2007 State of the City Address
Mayor Tom Barrett
2007 State of the City
"Making Milwaukee Safer and Stronger"
I want to thank Sean McGowan and Tramont for so graciously hosting us today.
Several months ago, I stood at this facility while 13 new welders graduated from the groundbreaking workforce training program Sean mentioned. Besides the effort of those involved in the program and instructors like Dick Tupta from MATC, this program was successful because of Sean's commitment and his promise to give a job to every graduate.
The future of our City lies in the opportunities for all residents.
It is companies like Tramont that will make Milwaukee strong. I am grateful for the commitment of business leaders who send the message that with strong partnerships and creative thinking, our City can produce a qualified workforce and create opportunities for meaningful employment for our residents – residents like Jessica Cooper who is here today.
Jessica is the mother of four children. Before entering the Tramont Jobs program, she moved from several low-wage temporary positions. She started in December at Tramont making $12.50 an hour. Jessica has said that this job has allowed her to come to one place to work, make some good money to support her family, and not have to worry everyday about making ends meet.
I'd also like to recognize the students from the Milwaukee High School of the Arts for their musical performance during the reception and the Running Rebels
"Rebel Life Entertainment" for their song "If Only You Believe." Let's give all these young people another round of applause for their representation of hope for our City's future.
Milwaukeeans and distinguished guests, I am pleased to come before you today to present my third State of the City address. I am honored to have the
opportunity to share my vision for making Milwaukee safer and stronger.
I want to recognize Dave Doerr of the Falk Corporation. The explosion on December 6, 2006 rocked the Menomonee Valley and touched the hearts of the employees and the families of the Falk and Rexnord corporations.
Our hearts remain with the families and the co-workers of the three men who were killed that day: Thomas LeTendre, Curtis Lane and Daniel Kuster.
In the midst of the tragedy of that day, the response by the City, the businesses, the neighbors and the residents of this community made me as proud as I have ever been to be Mayor of this great city.
I'd like to ask our first responders to stand and be recognized for their tremendous efforts on that day.
These men and women represent the City's swift and efficient response to the explosion. From the fire fighters and EMS personnel who battled the explosion to the police officers who immediately secured the scene, to the city inspectors who assured there was no additional threat to homes, businesses and critical infrastructure.
I was humbled and proud to lead such an impressive and first-class effort.
I also want to thank Falk's Menomonee Valley neighbors for stepping up and providing assistance in the immediate aftermath of the blast.
I'd like to ask Rick Schlesinger of the Milwaukee Brewers and Giacomo Falluca from Palermo Villa to please stand. Gentlemen, your compassion and assistance showed what Milwaukee is all about – neighbors helping neighbors in time of need.
We will continue to work with Dave and his team to make sure that the Falk Corporation – a rock solid business in our community for over 100 years – grows stronger than ever here in Milwaukee.
This morning, Iwant to thank all of you for working hard to make Milwaukee a better city.
We have made great progress together but more hard work lies ahead. Tremendous strides are being made in this community by people who, like you, care deeply about our City, our neighbors and our future.
Together, we can take our partnership to even greater heights for a stronger Milwaukee.
Let 2007 be the year we ignite this community to come together, share ideas and coordinate our work toward a safer, stronger Milwaukee.
And speaking of partners, Iwant to thank our Governor, Jim Doyle, who is in Madison today finalizing his budget address to be delivered tomorrow night.
The budget package Governor Doyle brought to Milwaukee last week is a great investment in meeting our critical needs. All of us here today must join the effort to ensure that our Milwaukee priorities receive the attention they deserve in the State Legislature.
In 2007, my two top priorities continue to be reducing crime and putting more people to work.
In our fight against crime we will need more police resources and a stronger relationship among clergy, community and law enforcement. And we absolutely HAVE to get the illegal guns and the criminals who use them off our streets.
Last year I added the largest increase to the police budget in more than a decade.
Working with the Common Council, we funded 50 additional officers and a community service officer program that will put even more police back out on the street fighting crime.
All this will provide the Milwaukee Police Department with the largest strength of force since 2000.
We are cracking down on curfew violations and cruising. I sought and received more corrections officers from the state to keep tabs on repeat violent offenders. We are in the midst of a pilot program to put cameras in high-crime areas.
But all of this comes at a significant cost to our community.
Our 2007 police budget is $214 million – that's equal to 97% of our property tax levy. If we continue on this trend, we'll be forced to cut essential city
services just so we can pay for the police department.
