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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.


Mayor Tom Barrett slams 'sanctuary city' crackdown

Mary Spicuzza

January 27, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is condemning President Donald Trump's threat to clamp down on "sanctuary cities," saying the administration is trying to force local governments to act as "border guards."

During the City of Milwaukee's annual birthday party on Thursday night, Barrett spoke out against Trump's move to shut off federal funds for sanctuary cities — or cities that refuse to inform federal officials about undocumented immigrants in their custody — in an unusually fiery political speech.
"The federal government has failed to enact meaningful immigration reform, and we can debate for hours as to who is to blame for that. But that's the reality," Barrett said. "But to have the federal government then demand that local governments act as border guards is not within the scope, I believe, of what our relationship should be with our federal government."

Barrett, who is serving his fourth term leading Wisconsin's largest city, joined mayors around the country in criticizing Trump's move to target sanctuary cities.

Officials in sanctuary cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have vowed to fight the plan. But on Thursday, a South Florida mayor ordered his employees to start working more closely with federal immigration authorities.

Milwaukee is not a sanctuary city, Barrett said. 

"At this time in our nation's history, we have to have political leaders who are going to speak out if they see something that is so offensive," Barrett said to applause from the crowd, which was gathered at Grain Exchange on East Michigan Street.

Barrett said he wants Milwaukee police officers to remain focused on public safety.
"Equally important as the respect for human beings is the fact that I want our Police department to be making our streets safer, and be fighting violent crime and drug dealing," Barrett said. "And not to have to sit in an office for three or four hours to have someone detained by a unit of government that hasn't done their job."
He added that if the "federal government wants to hire border guards and bring them to Milwaukee, that's their decision."

Barrett has said that Milwaukee police and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of Homeland Security have had a good working relationship.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn is expected to speak about the issue Saturday at an event organized by Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights group.

Trump signed two immigration-related executive orders Wednesday, including efforts to build a wall on the Mexican border and to clamp down on sanctuary cities that shield immigrants in the country illegally.

The Milwaukee County Board will consider a resolution Thursday, saying the county opposes discrimination and aims to keep the county a "safe" place for immigrants.

Mayor Barrett signs resolution in opposition to President Trump’s executive order on immigration

By Brittany Shannon

February 7, 2017



MILWAUKEE -- Local refugee groups united Tuesday, February 7th as three federal judges grilled lawyers from the Justice Department and Washington state -- as they determine whether to lift a nationwide halt against President Donald Trump's travel ban against citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Tuesday night assured people that in Milwaukee, immigrants will be safe. City leaders took a major stand against President Trump's executive order on immigration, and immigrants and refugees were able to share their stories.

"I am a refugee from Honduras," Raul Ortiz said.

Eight-year-old Ortiz received a standing ovation after he shared his story of coming to America, and he wasn't the only one.

A Syrian refugee wishing to remain hidden said he hopes others get the same chance he did.

"He just hopes they'll have the opportunity to come to America and be greeted with open arms like he was," a translator said on behalf of the refugee.

The event, called "Milwaukee Gathers in Unity for Human Dignity" drew dozens of people eager to take on President Trump's executive order on immigration. Milwaukee leaders spoke out and took action. Mayor Barrett signed a resolution against President Trump's executive order, approved by 13 of 15 Milwaukee aldermen earlier Tuesday. The resolution was authored by Alderman Jose Perez.

"I'm proud to sign this with the help of people who love this nation," Barrett said.

Alderman Bob Donovan voted against the measure.

"We want to be a welcoming country, but we also have an obligation to ensure the safety in this very dangerous world. The safety of all of our citizens," Donovan said.

Alderman Perez issued the following statement after his resolution was approved Tuesday:

I want to thank my Common Council colleagues for their overwhelming support today in approving my resolution for immediate adoption -- Resolution expressing the City of Milwaukee’s opposition to Presidential Executive Order 13769: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.

According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, Milwaukee could be the first city in the U.S. to officially declare its opposition to the travel ban.

The 13-2 vote to approve the resolution shows that while we may disagree on some issues, as a Council we are strongly united in our firm belief that the travel ban order is wrong, divisive, and that it is not based on facts but instead plays on our worst fears and paranoia.

