|By Mayor Tom Barrett
City Hall, Milwaukee
April 20, 2004
INTRODUCTION OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS
I have many friends here and people without whom I would not be standing before you today, especially my family. I would ask my family to stand, as they have stood with me and stood by me so many times before. My Barrett family has joined me today – my wife Kris and our four kids: Tommy, Annie, Erin and Kate. My brother John and his wife Gail, my sisters Mary and Betsy, and my nephew Joe Kirgues are all here with me. I love Milwaukee and I'm proud to be a Milwaukeean today, and I'm always proud to be a member of the Barrett family.
First, I want to thank Mayor Marvin Pratt for the time he has taken since the election to make the transition to this office a smooth one. All of us here this afternoon honor Mayor Pratt for more than 30 years in public service. I'm honored to have walked to this ceremony side-by-side with Mayor Pratt.
I respect Mayor Pratt. And all in our community should be grateful for the work he has done on issues ranging from helping city residents get jobs to making it possible for people to have their driving privileges restored.
Back in 1948, Milwaukee also elected a new mayor with a young family. Half of the members of the Common Council that year were also newly elected. That mayor's legacy to city government – honorable leadership and a true sense of living history – is still being written today. Mayor Frank Zeidler, we are honored by your presence.
I congratulate the other officials taking the oath of office today. I want to extend a special hand in friendship and partnership to Council President Willie Hines. The new Council will have exactly the same number of members – 15 – as the original Common Council that first met in 1846 upon the adoption of Milwaukee's Charter. Of course, the alderman in 1846 received no salary, so if President Hines wants to walk down the hall later this afternoon to discuss that reform, my door will be open.
I also want to acknowledge Senator Herb Kohl; my friend and former colleague Congressman Jerry Kleczka; State Superintendent Libby Burmaster; County Executive Scott Walker; representatives from Governor Jim Doyle's Cabinet – Secretary Morgan, Secretary Nettles, WHEDA Executive Director Riley; Members of the State Legislature, including Rep. Peggy Krusick and Rep. Pedro Colon, who served as my campaign co-chairs; and many more honored guests too numerous to mention.
I also salute all the city employees here today. The Barrett Administration will respect your commitment, seek your counsel and actively engage you in efforts to change Milwaukee for the better. I am proud to join your ranks and I can't wait to roll up our sleeves and get to work together.
I welcome the residents of this community who have chosen to be a part of this ceremony today. I'm pleased that the members of the Common Council worked in partnership to bring these proceedings outside these walls and directly to you, our bosses.
THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
Today we inherit a Milwaukee 158 years old – a Milwaukee rich with tradition. The bells that rang out to begin this ceremony have pealed from the tower behind me for nearly 110 years – that is a tradition worth keeping, worth repeating. These bells should serve as a clarion call that our community has many challenges to face together.
We cannot rest as a community until these challenges are met head on by the entire community. Milwaukee's deepest traditions emanate from its citizens, who have always answered the call to service. We must answer that call today.
When our founders wrote the constitution, they wrote about "We the people" – not "they the people" or "you the people." "We the people." Democracy is the ultimate participatory sport, and it works only as well as "we" make it work. Together, we can make it work.
While we have many challenges before us, we have Milwaukee ingenuity and Milwaukee pride to guide us. And even as we face challenges, we'll shrug off some of our Milwaukee humility, raise our voices and let the world know that this is a wonderful place to live and raise a family.
Milwaukee's thriving arts, sports, culture, its natural beauty and its fabric of neighborhoods make this a unique American city, and we will let America know what we have to offer. We must work to ensure that our entertainment districts, like the one downtown, work together, and we must promote new, thriving centers of culture like a 21st Century Bronzeville or an even stronger Mitchell Street, so that more talented young people will come here and stay here.
A STRONG START
But we must face our challenges head on, and we will, starting today. I have a roadmap, a plan for the first 100 days of my administration to address many of the critical issues facing our community. We can't make all the necessary changes in a few months, but we can set an immediate tone and show the residents of this region, this state and this nation that we are serious about making Milwaukee the world-class city we know it can be.
