2005 State of the City Address
Our New Milwaukee
by Mayor Tom Barrett
February 2, 2005
Milwaukeeans and distinguished guests, it is an honor to present my first report to our residents and community leaders. Welcome to the "New Milwaukee" that is taking shape – literally – right before our eyes outside the doors of this wonderful facility. I'm proud to share our successes, highlight our continuing challenges, and lay out a strong vision for the coming year.
Thank you to Dr. Vietz, the staff and students of MSOE for hosting us this morning. As we seek to grow our economy MSOE is keeping income and knowledge here by placing 70% of its graduates in Wisconsin jobs. Thank you also to the young women from St. Joan Antida who helped warm us up this morning. I'm proud as Mayor to help young people like you discover your dreams in our New Milwaukee.
Behind me, you see the expanse of the Park East. This location is a perfect place to talk about my vision for a New Milwaukee. It's in the heart of downtown's thriving business and education corridor and it's connected to neighborhoods beyond. This is 64 acres of prime downtown real estate.
You will not find an opportunity like this in any other city of our size in the country. Where you now see vacant lots, in our New Milwaukee we will see jobs... we will see new shops... we will see new places for businesses... and we will see additional entertainment. We see exciting possibilities in this corridor and we will be an active, aggressive partner in developing it. Just last week we jump-started this process by listing the first city lot for sale.
Just beyond the Park East, we can see more of our New Milwaukee taking shape. The Hillside Neighborhood has been transformed through creative use of federal HOPE VI funds. We turned a super block of public housing into a super neighborhood. Today Hillside is an anchor neighborhood... in fact, it sparked housing and commercial development in nearby Brewer's Hill and the Beerline. Throughout Milwaukee we are creating stronger housing choices and generating additional tax base in every direction.
My vision extends beyond the near-downtown neighborhoods to places like the Tower Automotive site. A new consolidated city facility will breathe life into this location, bringing almost 500 jobs into the neighborhood. And I'm pleased Pressed Steel Tank and West Milwaukee Recycling have followed our lead by bringing even more jobs to this neighborhood.
Today, we could stand on the 35th Street viaduct and see the Menomonee Valley Business Park rapidly taking shape as final preparations are made to bring hundreds of jobs back to the valley.
At the corner of Chase and Oklahoma, a vacant factory complex will soon be reborn as the Milwaukee expansion for Bucyrus International, creating 100 union jobs that pay wages averaging $22 per hour. Tim Sullivan, the president of Bucyrus-International, has joined us today. Welcome Tim. Thank you for believing and investing in our city.
Tower Automotive, Bucyrus, the Valley... all these and more are examples of what I mean when I say, "Milwaukee is open for business." Milwaukee is a city on the move.
Two days after I was elected last spring, I met with the City Budget Staff, who informed me that I had inherited a 32 million dollar budget deficit. We uncovered even more fiscal problems in the first few months after taking office.
But I also heard time and time again at my popular "Brown Bag Lunches" and everywhere else in this community that we can't keep increasing property taxes. And I listened to the people of this community. I am very proud that we reduced the property tax rate and held the line on the levy in my first budget.
We made tough choices, and Madison noticed.
In his State of the State address, Governor Doyle singled out Milwaukee for our hard work. I thank him for his partnership and his pledge to not cut Shared Revenue. He is working with us to help create our New Milwaukee.
To continue building our New Milwaukee, city government must lead on many issues. First, we must direct city resources toward creating jobs and strengthening neighborhoods. Second, we must do everything in our power to make Milwaukee safe for every resident. Third, we must show our residents that city services are customer services. And fourth, we must have an education system that helps children and respects taxpayers. Our kids must not become political pawns in a high-stakes chess match.
I. Economic Development in all of Milwaukee
Our New Milwaukee is a Milwaukee of opportunity for all. We must focus our energy on putting more Milwaukee residents to work and we must strengthen our neighborhoods.
Here are some good news headlines worth repeating:
- Capital Returns, which employs nearly 400 Central City residents, will expand in the city in 2005, thanks in part to our efforts to keep them here.