I especially want to thank my partnering co-sponsors – Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs and Alderwoman Chantia Lewis – and the colleagues who have also joined on today as additional sponsors: Alderman Robert J. Bauman, Alderman Nik Kovac, Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, Alderman Michael J. Murphy, Alderman Cavalier Johnson, Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II, Alderman Jim Bohl, and Alderman Tony Zielinski.

There were at least a dozen groups and organizations behind the event Tuesday evening.

Barrett, Hamilton: Milwaukee needs balanced state approach

By Tom Barrett and Ashanti Hamilton

January 28, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 


In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue calculated that the amount of state revenue generated in Milwaukee far exceeded the amount of state aid provided to Milwaukee governments


It’s a new year, and we are starting fresh. One of our new year’s resolutions is to end the misperception that Milwaukee is a drain on state resources, when in fact it is a net revenue producer to the state’s economy.

We are moving full speed ahead with Milwaukee’s economic momentum. And we are maintaining our commitment to a local economy in which our residents share in, and contribute to, the city’s economic gains.

Milwaukee is proud to lead the state of Wisconsin forward. In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue calculated that the amount of state revenue generated in Milwaukee far exceeded the amount of state aid provided to Milwaukee governments — more than $460 million from the city of Milwaukee alone, and an additional $605 million from the rest of Milwaukee County. These contributions promote Wisconsin’s sustainability and provide a range of economic opportunities well beyond our borders.

Wisconsin’s taxpayers residing outside of our county are benefiting by more than a billion dollars in tax revenue from Milwaukee. With only 66% of what the city generates and 57% of what the county generates returning to our communities, we are providing a robust and growing “Milwaukee dividend” to our state’s coffers.

If you haven’t been to Milwaukee recently, we invite you to come see our progress. A flock of our favorite bird, “the crane,” is spread throughout the heart of the city, with an unprecedented number of them building residential projects, hotels, commercial developments and a new arena-centered development. Our central business district is healthy and thriving, with $3.4 billion in public and private real estate investments completed since 2005. Another $1.7 billion is under construction and over $930 million is in the pipeline.

Since the beginning of 2016, 2,600 new housing units were completed or are under construction in greater downtown, for a total of more than 16,000 units built since 2004 citywide. Interest from both residential and commercial developers is strong and growing. Private developers are participating in an inclusive approach that trains and hires many of our most disadvantaged residents to satisfy their construction workforce demands.

All this public and private investment is paying off; the city of Milwaukee’s 2016 net new construction growth of 1.72% outpaced the state average of 1.43%. Even better, construction job growth climbed 9.3% between the first quarters of 2015 and 2016. This far outpaced state construction job growth of 5.5% and national growth of 4.5% during the same time period. Higher income tax revenue from these jobs directly benefits the state’s fiscal health.

Milwaukee’s overall job growth and employment trends are positive. In 2016, the number of Milwaukee residents working was at its highest level since 1998.

Total wages earned in Milwaukee also have dramatically increased. A good portion of that income growth supports people who commute into Milwaukee for work. The Department of Workforce Development estimates that 17% of Wisconsin’s jobs are in Milwaukee County. The county is a net exporter of job opportunities to surrounding counties, with nearly 43,000 more non-residents commuting into Milwaukee County for employment than those commuting out.

Milwaukee’s appeal to private investment is easy to see. We are home to a number of neighborhoods with rich cultural histories, renowned festivals and thriving entertainment districts, world-class universities, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Milwaukee Bucks and more. Major Milwaukee venues such as Summerfest, State Fair Park, Potawatomi Casino, the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Wisconsin Center and diverse cultural and arts institutions attract 12 million visitors annually.

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism recently reported that Milwaukee County continues to lead the state in tourism impact. With nearly $1.9 billion in direct visitor spending and $3.3 billion in total business sales, our tourism industry is thriving. The volume of hotel rooms downtown increased by 44% since 2008, indicating Milwaukee is a popular destination.

Lonely Planet Travel Guide voted Milwaukee one of the top 10 places to visit in the United States in 2016.

Six of Wisconsin’s 10 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Milwaukee County, including Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual, Manpower Group, Rockwell Automation, Harley-Davidson and WEC Energy Group, for a total revenue worth of $106 billion. These corporate assets profoundly impact our community and state. Their commitment to stay and invest is a vote of confidence in our future.

