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.