- Brady Corporation will build a new $10 million distribution center on the Northwest side.
- Falk Corporation will add jobs in the Menomonee Valley.
- The Stadium Business Park at 38th and Orchard recently began operations and is shooting to house 200 jobs.
- Direct Supply on Milwaukee's Northwest Side continues its impressive growth.
City government is playing an important role in each of these success stories. I have worked with these employers and businesses like these because I want to create family supporting jobs. I want to thank them. We need you. And we want to work with you.
We can't and won't stop in 2005. Shortly after taking office, I worked with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce to launch a joint business contact program. We've been in touch with hundreds of employers, and earlier this year our partnership kicked off its next phase of outreach.
Local business ambassadors are visiting employers to find out what we can do to keep them here and help them grow.
In 2005, I'll go further by working to create a business plan that truly integrates the work of our Department of City Development with the work of the MMAC, the GMC, and the Initiative for a Competitive Milwaukee and other partners.
In our New Milwaukee, we're creating more jobs and building stronger neighborhoods. Last year, we sold more than 200 vacant lots that will result in more than 30 million dollars in neighborhood redevelopment. Many of these lots were sold to community-based housing developers who are renewing our neighborhoods with affordable housing.
We provided loans and grants totaling 2.8 million dollars for renovation and construction of 332 housing units. These investments by help leverage millions more in private dollars.
On Milwaukee's near Southside, the United Community Center used a fifty thousand dollar city grant to create home-buying clinics. As a result, there are 49 new homeowners. The investment in this clinic in turn created an additional 4.7 million dollar investment in the neighborhoods. Over five years we have seen homeownership in the near Southside increase from 63 percent to 86 percent. Mr. Jesus Oliveras and Ms. Karen Charries used this program to buy their home. I would like you to welcome them today. Congratulations.
In 2005, we will sharpen and deepen the beauty of the kaleidoscope that is our New Milwaukee. We will move ahead with the Bronzeville Cultural and Entertainment District along West North Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive. Our effort to create Bronzeville won't be finished overnight, but this year you will see results from the investment in this area.
The cultural richness of Milwaukee is resonating across the nation. This summer, I'm thrilled that Milwaukee will host the National NAACP Convention.
I'm honored to have Jerry Ann Hamilton, President of our local NAACP chapter in our audience this morning. I'm sure Jerry Ann will accept the help of anyone here today to make the convention a success.
Also this summer, we'll welcome the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Lao/Hmong American veterans to Milwaukee. In 2005, our city has a unique opportunity to showcase the New Milwaukee to visitors from all over the nation. Let's take full advantage of these opportunities to celebrate our community's diversity.
In our New Milwaukee, we will have world-class attractions like the Calatrava Addition, the Pier Wisconsin Project, the new Third Ward Public Market, Pabst City, and the Harley-Davidson Museum that will bring visitors – and their dollars – to our community.
We have a new Milwaukee brand and icon to spread throughout this country, and we have renewed energy for the Milwaukee Brewers under the new ownership of Mark Attanasio. Keep in mind that Mark's Milwaukee Brewers are undefeated. We could not be more excited about the future for major league baseball in Milwaukee.
Just west of Miller Park, at the VA Grounds, we have an opportunity to expand our new Milwaukee while embracing history. This land is steeped in history, heritage, and honor.
Unfortunately though, The VA Grounds have suffered over the years from neglect and funding cuts.
I will propose a plan too preserve the heritage of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, and guide development that will honor the service and sacrifice it represents.
The City of Milwaukee is in a unique position to guide the redevelopment of the VA grounds. I am prepared to lead a broad-based, community-wide planning effort for this land.
My goals are to preserve a priceless historic asset, provide for its future, create jobs through new high tech and biotech development, and honor our veterans.
Another asset that is desperately in need of attention is the downtown train station. Milwaukee deserves a rail and bus gateway that truly welcomes people to our world-class city. In the coming months, I'll offer such a plan.
My plan will use the state and federal resources available to us in a way that makes sense and leverages additional private investment. When visitors on train or bus enter our New Milwaukee, they will know they have entered a 21st Century facility and a city with a new attitude.
