The task force, composed of Milwaukee County Supervisors, will offer “a list of recommendations on how to mitigate segregation,” said task force co-chairman Tim Johnson. The report will be issued to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 30.

Wednesday’s meeting was a “listening” forum, Johnson said. The public was encouraged to come and voice its opinions on race relations and segregation in the areas of economic development, housing issues and transportation.

“We’re not trying to hit a homerun,” Johnson said, addressing those at the forum. “I keep telling people this, we’re only trying to get a base hit.” He said everyone can admit there is a problem with segregation in Milwaukee County, and he wants to help remedy that.

Roughly 50 people showed up to offer opinions. Heidi Rattner, the director of justice programs for the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, started by commending the task force and then discussed the need for jobs for blacks.

“In many parts of the city of Milwaukee, more than 50 percent of the African-American males are unemployed,” she said. “This is both embarrassing and tragic.”

Rattner said blacks in Milwaukee hold a low number of managerial jobs and own fewer businesses compared with other major U.S. metropolitan areas. She also called for “the creation of a Regional Transportation Authority that would facilitate people’s ability to move from county to county to access employment.”

Charles Clayburke, a Milwaukee resident, said the city is one of the most racially segregated in the country, calling it the “city of ethnic reservations.” He questioned how elected officials in Madison can ignore organizations such as the Aryan Nation, the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and skinheads that he said reside in the town of Janesville, just 32 miles southeast of the state capitol.

“Tim Johnson, you need to address the cause before you solve the problem,” Clayburke said.

Housing issues were important to Anne Hazelwood, spokeswoman for Women and Poverty Public Education Initiative. She recommended rental vouchers for low-income families and brought up “dilapidated houses” where “some families, living two or three families per house, pay $700 a month with holes in the walls.”

“People are working for low wages and still can’t pay the rent,” Hazelwood said.

Education was a hot topic, but it’s also one the task force does not handle.

“The county is an administrative arm of the state,” Johnson said. “It is not an autonomous governing body like the city.”

Therefore, Johnson said, the task force is “limited within policy making parameters.” The county does not control education, so the task force will not be making recommendations on it.

Johnson started the task force in January because “there was no political leadership moving forward on the policy level to decrease segregation.”

The task force is composed of seven Milwaukee County Supervisors: Johnson and co-chairman James White, and members Gerry Broderick, Paul Cesarz, Willie Johnson Jr., Michael Mayo Sr. and T. Anthony Zielinski.