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Mayor Tom Barrett to Jeff Bezos: Bring stable employment to Milwaukee's central city

By Tom Barrett

July 13, 2018

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

Amazon is a remarkably innovative company that has transformed consumer purchasing. By making the most of technological advances and managing colossal growth, it has added efficiency and value to customer purchases. Amazon has creatively disrupted a large portion of the economy. While that has consequences for companies and employees in traditional retail settings, Amazon has thrived in competitive capitalism. With recent new stories reporting Amazon is planning a new distribution center in southeastern Wisconsin, Amazon can and should seize the moment and provide transformational leadership in another way: it can lead corporate America by bringing stable employment to Milwaukee’s central city and other high unemployment urban areas. Now that’s a game changer of generational significance.

Amazon’s growth and its market capitalization in excess of $800 billion make it a powerful economic force. The choices Amazon makes can sway the economic fortunes of entire regions.
 
What makes the timing of Amazon’s planning so significant is the national, state and local employment picture. Now in the ninth year of economic recovery, under both President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump, unemployment in many parts of our nation and state is near or at historic lows.
 
A noticeable exception to the low unemployment rate, unfortunately, is the still high unemployment rate in communities of color. Since housing patterns are so segregated in southeastern Wisconsin, unemployment is highly concentrated in the city of Milwaukee.
 
That’s why we have an employment “geography gap” as well as a skills gap. It’s also why now, more than at any other time in our recent history, it is imperative that corporate America, our local business community, state and local government focus on addressing racial disparities and the geography gap.
 
If we don’t address unemployment in communities of color when unemployment is low, when will we do it? Or, have leaders just given up on locating jobs in central cities?
 
The employment needs of Amazon are very compatible with the large labor pool located in the city. What better way to address the social challenges, here and in other high unemployment urban areas, than providing hundreds or even thousands of jobs close to where people live?
 
Amazon could be a game changer. Unfortunately, like many other companies, Amazon’s distributions centers nationally are rarely located in areas with high proportions of African Americans. Milwaukee could be an exception to that regrettable practice.
 
A demographic analysis of locations Amazon has previously selected for its distribution centers shows a pattern that is typical of many large companies. Site decisions are often made with an approach that discounts social impacts. And, with that, economic benefits end up going disproportionally to locations far removed from those neighborhoods that most need jobs.
 
This is the perfect time for Amazon to demonstrate leadership by meeting its growing labor needs without requiring long commutes for those who want to work closer to home and want to spend more time with their families. That’s good for America, good for Amazon and good for our workers and families.
 
I recognize that the responsibility for addressing the current geographic job mismatch belongs to a number of parties, not just large corporations. Many state and local governments have exacerbated the situation with taxpayer subsidies handed out without considering broader impacts.
 
I invite Amazon to look into building a distribution center on Milwaukee’s north side in proximity to people looking for work, in a neighborhood with high unemployment. I encourage Amazon to consider the low-wage workers who spend hours navigating inefficient transportation alternatives. Amazon has an opportunity to alter the way site location decisions are made so that many more people can share the economic benefits of an amazing company.
 
I understand that, in a fast-growing company, expedient decisions can be made at a pace that limits consideration of broader impacts. That is something you can change. I invite you to reexamine your company’s approach. We would love to work with you.
 
Sincerely,
 
Mayor Tom Barrett
 
Milwaukee

Mayor Barrett takes 2,500 kids to the Brewers’ game, helps throw out 1st pitch

By Katie DeLong

Fox 6

June 27, 2018

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Wednesday, June 27 took 2,500 kids to a Milwaukee Brewers’ game.

Mayor Barrett also got to throw out the first pitch with Jessica Morales, a student at La Causa charter school.

Tickets were donated by the Brewers Community Foundation, with Johnsonville and Pepsi providing the food and drinks.

All of the kids attending participated in summer programs at one of 300 nonprofit youth organizations in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee submitting bid Monday to host 2020 Democratic National Convention

By Bill Glauber

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

June 18, 2018

Milwaukee's organizing committee will submit its bid Monday to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention

The convention will be held July 13-16, 2020, and Milwaukee is among eight finalist cities.

The list includes Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Denver, Houston, Miami Beach, New York and San Francisco.

The DNC site selection committee is expected to visit the finalists this summer, with the selection of the host city announced later this year or early in 2019.

