Yes, I’m a liberal drinker, isn’t everyone?


Last night after work I went to the meeting of Drinking Liberally, a group of ne’er do wells who meet at the Transfer Pizza to socialize. and kick back a few drinks in a comfortable atmosphere.Getting there represented a logistical challenge since I worked at 27th and Loomis and needed two buses to reach 1st and Mitchell St. I walked several blocks down Mitchell because I expected the bus to arrive at 8:45.

I wanted to meet the featured speaker Mahlon Mitchell, a confident young African-American man who is running for Lieutenant Governor. He was sought out as a candidate three months ago, far before the recall election was certified by the Government Accountability Board. Mitchell is president of the Wisconsin Firefighters Association and lives with his wife, April and their two children in Fitchburg which is just outside of Madison. He was born in 1977 around the time I was graduating from the University of Buffalo as a non-traditional student. He’s even younger than all of my nephews.

To say that Mahlon faces an uphill battle would be understating the case. This is a very white state and only one African-American Vel Phillips has ever been elected to state wide office. In the state’s largest city, Milwaukee, fewer than half of the black men are in the labor force, according to a report published by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The state is still reeling from the unjust killing of Bo Morrison  a bi-racial young man who was shot while standing on a porch by a man who claimed he  was defending his castle.

Moreover, we are more likely to find African-Americans behind bars or  in bars than working at the construction sites around town. In some ways, as bleak as things may be, this is the right time for new leadership to emerge from the community. Recently Eyon Biddle a first term county supervisor with a union background, ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Willie Hines. At the same time G. Spencer Coggs became the first African-American elected to city-wide office in his victory to become Milwaukee City Treasurer. His niece Milele Coggs continues to impress as a young leader on the Common Council.

Things are changing, though far too slowly. I encouraged Mahlon to press for change in the way Wisconsin uses its federal mental health block grant. In the weeks ahead I will be contacting him about my concerns. It seemed fitting that I met him the day that the Walker administration trashed the state’s contract with Talgo, the Spanish train manufacturer. Despite the fact Wisconsin had invested millions of dollars under previous governor Jim Doyle on upgrading our rail infrastructure, soon to be recalled Scott Walker made killing this deal a priority once he took office.

If all goes well, we will have an opportunity to reverse those job killing policies in Madison and set an example for the rest of the country to  follow.

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