II. Keeping Our Streets Safe
Employers, residents and visitors also expect that we will do everything we can to make Milwaukee safe. We have made great strides in this effort, and I'm proud to say that Milwaukee has a mayor and a police chief working together to fight crime. Thank you, Chief Hegarty.
Recently, I rode along with Officer Raymond Harris and Officer Virgil Cotton on the streets of the 3rd District to see firsthand what Milwaukee Police are doing to combat crime. I wanted to do that because I respect our police and appreciate all the work they do to fight crime. In 2004, we reduced our homicide rate by over 17 percent. That is the lowest number of homicides in 16 years.
And it's not just the homicide numbers that are down. Overall crime dropped more than 8 percent when compared to 2003. Milwaukee continues to get safer. In 2005, the Gang Squad and other effective tools will get the resources they need from City Hall to fight crime.
When I took office, I asked Chief Hegarty to call me whenever there was a homicide in the city. These phone calls are the toughest part of my job. My kids know what is going on when that phone rings, and my heart sinks knowing that another Milwaukee family is suffering a horrible loss. In 2005, I want parents to stop losing their children on our streets and the phone to stop ringing.
We all know there are limits to what the police can accomplish. There are limits to what I and the Council can accomplish. But – I am convinced – there are no limits what are community coming together can accomplish.
On Sunday, we launched the Mayor's Community Partnership that will take me to pulpits, schools, neighborhood groups, professional associations and anywhere else I can find people who care. My message is simple. Regardless of the problem, we cannot resort to violence.
But I need partners in this cause. I need businesses to target hiring and job training to those who need it most. The best weapon against crime is jobs. Our New Milwaukee cannot leave any neighborhoods behind.
I need the clergy and congregations to take the message beyond the walls of the church.
I need neighbors to make sure everyone on the block knows each other.
Most importantly, I need young people to engage in "positive peer pressure" to end violence. There's nothing cool about going to a funeral. We all know that young people listen to other young people. It will take courage from these young people, but I believe in them, and you should too.
As Mayor, I'll do my part. This summer we will coordinate a new Summer Youth Internship Program that will employ up to 250 high school juniors and seniors in city government positions. We will provide a meaningful work experience for each of these students. We invite Milwaukee businesses to join us in providing other internships and jobs.
Yesterday I agreed to a pilot project with Mr. John Roberts III who operates a Cape Cod catering business. My office will assist in the hiring of four 2005 MPS graduates too work this summer for wages of $11/hour plus time-and-a-half. If successful, we will expand this workforce next summer.
We will invite employers from the Wisconsin Dells and Door County to follow Mr. Roberts' lead and come to Milwaukee to seek their summer employees. If you come here, we will connect you to young people who are ready and eager to work.
We will push further and harder to ensure that the success in the last year is the sign of real change in our New Milwaukee but rather a step on the steady climb that puts us at the top of great American cities.
III. City Service Means Customer Service
The enormity of the November Presidential Election overwhelmed the City Election Commission staff, poll workers, and data systems. There were problems. Mistakes were made. We are going to fix those problems. I want all of us to feel confident and secure about how our elections are run. We are moving ahead and the City's election systems will be dramatically improved.
Our democracy is dependent on citizens exercising their right to vote. The more people who participate in the process, the stronger our country is and I want as many people as possible to exercise their right to vote.
We must be a safe city where people can find work, but we must also be a city that works well. In 2005, I will make customer service a hallmark of city government. We have quality city employees in Milwaukee, and, this year, we will place a renewed focus on treating our citizens as the customers that they are. Taxpayers deserve a first-rate experience when doing business with the city and I aim to see that they get it.
I have already directed the Budget Office to prepare a three-year strategic plan to better position us to respond to the uncertain outlooks of future federal and state funding. We will outline priorities and set budget parameters around those priorities.
In 2005, I will instruct the Budget Office and other city departments to assist in the creation of a "CitiStat" System. This is a system that helps us track our services and improve efficiencies. Other large cities like Baltimore and New York use this system. It worked and they're saving money with it.