That may be an attractive option to some but not to most Milwaukeeans. Having a firstrate Fire Department, the garbage picked up, the libraries open and the snow plowed are vital services citizens pay for and deserve.
That's why we need to look beyond the property tax if we're going to pay for our increasing public safety needs.
I want to thank Senator Herb Kohl and Congresswoman Gwen Moore for their leadership in the fight to restore the federal COPS program; a program that at one time directed money to cities for police officer hiring.
There is no question that the federal government needs to focus on hometown security.
Our tax levy is stretched to the limit. The cost simply to continue our 2007 level of strength at the Police Department will be $6.5 to $7.5 million dollars in 2008.
My goal is to add another 50 officers to the force and just as I have always done, I will keep my promise to hold the line on property taxes in 2007.
To do this, I have asked our budget office to look at options to fund our public safety needs including internal cuts and potential state and federal funding sources.
I have stated many times that I don't want to play dibs with any new revenue sources. To those who have other priorities, I say my door is open. But let me be clear: In my book, public safety comes first.
I am proud of the collaborative efforts we have initiated. TheU.S. Attorney and his staff, the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Milwaukee Police Department and our new District Attorney are true partners in the fight against gangs and illegal guns.
We have the community organizers working door-to-door throughout many neighborhoods.
Churches and community groups throughout the City are dedicated to improving the quality of life for our residents. Organizations like CYD, Project Ujima, Harambe, United Community Center and the Latino Community Center – just to name a few -- all do great work.
On March 9th, I am going to host the first Common Ground Milwaukee collaborative meeting. We can transform our city when faith leaders, government and
community members work in partnership to change behaviors that lead to violence and lost lives.
Last year we took more than 2400 guns off the streets. I've said it before and I will say it again -- Illegal guns and the thugs who use them have no place in our community.
Last month, off-duty police officer TommyWilson was at a gas station when he abducted and shot by a 17-year-old. A 17-year-old with an illegal hand gun.
Thanks to his body armor and quick-thinking, Officer Wilson survived the shooting and was able to assist at the scene. Officer Wilson, please stand and accept our appreciation for what you did then – and what you do every day for our community.
If the shooting of Officer Wilson doesn't illustrate the need to keep guns out of the hands of anyone under the age of twenty-one, nothing does. There is no reason – NONE – that anyone under 21 should be able to carry a handgun in the City of Milwaukee.
I want to know where the illegal guns are coming from, get those guns out of our neighborhoods and keep criminals from firing them at potential victims.
I will go back to the State Legislature again this year to call for the passage of responsible gun legislation.
This is not about second amendment rights; this is not about guns used for hunting. This is about saving young lives and futures in Milwaukee.
I want laws that prohibit the sale of handguns to anyone under twenty-one. I want every handgun sale subject to a background check. I need all of you to join in this fight. We need to put a stop to the easy access criminals have to illegal guns.
Job Creation/Economic Development
To have a safer, stronger Milwaukee, we need more family-supporting jobs.
Since 2004, we've been successful in using our resources to grow businesses and add jobs. As a result, more than 10,000 jobs have been added or are on their way including jobs at:
- Captel, a provider of captioned telephone service for people who are hearing impaired that will open a call center in downtown Milwaukee to create 600 jobs.
- The new Manpower world headquarters will create new jobs and provide a boost to near-downtown neighborhoods.
- The new Joseph Zilber Brewery project will create jobs and transform the 21-acre former Pabst site into a grand gateway linking downtown and the central city.
- We've also worked with two well-known, minority-owned businesses to help them grow and add new jobs. We broke ground on a million-dollar expansion on Fond du Lac & North for Columbia Savings & Loan – Wisconsin's oldest African-American owned bank.
- On the Southside, the highly successful El Rey Mexican Food products company is building a new store that will triple the size of its original grocery store on Ceasar Chavez Drive with a $2.2 million dollar loan from the City.
This is a sign of our times; we want – WE NEED – ourminority-owned businesses to succeed and grow as anchors in the city's economy and in our neighborhoods.
We also need our current anchors to stay here and stay strong – including of course Midwest Airlines, Milwaukee's hometown airline. I flew Midwest for 10 years when I was in Congress and it's the only airline I've ever flown where I'm in a better mood when I get off the plane than when I got on. Hang in there Midwest – Milwaukee's behind you.
We're also securing our future by putting young people to work to give them experience and skills needed to connect to careers. I launched my Summer Youth Jobs Program to offer opportunities for young people to develop good work habits that will serve them well in the future.