"Milwaukee is prepared to provide a first-class delegate experience and turn the national spotlight on America’s 'fresh coast,' " Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in the cover letter to the 149-page submission.

"Milwaukee is an affordable and easily accessible city, known for our hospitality and our actively engaged corporate community. We have what it takes to make the DNC shine," Barrett said.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore added a letter of support in trying to bring the convention to the city's new arena.

"Milwaukee is the perfect place to host a Convention in July and August," Moore said. "With our temperate weather and great sunshine, there is no other place in America that will be more welcoming and more enjoyable for convention attendees. Our hospitality is unmatched, as is our ability to put on large events. Milwaukee knows how to put on a party and how to make sure every guest is welcomed and well cared for in a safe, yet engaging environment.”

Alex Lasry, a senior vice president of the Milwaukee Bucks, is the chair of the local committee.

Organizers have said the convention would bring an estimated 50,000 visitors and have a $200 million economic impact in Milwaukee.

The local committee is raising up to $1 million to go through the bid process. Based on the experience of recent convention cities, if Milwaukee wins the bid, the local committee would have to raise $50 million to $80 million to stage the event.

Milwaukee Mayor Barrett presenting at global climate summit in Chicago

The Wisconsin Gazette

Dec 4, 2017

 

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett joined with mayors from across the United States, Canada and Mexico to pledge support for climate action in their respective cities.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hosting the North American Climate Summit in concert with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

Municipal leaders are discussing opportunities, barriers and avenues to collaborate as they move forward with aggressive climate action plans over the next two years.

Barrett said he would be discussing Milwaukee’s action on climate change.

He also would be discussing how the city’s Better Buildings Challenge program works constructively with Milwaukee’s building owners to help them operate more profitably while addressing climate change at the community level.

“Climate change presents direct risks to Milwaukee. It increases public health risks like catastrophic floods and a host of other challenges,” Barrett said in a news release.

He added,  “In Milwaukee, we understand that investing in energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and renewable energy is important for long-term economic growth and a sustainable environment.  I’m calling on our businesses, utilities, Public Service Commission and state government to acknowledge the importance of climate change and work with us to plan and invest in solutions.”

Mayors were expected to sign the Chicago Climate Charter, marking the way forward for municipal leaders to take climate action into their own hands in the face of federal inaction.

“While the current administration buries its head in the sand on climate change, it is now up to local leaders to develop a sustainable 21st-century economy. Chicago, Milwaukee, and numerous cities across North America understand that protecting the environment and growing jobs go hand in hand,” stated Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I applaud Mayor Barrett for taking aggressive steps to bring down carbon emissions levels.”

The summit opened Dec. 4 and continues through Dec. 6.

Rep. Gwen Moore, Mayor Tom Barrett come together to oppose GOP tax plans

Katie DeLong

November 20, 2017

Fox 6

 

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett joined Congresswoman Gwen Moore Monday, November 20th to oppose the Republican tax plans moving through Congress.

They said plans to eliminate deductions for state income tax, mortgage payments and other expenses will hurt Wisconsinites.

Republicans say the plan includes a doubling of the standard deduction for individuals and married couples will lead to a broad cut at every income level.

"The personal exemptions are much more worthwhile or valuable than doubling the standard deduction for a lot of families. Depends on people's circumstances," Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin said.


Meanwhile, Barrett complained the GOP bills would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. He noted Wisconsin lost manufacturing jobs in 2016 despite the elimination of the state's manufacturing and agricultural tax years ago.

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin said he opposes the Senate tax reform plan, saying it doesn't treat small businesses as well as corporations.

Milwaukee to more than double early voting sites for 2018 elections

Mary Spicuzza

November 15, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

The City of Milwaukee is set to more than double its number of early voting sites.

Aldermen and voting rights advocates announced Wednesday that the city will have eight early voting locations when people head to the polls in 2018.

That would be up from just three early voting sites that were available to city voters in 2016.

The expansion was approved Friday by the Common Council when aldermen voted unanimously to support an amendment adding early voting sites in next year's budget plan.

Mayor Tom Barrett said he worked closely with aldermen to fund additional early voting locations.

"We are excited about expanding this program, because we think it really brings the democracy to the people," Barrett said.

"Voting is a fundamental component of American democracy," said Shauntay Nelson, program manager for Wisconsin Voices. "Democracy works best when eligible voters can participate in the voting process.

