Alderman tries to clarify comments in newsletter that Common Council is 'color-of-our-skin council'

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Alderman Terry Witkowski stirred up controversy in his quarterly letter to residents in Milwaukee Aldermanic District 13 by saying the Milwaukee Common Council votes more based on race vs. issue.

"In my 46 years of working for the public with the City of Milwaukee, I have seen many types of Common Council. Its makeup and the council leadership may change with each election and the president of the council is elected by the members of the council at the first meeting after members themselves are elected. Those running for president promise chairmanships to get votes among other factors. The make-up of the council and the president dictate what the type of council it is.

I define them by how they vote. There have been issue-councils voting considering the facts and the best interest of all in the city on each issue considered. There have been councils that principally vote supporting the mayor and those that vote principally against the mayor. There have been councils that vote by the color of their skin.

In my first eight month term, the council seemed to vote by race. My next three terms under Hines and then Murphy as president, the councils voted on issues and the best interest of the city. This term is more an antimayor/color-of-our-skin council. Fairness and issues don’t seem to matter much," Witkowski wrote in his newsletter.

On Tuesday, May 7, Witkowski tried to clarify what he meant.

"Will I come off as a bigot? You know, 'If these people don't vote the way I do, that's a problem?' That's not my intent. If it comes over that way, that's not where I was going. I look at it from 5,000 feet and I say, 'This is how the council votes,'" said Witkowski.

"Just because someone happens to be black, happens to be Hispanic, or they happen to be white, to oversimplify why they made a decision and attribute it simply to race, one is an oversimplification and it's belittling to the folks who have to make those decisions," said Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.

Witkowski said he hadn't talked to other council members about the newsletter he published.