About two years ago, the RCM Board supported a request from club members to form the Inclusion, Racial Equity and Jobs Committee. Chaired by Rotarian and Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern, committee members have explored ideas for “how to shape a more just and equitable future for all in our community through greater employment availability.”
The committee has met with leaders across the community such as retired judge Jim Gramling who focuses his efforts on helping people acquire or regain a driver’s license and agencies working in this space including Milwaukee JobsWork, the YWCA and WRTP/Big Step.
The committee spent time learning about how Northwestern Mutual took action to ensure that company’s $450 million office tower project expanded opportunities for city residents. Those goals included hiring Milwaukee residents to work 40 percent of the construction site hours during the project and to use small businesses or those owned by women or minorities for 25 percent of the design and construction costs.
Last fall the committee met with Kerry Thomas of MetroGo, an important player in regional transit. MetroGo recognizes that transportation is a top employment obstacle. Some quick facts:
- 15% of households in Milwaukee do have access to even one car.
- 50% of participants in major workforce programs in Milwaukee do have a driver’s license.
- Job growth has been focused in the suburban areas while the largest underused workforce is in Milwaukee.
MetroGo engaged the Public Policy Forum to undertake a study of best practices of breaking down fundamental employment barriers and improving systematic access to jobs. At Rotary on April 25th Rob Henken, President of the Public Policy Forum and Senior Researcher Joe Peterangelo will provide an overview the completed study The Last Mile: Connecting workers to places of employment.
This research suggests that flexible forms of transit service and perhaps new strategies linked to partnerships with ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber – could help address the region's elusive "last mile" problem, which can arise when fixed-route transit services stop short of bringing commuters all the way to their job sites.
Here is a preview of some of the policy recommendations:
- Build on recent efforts to improve transportation connections in the Milwaukee area through shared-ride taxi services and bicycle services and amenities.
- Develop and implement an official MCTS mobile application with robust capabilities.
- Pilot a flexible transit and/or on-demand transportation service in metro Milwaukee.
- Consider how benefits provided by innovative last mile strategies can extend to broader populations of transit users.
- Cultivate intergovernmental collaboration and private sector involvement to address last mile challenges in lower-density areas of metro Milwaukee.
Believing that as Rotarians we have a responsibility to be a positive part of this regional discussion, the RCM Community Trust committed $2,500 to fund the public outreach portion of the study and has worked with Waukesha County Board Chair and Past District Governor Paul Decker to engage other Rotary Clubs.