Brookfield alderman under fire for comments some find discriminatory and classist

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BROOKFIELD, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Brookfield alderman is under fire for comments many perceive as discriminatory and classist.

Alderman Kris Seals made the comments Jan. 17 while discussing an affordable housing development.

A California company is looking to include a multifamily housing complex in its Brookfield development. Seals opposes the project, but his comments focused not on the merits of the plan, but on the income levels of the families that could qualify to live there.

Now, fellow Alderman Mike Hallquist wants to censure Seals to stave off possible legal repercussions. Hallquist said, "Most of the reaction has been what I expected, which is everyone saying it's morally objectionable and just outright wrong."

A new development at Bishop Woods would offer several hundred units at below-market rent to people who make a percentage of the annual median income.

Seals opposed the plan, saying at the time, "Is Bishop Woods going to become an apartment neighborhood? And then everyone around there is just going to have to deal with just a city of apartments?"

Hallquist said those comments are hurtful and do not reflect the Brookfield community's values. "I don't believe there should be an income barrier to enjoy life in Brookfield. I think we have a great community and I want to share it with as many people as I can."

Hallquist wants the Common Council to vote to formally censure Seals. But it could also protect the city against possible legal challenges because source of income -like family status, religion, and race- is a protected class in Wisconsin.

Hallquist said, "You cannot talk about income, for example, or any other protected class as reasons to decline this project."

Later in the meeting, Seals also disparaged the neighboring communities of Wauwatosa and West Allis. He said, "What we are trying to do is step down to a West Allis or a Wauwatosa. No, we’re Brookfield. We don’t step down to allow the people who can’t afford to live in Brookfield to come in, because then we become West Allis, then we become Wauwatosa."

West Allis Mayor Dan Devine gave us a statement that said in part it's "sad to characterize two fine communities like West Allis and Wauwatosa, which have well over 100,000 residents, as not being worthy of living in his community. Quite honestly, I feel sorry for him."

Back in Brookfield, the development is expected to move forward once the current property owners approve.

Hallquist said, "I think it's really sad in 2023 that we have to talk about this, and this is a thing. And this is happening in a community I represent."

Alderman Seals did not respond to requests for an interview or comment. We also reached out to Mayor Steven Ponto but did not receive a response.

Mike Hallquist plans to file his censure resolution soon. It could be voted on at the next council meeting.

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