Our post-secondary institutions are another tale of success, enrolling more than 70,000 students last year. These institutions are generating a professional, educated workforce for the entire state.

Despite remarkable economic progress, we confront persistent challenges daily — most notably with concentrated poverty, poor graduation rates and violent crime. Locally, we will continue to combat our challenges through deliberate action grounded in the principles of human dignity, economic equality and authentic community engagement. Incremental successes abound, but we need additional state partnerships with resources to make dramatic improvements.

Milwaukee’s contribution to Wisconsin’s prosperity is stronger and clearer than ever. Milwaukee is the backbone of Wisconsin’s economy, and proud of it. However, our diverse and resilient community both supports and challenges policy-makers.

That’s why it is so important to understand that the new Milwaukee is an economic and cultural asset, not a drain on resources. Our long-term growth is resulting in immediate, substantial sales and income tax gains for the state; state returns to the city have not kept pace. To meet existing needs, the city must recapture some of the economic gains.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities for the state to invest and reinvest in Milwaukee to reap further dividends for the rest of Wisconsin. We urge state policy-makers to consider the substantial economic activity generated in Milwaukee during the upcoming state budget deliberations. We are happy to play our part in boosting Wisconsin’s economic prosperity and look forward to finding a more balanced approach to thrive together.

Tom Barrett is the mayor of Milwaukee. Ashanti Hamilton is an alderman and president of the Common Council.

Milwaukee Mayor Hosts Event at Mikey's for Veterans

January 26, 2017

CBS 58

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett hosted the meal at Mikey's modern barbeque in downtown Milwaukee just a few hours ago.

It came about during the ten years that the mayor has organized a holiday donation drive for vets many of them telling him they'd love a great meal with music and all the Surge restaurant group was more than happy to oblige hosting 70 veterans today.

Many of the veterans who came to the luncheon got a ride from workers at the HUD VASH program.

That's Veteran Affairs Supported Housing through the department of housing and urban development.

While many of them might face big struggle today's camaraderie offered motivation to keep up the fight.


Mayor Barrett celebrates sale of 502nd foreclosed home in 2016: “Important to have families in these homes”

By Katie Delong

January 11, 2017

Fox 6 Now


MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett attended a real estate closing to offer congratulations Wednesday, January 11th.

The closing marked the sale of the 502nd foreclosed home in Milwaukee in 2016.

Mayor Barrett congratulated the buyer, Jorge Toto, at his new home near 45th and Glendale.

The number of foreclosed homes sold exceeded the city's goal by more than ten percent.

"For me, it's important to have families in these homes, and we've been working very, very aggressively over the last three years. In fact, we're closing in on 1,500 homes over the last three years that have been returned from the tax rolls to private ownership," Mayor Barrett said.

Through Barrett's Strong Neighborhoods plan, the city is selling foreclosed homes in bundles of five for $1 each.

There's a meeting at City Hall for those interested in learning more set for Friday, January 13th at 10:00 a.m.


Mayor Barrett's Holiday Drive Delivers Gifts to Veterans

Posted by Editor

Dec 21, 2016


Mayor Tom Barrett delivered items to veterans receiving care at the VA Medical Center on December 20, as a public appreciation for their national service.

The 10th Annual Holiday Drive aimed to spread seasonal cheer to veterans receiving care at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. Items on the veterans’ wish lists were collected throughout the five-week drive. Donation bins were set up inside City Hall, the Courthouse, and other facilities across Milwaukee County. The donation effort ran from November 11 to December 16, and included everything from clothing, food, games, coffee makers, art supplies, cameras, and electronics.

“Veterans and their families make many sacrifices to protect our freedoms. This is a small way of showing our appreciation,” Mayor Barrett said. “Thank you to all who have partnered with the City of Milwaukee and share our commitment in making the holidays brighter for these courageous individuals. I’m proud to show our appreciation and hope to help create a joyful holiday season for Milwaukee veterans and their families.”

Since 2007, the City of Milwaukee has held an Annual Holiday Drive for servicemen and women. City of Milwaukee employees, community partners, businesses and residents have risen to the challenge and collected thousands of toiletries, snacks, goodies and more to help bring a little holiday cheer to those who have given so much for our country.