The program started with paid city internships for 210 high school juniors and seniors. Last year, with help from Manpower and the State, we were able to expand the program to 1,000 students.
This year, I've dedicated a full-time position within city government with the goal of putting 1500 kids to work this summer. Thanks to the continued commitment from Governor Doyle for this important program, and what I hope will be increased support from the business community, I expect to meet this goal.
I invite everyone here to consider hiring these promising young people for positions you have this summer.
We've also made tremendous progress on the Milwaukee Job Corps project – a national vocational job-training program run by the U.S. Department of Labor that I have been deeply committed to since I was in Congress.
In fact, just last week we finalized the sale of the Bacher Farm parcel on the Northwest side. When completed in 2009, the Milwaukee Job Corps will provide a link for lowincome youth 16-24-years old with education, job training and job placement.
We continue to grow in the Menomonee Valley to provide more opportunities for businesses and residents. What was once Wisconsin's biggest eyesore now represents the New Milwaukee – a premier location for industry today.
Recently, I staked out our next renewal project – the 30th Street Industrial Corridor.
The corridor is home to storied Milwaukee names as: MasterLock, Miller Brewery, Harley-Davidson, Kehr's Candies, DRS Technologies and Eaton Corporation.
The underused properties along the corridor present another opportunity to grow and attract businesses near other successful companies, major transportation routes and an eager workforce.
"Green" – The Color of the New Economy
I am committed to moving forward with a "green" agenda that promotes a healthy economy and a healthy environment for the City of Milwaukee.
Last year I welcomed Ann Beier as my Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability. Ann has been building on the efforts of my Green Team to create opportunities to conserve resources while embarking on progressive urban redevelopment.
In Milwaukee, we are leading by example. Faced with a vast stretch of vacant land on the north side, we "paved" the way for Josey Heights – Milwaukee's first green subdivision. This housing development will add $12 million to our tax base.
What's so special about this project is that 100% of the stormwater will be absorbed onsite, keeping one million gallons of stormwater out of our sewers every year.
But that's not the only way Milwaukee is leading by example. During 2006, the City saved $35,000 and more importantly, reduced energy consumption by 9% by investing in energy efficient technologies.
In fact, we are well on our way to our goal of a 15% reduction in energy usage in the municipal complex by 2012.
As a direct result of these efforts and others like the purchase of biodiesel fuel for vehicles in the City's fleet and using renewable energy for 10% of our purchases, Milwaukee was recently recognized as the 16th most sustainable city in the United States and I think we'll climb even higher.
During the upcoming year, we'll enhance these efforts by adopting a high-performance "green" building standard for City facilities and City-assisted construction and redevelopment projects.
I've directed City departments to work together with a team of local experts to propose a set of green building standards by May 15 which I look forward to sharing with you.
I will also continue my commitment to the health of our biggest natural asset – Lake Michigan and will work steadfastly to protect this treasure by advocating for the passage of the Great Lakes Compact.
A healthy economy for Milwaukee will be made up of trained, skilled workers who can fill the needs of local employers and provide incentives for businesses to relocate or expand here.
We've made great progress with programs like the Summer Youth employment initiative and will build on that success when the Job Corps Center opens in 2009, but there is more work to be done immediately.
Historically, when it comes to workforce development the City of Milwaukee has not been aggressive. Those times are gone.
Numerous reports, studies, and media accounts have documented the same short-comings of our current system:
- Low level of employer involvement
- Lack of coordination of current funding sources
- No clear leadership
- A fragmented delivery system prone to duplication of services
In the world of global competition, city government can no longer ignore what needs to be done.
Recently, I recruited back to Milwaukee a national leader in workforce and economic development, Donald Sykes. Along with an advisory council of experts and stakeholders in workforce development Don has produced a report of recommendations and actions to implement.
22 out of the top 25 cities operate their workforce initiatives in conjunction with the Mayor's office. Our findings clearly show the reason: Leadership. Plain and simple.
In the weeks ahead I look forward to working with Council Members, Employers, and Community Leaders to offer a new vision and leadership to create the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development.
This new endeavor will be built to achieve the following goals:
- An employer-demand driven system
- Efficient use of current funding
- Coordination of existing services and eliminating duplication
Furthermore, I have asked Mr. Donald Sykes to be its first Director. I am pleased to announce he has accepted.
Our plan will be financed by existing federal resources the city is eligible to receive for workforce development. I've had numerous conversations with the Governor on this issue and today he will receive my formal request for the City to be designated the lead agency for workforce in this region.
