to invest in rubberized floor liners and water proof seat covers. Sure Fit’sAuto Friends Collection has great travel solutions from Pet Hammocks to Car Seat Covers that will protect your car from fur while keeping your pet comfortable.
New Year’s Noise
As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.