Speaking of work, when was the last time you looked in the phone book for city departments? Your fingers did a lot of walking through the long list of five pages. I want to change that. Our city services should be easy for its customers to find. This year, we will create a 311 phone system that residents can use for one-stop shopping of services.
This will include all non-emergency services typically provided through the 911 system, as well as all other city services. The framework of this system exists at the DPW Call Center where more than a quarter of a million calls are processed annually. We'll expand this in 2005 in a cost-effective way that ensures a better product for our customers.
Later this year, we'll also become one of the first cities in the country to start issuing selected permits over the Internet. We'll start with electrical permits. The system is being tested right now and, in a matter of weeks, electrical contractors will be able to get their permits online. We will look for more ways to bring government to people in their homes and businesses through technology.
In 2005, I will begin a thorough review of the City's Emerging Business Enterprise Program. It's been over a decade since we as a City have reviewed the legal and historic structure of the program. A new study will analyze the effectiveness of the current structure to ensure that the City's EBE program continues to serve the target audience that was designed to serve.
Another initiative that will generate tax savings and enhance an efficient public safety service is the consolidation of city / county wireless 911 systems. It's time to make this happen.
The City has a state-of- the-art Tele-Communications Center with trained personnel and equipment ready to go. The alternative is double taxation on city residents and wasting suburban taxpayers' money on a duplicate system. I urge the County to move on this consolidation now.
IV. Educating Milwaukee Children
Finally, if we are to truly create a New Milwaukee, we must improve our workforce. We need to start with our children and improve the knowledge base all the way up to our adult workforce. From our public and private schools to our vocational and higher educational institutions, we must set the standards high and our goals higher. We have already created a new education system in our city, one that includes both MPS schools and choice schools, and I will strengthen both of these important systems.
It's time we find common ground for choice schools and MPS. Rhetoric will not educate and prepare the students currently caught in this crossfire of debate. Where a student gains his or her skills is not as important as the fact that they are truly gained. Neither students nor their parents can be losers when it comes to our educational system.
Our city cannot afford another 13 percent levy increase from MPS, and any adjustment in the School Choice Cap must be fair to city taxpayers.
So let's come to the table and negotiate increasing caps, MPS school aids, and accountability standards for all. Let's fix the flaw in the state's school aid formula. I support raising the School Choice Cap, and I challenge legislators to ensure that Milwaukee taxpayers no longer get penalized for paying for two educational systems.
In our New Milwaukee, we will continue our commitment to the Neighborhood Schools Initiative. We have helped finance new schools like the Mary McCloud Bethune School, which is under construction. If MPS must close schools, then the city will assist in selling these properties and finding the highest and best use that gets those properties back on the tax roles and keeps the MPS levy increases under control.
Our New Milwaukee must embrace the need to retain and attract college graduates. Our workforce must be skilled and trained to attract good jobs and good incomes. Milwaukee is rich with institutions of higher learning in every corner of this community. By thinking creatively in 2004, we made Dean Bob Greenstreet from UWM a leader in our urban planning team and created a true partnership with UWM. In 2005, I want to expand the partnership between higher education and city government so that we make the best use of the intellectual strength we have in our community.
Recently Forbes Magazine named Milwaukee a "hot place" for singles. Think about this for a second... "Barrett gets elected, Milwaukee is a hot place for singles." You be the judge.
Alright, the Young Professionals of Milwaukee and other groups that are breathing life into our city actually deserve the credit here. Thank you. And the new additions in downtown entertainment, housing choices, and music scene are all working in our favor, and we must continue to get the word out that Milwaukee is great place for young professionals to live, work and raise families.
In 2005, we will transform our challenges into opportunities. Working together, we will bring light and energy to our New Milwaukee. We will create jobs, we will reduce crime so we can enjoy our neighborhoods, we will make government more efficient so that we can afford to live here and we will improve education to build a future for the next generation – this is my vision for a New Milwaukee and I ask you to work with me in 2005 to make that vision a reality.
Let's keep working. Thank you.