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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."

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.

Barrett: Milwaukee is not a drain on the state

Crocker Stephenson

March 5, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


It is time for Wisconsin to stop thinking of Milwaukee as a drain on state resources and to understand that the city contributes more to the state's coffers than it receives, Mayor Tom Barrett said Sunday.

The mayor made the comments at the Harley-Davidson University and Conference Center, where he was preparing his  "state of the city" address. He will deliver the speech Monday morning.
 Milwaukee's financial relationship with the state will be one topic, Barrett said.
 That relationship is inequitable, he said.
"The city is now generating $460 million more than is returning to the city from the state," Barrett said.

"We call that the Milwaukee dividend," he said. "We're going to talk about the need to invest some of that Milwaukee dividend right back here in the city."

"If anyone tells you that Milwaukee is a drain on the state, correct them immediately," Barrett said. "The city of Milwaukee is a donor. The state benefits by having Milwaukee here. And I want to change that narrative." 

Barrett said he decided to present his yearly address at Harley-Davidson to emphasize how the company, working with other near west side institutions — Marquette University, MillerCoors, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, Aurora Health Care — is giving the rest of Milwaukee a lesson in neighborhood revitalization.

"The focus is on neighborhoods," Barrett said. "You have got these great anchor institutions that have all recommitted themselves to the city of Milwaukee."

Barrett said his speech is also about "the incredible renaissance that is occurring in the city of Milwaukee right now. It is a very, very upbeat time for the city of Milwaukee."

A brighter day, the mayor said, but not without its clouds.

"Unemployment is at a 19-year low," he said. "But there are still pockets of the city where there is too much unemployment."

Another challenge to the city, the mayor said, is its stubborn infant mortality rate. 

While more babies are living to see their first birthdays, "the racial disparities in infant mortality remain unacceptably high. I will not stand for that in our city. We must aggressively focus on the leading cause of infant deaths: prematurity."

Barrett said he will also address immigration, repeating his disapproval of President Donald Trump's threat to clamp down on so-called "sanctuary cities."

"The city of Milwaukee, like many many other cities in the nation, has a long-standing practice of referring violent offenders to the federal government."

But Barrett said he wanted Milwaukee police out on the streets solving serious crimes, not acting as border guards for the federal government.

"I would rather have our police officers chasing drug dealers than someone who came from Mexico when they were seven years old and got a ticket for a burned-out headlight," he said.

Mayor Tom Barrett unveiled plans to transform a vacant lot into a storm water park and gathering space

By Mary Spicuzza

February 9, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Mayor Tom Barrett unveiled plans this week to transform a vacant lot next to the Fondy Farmers Market into a storm water park and gathering space for local residents.

The project is planned as an extension of ECO's North Ave. greenscaping project, which is underway from 8th to 27th streets.

The green space project is being funded by the City of Milwaukee, Fund for Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Barrett developed the HOME GR/OWN Initiative to find healthy uses for vacant lots in the city in an effort to create jobs, increase access to healthy food and improve quality of life.