“Milwaukee County is honored to partner with the City of Milwaukee and the many community organizations who are joining together to support our veterans and their families this holiday season,” said County Executive Chris Abele. “But our commitment to supporting veterans isn’t just limited to the holiday season. Events like our Annual Holiday Drive are important to help raise awareness so that we can continue to provide more supportive services year-round for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.”

The drive began as a way for the City of Milwaukee to share its gratitude with Wisconsin troops who were far away from their families during the holidays. Within the first several years, more than 2,000 care packages were shipped to Wisconsin troops serving our country overseas in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.

“Each veteran on our inpatient units is getting a personalized gift,” said Dr. Daniel Zomchek, Medical Center Director. “So we are grateful for the donation effort, it is a huge deal for them and their families.”

In 2013, the Holiday Drive took on a new beneficiary, our local veterans. With more and more troops returning home from overseas service every month, the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County formed a partnership to bring awareness to and address the struggles of veterans who face homelessness or difficulties with stable housing. With the help of the community, 600 complete home starter kits were created for the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative, enough to support hundreds of veterans and their families in the Greater Milwaukee Area.

Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel attended the celebration, held in the Matousek Auditorium, and expressed his appreciation for the holiday gifts. Wetzel also announced that he was leaving the VA later in the day, after a four month stay from a motorcycle crash in August. President Lyndon Johnson awarded Wetzel with the nation’s highest military decoration for his actions in the Vietnam War.

Donors for the 10th Annual Holiday Drive included the Brewers Community Foundation, Inc., Milwaukee County Zoo, Marcus Corporation, Bublr Bikes, and the Milwaukee Public Museum.



Optimism Abounds About Restoring Jobs To Milwaukee's North Side

Economic Opportunity Stunted Decades Ago When Major Manufacturers Left
By Scottie Lee Meyers
Monday, December 5, 2016

The civil unrest that played out this summer in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood was not just a reaction to an officer-involved shooting – it was a primal scream from a community that desperately seeks the restoration of economic opportunity.

The sense of hopelessness in the inner city began decades ago when big manufacturers left, most notably A.O. Smith. Thousands of family-sustaining jobs were suddenly gone. In 2014, almost a third of the city's unemployed residents lived in the zip codes surrounding the area, according to a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee economic report.  

But city officials and community partners are optimistic about a new project called the Century City Business Park, an 80-acre site located in the heart of the 30th Street Industrial Corridor where A.O. Smith once stood.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said there's been tens of millions of dollars invested in the city-owned site, including $25 million to relocate a department of public works facility, and an additional $30 million to get the land ready for use.

He added that the city wants to make sure the right employers come into the area – and once they do, a community that was left decimated by job loss will come back to life.  

"The reason I'm so passionate about this is because I think these jobs will go a long way in addressing a lot of the challenges that we have in the central city of Milwaukee," Barrett said. "People want to have jobs where they can support their families. It's that simple."

The city hopes to use the Menomonee Valley as a model, he said. The industrial corridor east of Miller Park baseball stadium was largely derelict until the city poured in $70 million and partnered with the private sector and community partners to transform the area, adding 26 jobs per acre, according to the Public Policy Forum.

"I think what it demonstrates to anybody who cares is that the city of Milwaukee is capable of taking on a large project like this, making the invest up front … and then partnering with the employers," Barrett said.    

But this is more than just a real estate deal. This is about workforce development. When A.O. Smith shuttered its doors, it left behind an underutilized workforce. So to those businesses in the suburbs that are saying they're experiencing a skills gap, the mayor would like to make a pitch.

"If those working locations were in Century City, you would have a huge labor supply. And so what we're focusing on is trying have employers understand the value of having jobs right here in the heart of the city," he said.

Willie Wade, a former Milwaukee alderman and now vice president of Employ Milwaukee, said depending on what companies relocate to the area – and both he and the mayor said they're optimistic – there will likely be a need to round out the workforce, which will be helpful in an area that has some of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Young people might not be ready to enter the workforce for a variety of reasons, many of which are symptoms of poverty itself, said Wade. That's why his group set up the industry advisory board to chronicle what skills and preparation area employers are looking for. They then relay that feedback to a group of more than two dozen organizations that then turnaround that produce that training, and ultimately place them in those specific jobs.