Milwaukee is the economic engine for the entire State of Wisconsin. On the issue of workforce, we need to implement changes to our local and regional strategy. And the City must take the lead. We cannot afford to fail.
Recognizing the opportunity and critical need to change our current system, I'm pleased to announce the single largest private gift to a city in Wisconsin for workforce development -- $500,000 from the Helen Bader Foundation. This investment will jumpstart Milwaukee's effort and help us leverage additional funds.
Public Health/Stronger Families
To successfully address crime in Milwaukee, we must also focus on prevention. A strategy based on law enforcement alone will not solve our problem.
I've talked about jobs and economic prosperity but hope begins at home, with a strong, healthy family.
In October of last year I hosted the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative. More than 1000 men came together to learn how to reconnect with their children and be a stronger force in their lives.
We know that children who grow up with a strong, involved father are less likely to drop out of high school, end up in prison or become parents themselves too soon. In October,sessions revolved around ways that fathers could integrate back into their child's lives by helping them with child support arrears and driver's license reinstatement.
In 2007, I want to expand the Fatherhood program to include job training, parenting skills and conflict management.
Strong families also raise healthier infants. We continue to work on reducing teen pregnancy rates in Milwaukee through our partnership with the United Way. Teen mothers create huge economic and societal obstacles for themselves and their babies.
At this time I'd like to recognize Betsy Brenner of Journal Communications for her partnership with the United Way and their leadership on this issue.
We are also making strides in improving birth outcomes in the City. Thanks to a three year commitment from Columbia St. Mary's for nearly a million dollars, we were able to leverage a University of Wisconsin grant of almost $450,000 to establish long-term relationships between City Public Health Nurses and at-risk families.
We face incredible public health challenges. That's why I have fought passionately for a School of Public Health in Milwaukee.
In December, we made great strides when the Board of Regents voted to allow UWM to set in motion the necessary planning and organizational steps to develop such a school. I am pleased Governor Doyle has put $200,000 in his budget for the School.
A few days ago,UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago and I hosted a meeting in my office with others who believe that the School of Public Health should anchor a downtown Health Sciences campus.
Bringing the UWM schools of nursing, health sciences and public health together on one site and connected to our largest centrally located hospital, Aurora-Sinai, will produce huge dividends for students, faculty, patients, the City and the State.
I recognize that the road to a School of Public Health in Milwaukee will not be easy, or short. But I am convinced together we will succeed.
Strengthening Neighborhoods through better housing and transportation
It is also through housing that we are creating stronger neighborhoods and growing opportunities.
At the end of 2006, County Executive Walker and I jointly appointed a special needs housing action team to address the need for supportive housing that would allow some of our most vulnerable population to live with care and dignity.
Since the action team was formed, Milwaukee has made significant progress toward our goal of securing more federal funds and now three special needs housing developers are actively working on Milwaukee projects.
In addition to a readily accessible and available stock of affordable housing, Milwaukee needs a more comprehensive transit system to connect our workforce with familysupporting jobs and make our city more attractive and livable.
Let's face it, when it comes to transportation, Milwaukee is behind the times.
For 16 years we have failed to find consensus among city, county and state leaders to spend $91.5 million in federal dollars allocated to improve transit in Milwaukee. We can't afford to sit and wait any longer.
In the coming days, I will offer a plan that will move Milwaukee's public transit system forward to meet today's needs. My plan brings together integrated transit modes based on moving workers to jobs and visitors to destinations and we will pay for it without further burdening the Milwaukee property taxpayer.
There's one last important issue I need to address: March Madness is only a month away. And I know Marquette is on its way to a great tournament.
We're proud of the team and we're proud of the school but I have one special fantasy. I would love to see Miller Park the location of a basketball tournament that would showcase all four of our state's Division I schools: Marquette, UWM, Madison and Green Bay. It would be great for the schools, the alumni and Milwaukee. And it would allow us to showcase Miller Park for a future NCAA Final Four tournament.
So as the next shift of workers gear up here at Tramont, let's leave here on a high note.
I know that we continue to face challenges in the year ahead, but together we will rise and meet each challenge head on, just as Milwaukee has always done.
I love this job and I love this city. I am impassioned and energized about the year ahead.
This is the New Milwaukee we are building together – it is far bigger than any one person's idea. We will progress as a people on the strength of our neighbors. There will be risks to take, but the rewards will be great. I am optimistic about the future of our great city and I know you are too.