Nelson was joined Wednesday at a City Hall news conference by several aldermen as well as Scot Ross, the executive director of One Wisconsin Institute.

"We know that when voters are given the opportunity to vote, that voters vote," Ross said.

A lawsuit filed by One Wisconsin Institute led a federal judge to strike down limits to early voting last year. In that case, U.S. District Judge James Peterson invalidated parts of Wisconsin’s election laws, striking down limits on early voting and prohibitions on allowing people to vote early at multiple sites. He found those and other laws violated people’s voting rights, and that many of them were put in place by Republicans to help their party.

Republican leaders have previously called for restricting early voting, saying access should be more uniform throughout the state's rural and urban areas.

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton said the budget amendment showed the importance of Milwaukee residents having access to "the voting booth."

"We wanted to have a united voice in saying expanding that access throughout the city is something that we are going to fight for, and it's something that the citizens of the City of Milwaukee can use to help leverage the needs that they have in this city," Hamilton said. "We want the voices of the City of Milwaukee to be heard throughout this state, as well as throughout this country."

Nearly 53,000 city residents participated in early voting in last year's presidential election, a 43% increase compared with 2012. But overall, the city saw a decline of some 41,000 voters in the 2016 election compared with 2012.

Neil Albrecht, executive director of the city's Election Commission, has said Wisconsin's voter ID law and changes to registration requirements caused problems at the polls in the city and likely contributed to lower voter turnout.

"We wanted to bring the polls, the voting sites, to our communities to increase the voter turnout," said Ald. José Pérez.

Locations for the city's early voting sites have not yet been decided.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett slams Trump comments: 'We are not the white United States'

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett slams Trump comments: 'We are not the white United States'

by Mary Spicuzza

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

August 16, 2017

 

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett slammed President Donald Trump over his response to the weekend's deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va.

During a Tuesday news conference, Trump said "there's blame on both sides" for the violence involving white nationalists and counter-protesters. A woman was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of people who were protesting the white supremacist rally.

Barrett said Wednesday that every elected official at every level of government "has a moral responsibility to step forward and repudiate the words of the president of the United States."

“Mr. President, it’s not a white Constitution," Barrett said at a City Hall news conference. "We are not the white United States."

Barrett added that he was disappointed in the responses from Wisconsin Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker.

"I am disappointed," the Democrat said. "This is a time where you have to put partisanship aside, and you have to talk about what's right. This is not even a close call."

The mayor said white supremacists are not welcome in the City of Milwaukee.

"Hatred is acceptable nowhere," he said. "This nation that we all love is better than this. This nation is better than our president."

 
 
 

Nearly 80 homes in Sherman Park area slated for redevelopment, mayor says

Nearly 80 homes in Sherman Park area slated for redevelopment, mayor says

by Mary Spicuzza

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

August 9, 2017

 

Nearly 80 foreclosed homes in the Sherman Park area are slated to be redeveloped, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced Wednesday.

The work is part of a $1 million housing rehabilitation program funded by the state, which was announced following last year's violent unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood.

"We're pleased with the results up to this point. We know that there's more work to be done," Barrett said at a news conference, which was held in front of a N. 46th St. home being redeveloped by the Ezekiel Community Development Corp.

The money, provided by the state Department of Financial Institutions from a nationwide Volkswagen legal settlement, was given to subsidize the renovation of 100 tax-foreclosed homes.

So far, 78 homes have been acquired or reserved through the program, and 23 have been completed and sold, Barrett said.

"We're putting people to work," Barrett said. "We're creating hope, and we're creating opportunity right here in the community."

Ezekiel said the company focuses on transforming neighborhoods and employing residents who've struggled to find work.

"What we want to do is we want to create hope in the community," said Jim Gaillard, Ezekiel's vice president.

Gaillard said they aim to work with people who face barriers to employment, including those who've been incarcerated, and teach them trades so they can work as electricians and carpenters.

"We train these people. Each one of these houses is a classroom for us," Gaillard said. "We want to spend money in the community."

The effort was initially dubbed a "dollar homes" program when city officials announced it in January. That's because the homes are being sold for $1 each (plus fees) to developers and nonprofit groups, who are then eligible for grants of up to $10,000 per home. But the initial name of the program caused some confusion, including among those who gathered at City Hall hoping to receive a $1 home and $10,000 in cash immediately, before completing the required restoration work.

