Mayor Tom Barrett says Milwaukee is thriving

By Mary Spicuzza

May 6, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

The Milwaukee Bucks arena. New housing. Northwestern Mutual tower and commons. The Park East.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett praised those and other developments in his State of the City address Monday to highlight that "the heart of our city is thriving."
 
Barrett also devoted part of his annual speech to fighting the idea that Milwaukee is draining resources from the rest of Wisconsin. The amount of revenue generated in Milwaukee exceeded the amount of state aid paid to the city, county and Milwaukee Public Schools by more than $460 million in 2015, he said. Calling it the "Milwaukee Dividend," the mayor noted that the city gets back only about 66% of what it sends to Madison.
 
"So if anyone tells you Milwaukee is a drain on the state, please correct them immediately," Barrett told the crowd gathered at Harley-Davidson University.
 
Before Barrett spoke, various Milwaukee leaders took the stage to talk about their first jobs — which included scraping gum from school desks, picking up dirty towels and washing dishes.
 
"One of my first jobs was right here at Harley-Davidson where I was working on the assembly line and I learned how not to dump an engine on the plant floor," Barrett said.
 
Barrett said he decided to deliver his yearly address at Harley-Davidson to emphasize how the company, working with other near west side institutions — Marquette University, MillerCoors, the Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, and Aurora Health Care — is giving the rest of Milwaukee a lesson in neighborhood revitalization.
 
He also stressed the importance of housing, saying that since 2004, some 16,000 housing units have been built city-wide, and since the beginning of 2016, about 2,200 housing units have been built — or are under construction — downtown.
 
"We are helping families put down roots," Barrett said. "We're building strength in our neighborhoods, and we're adding value for the entire city."
 
During his speech, Barrett highlighted the city's work to create job training programs for disadvantaged residents, get tax-foreclosed homes back into circulation, and crack down on problem landlords. He announced a new partnership between the Milwaukee Public Library and Milwaukee Public Schools, known as LibraryNow, which will provide free digital access to all of the library's online resources to every student in the district. And he addressed racial disparities in the city, such as infant mortality, as well as last year's violent unrest in Sherman Park.
 
"The residents of Sherman Park have invested far too much in their neighborhood to have Sherman Park defined by the unrest of last August," he said. "History, diversity, culture and community are all strong in Sherman Park."
 
Barrett also praised the work of the Milwaukee police and fire departments, noting that last year police took 2,419 guns off the city's streets. He also spoke out against officers consistently arresting repeat offenders, saying offenders need to face real consequences. This month, the county and Milwaukee Police Department will start sharing real-time GPS locations of juvenile offenders, Barrett said.
After Barrett's speech, Police Chief Edward Flynn called on the Legislature to crack down on illegal guns and "give the city its fair share of the revenue it generates."

"We are the custodians of most of the state's poor, and therefore most of its violent crime," Flynn said.

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton said he hopes the rest of Wisconsin develops a better understanding of Milwaukee's contributions to the state.

"There are far more things to celebrate in the city of Milwaukee than there are to be down about," Hamilton said.