Six developers, most based in the Milwaukee area, were chosen to participate in the program. They include Ezekiel Community Development Corp., a Milwaukee-based nonprofit focused on rehabilitating foreclosed homes with the help of minority contractors and inmates who need practical work skills. Ezekiel then tries to sell the properties to first-time and low-income homeowners.

The other developers chosen were Gorman & Co.Strong Blocks Real Estate; Advance Investors; CUBE Development/ FIT Investment Group; and T.E.X LLC.

Strong Blocks specializes in rent-to-own arrangements with tenants.

The developers are required to employ some unemployed or underemployed Milwaukee residents for the work. All renovation work is supposed to be completed in the next 18 months.

The houses being renovated must be in the greater Sherman Park area, bounded by N. 60th St., N. 20th St., W. Capitol Drive and W. Lloyd St.

"Has there been progress? Yes. Is there more that needs to be done? Absolutely yes," Barrett said. "And I'm mindful of the fact that there are still far too many people who don't have jobs so they can support their families."

Mayor Barrett says WI on the hook for nearly $700M after Gov. Walker rejected federal ACA funding

Mayor Barrett says WI on the hook for nearly $700M after Gov. Walker rejected federal ACA funding

By Katie DeLong

Fox 6

August 9, 2017

 

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the state is on the hook for nearly $700 million after Governor Scott Walker rejected federal funding under the Affordable Care Act.

During a news conference Wednesday, August 9th, Mayor Barrett called on Governor Walker and state legislators to reverse their position and start accepting those federal dollars.

He said this would protect taxpayer money and cover more people across the state.

“We’re in this rare occurrence where fiscally it makes all the sense in the world for us to accept these dollars and from a healthcare perspective, it makes all the sense in the world for us to make sure these individuals are covered by BadgerCare,” Barrett said.

Republicans have said they’re protecting taxpayers because the government cannot pay for promises it has already made.

Mayor Tom Barrett backed by suburban officials to keep leading Milwaukee workforce development

Mayor Tom Barrett backed by suburban officials to keep leading Milwaukee workforce development

By Mary Spicuzza

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

August 2, 2017

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has received the backing of suburban officials from throughout Milwaukee County to continue serving as the leader of area workforce development efforts.

The group, known as the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council, voted overwhelmingly last month to keep Barrett as the chief elected official. 

The 13-2 vote, which was taken during a July 20 ICC meeting, came after a battle for control over worker training between Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. The ICC is made up of the mayor, village president or administrator from each of the 19 municipalities in Milwaukee County.

"The mayors and village presidents elected me to continue in my role as the chief elected official and I'm very pleased with that," Barrett said in a recent interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Barrett and Abele in June went before a state panel known as the Governor's Council on Workforce Investment to argue their cases.

And in July, Ray Allen, the state's workforce development secretary, wrote a letter urging local officials to attempt to reach an agreement about who should lead job creation in Milwaukee "in an effort to build county and regional collaboration which meets the demands of employers and job seekers" in the area.

The mayor said the 13-2 vote showed that a clear agreement had been reached.

"From our standpoint, having an election makes the decision," Barrett said.

It's not yet clear whether state officials agree. Spokesmen for Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the state Department of Workforce Development had no comment about whether Barrett will continue leading Milwaukee's worker training efforts. 

Employ Milwaukee, an agency that teams up with companies to expand recruitment and training for workers in southeastern Wisconsin, has been at the heart of the tug of war. 

Ten years ago, former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle took control of the agency away from the county and gave it to Barrett. In late April, Abele wrote to Walker, asking him to return it to the county.

Abele said state officials suggested the shift, but added that he thinks it makes sense.

In a statement Wednesday, Abele said: "Given the news that a global employer will set up a massive operation in southeastern Wisconsin — one that will surely mean jobs for Milwaukee County — it's going to be more important than ever to take a regional approach to workforce development. Transit and housing will be a part of the equation as well. Regardless of the oversight of this agency, as the largest provider of these services in the area, Milwaukee County must be included in the conversation in order for these efforts to be successful."

Barrett has strongly fought moving the program to the county.

"We're going to continue to have Employ Milwaukee really address the needs of the entire Milwaukee County area and even beyond that," Barrett said last month. "We think that there are going to be more opportunities for workers beyond Milwaukee County, and we want to make sure that all people who live in Milwaukee County have an opportunity to be part of that."