My plan starts by making sure that our residents can afford to live here and we can continue to provide the services they deserve. Tomorrow, when I meet with the current department heads, I will instruct them to develop 2005 budgets that adhere to the legislative tax levy freeze so that we do not ask any more of our residents for the coming year. This will not come easily, as I learned from the Budget Office just yesterday that a "cost to continue" budget – one that simply pays for everything we currently have – would cost an additional $36.4 million, or an 18.3% levy increase. We simply cannot continue along this path if we want to attract and maintain residents and the businesses to employ them.
So we will find a way to operate more efficiently. We will initiate performance audits to find ways to save, we will listen to employees for ideas on how to improve services, and we will actively engage the county, the school district and other partners to find ways to cooperate.
Jobs and Economic Development
Milwaukee, once the "Machine Shop to the World," must retool to compete in the world economy. City government and the private sector must create new partnerships. And we must reach out to businesses to let them know Milwaukee is open for business.
I have already met with the MMAC, and we will proceed together in the first 100 days to listen and respond quickly to the needs of the business community. We'll work with the Greater Milwaukee Committee to develop and nurture new partnerships – outside of government – that have a single purpose of identifying potential job creators and showing them that Milwaukee is a place to go and a place to grow.
And we will act on critical development projects like the Park East Corridor and the Harley-Davidson Museum. We can get to work and get results on these and other critical issues in the next 100 days if we work together.
I will be the lead ambassador for this city. I'll sell the product because I love it and I believe in it. And I will ask residents throughout the community to join me as ambassadors for this great city. Promoting this city must be a community-wide effort, and it will result in more commerce, more convention business and more residents in a vibrant city.
Together, we as a community must tackle the single most critical issue for moving Milwaukee forward. If there is one issue on which we need a Marshall Plan for Milwaukee, it is education. We simply must improve education, for the sake of our kids and for our community.
I have already sat down with Superintendent Andrekopoulos and we share a vision for healthier and better-prepared Milwaukee Public School system. We will move forward together to provide better health services for school aged children, and I stand ready to work with the Superintendent and the School Board to focus on performance, not politics.
When government must address critical issues that face both the kids in the Milwaukee Public Schools and the city as a whole, the Superintendent will have a seat at the table, and we will work together to get things done. Every kid in Milwaukee, whether in a public, private, charter or choice school, deserves adequate resources and the proper environment to learn.
Violence is a community problem. It is not confined to someone else's neighborhood. The shootings along the lakefront, one of this community's jewels, only serve to drive home the point that we must act quickly and wisely to direct resources against gangs, guns and drugs. Chief Hegerty has my full support. I applaud her for the efforts underway, and I pledge the necessary resources to make the Gang and Violent Crime Unit operational this summer. The mayor's office, MPD, and neighborhood residents will work together to make Milwaukee safer.
Too often instead of fighting against crime or against job losses, we have been drawn into wars with neighboring communities that have no winners. Our regional economy is weaker when Milwaukee is pitted against the suburbs or Milwaukee County squares off against Waukesha. Having been a Member of Congress, I observed that the regions moving ahead in this country are those where cities and suburbs have found areas to agree and move forward together. Too often, Milwaukee and its neighboring communities continue to wage the battles of yesterday and fail to seize the opportunities of tomorrow. Let's move on together to compete against the other regional economies of this country, not one another. County Executive Walker and I have already found subjects to agree on, and I look forward to meeting with my peers from neighboring communities in the weeks to come.
Confidence in Government
We will start to work on each of these issues in the first 100 days – lower taxes, more jobs, better education for our kids, safer streets and more regional cooperation. But we will only win back the confidence of Milwaukee residents when we change the way business is done at City Hall. Each one of us starts with a clean slate today, and the symbolism of moving this ceremony outside of City Hall should not be lost on those present. Today is a new day.
So let's work together to lay out a new set of ground rules for those who do business here – both lobbyists and government officials. Together, let's earn the trust of the people.
MILWAUKEE – STRENGTH OUT OF DIVERSITY
Diversity is our strength and we should celebrate it in Milwaukee. Milwaukee is a wonderfully strong multicultural community of neighborhoods.
Some call this a melting pot. But in a melting pot, everything blends together and some of the distinct flavors and colors can be lost. I see things differently. Milwaukee is a kaleidoscope, which begins with a beautiful array of distinct colors. When put together, the result is something more beautiful, because it retains the brightness and beauty of each individual color. This is the Milwaukee I see today and this is the Milwaukee I want us to build together.
Our work starts with the creation of a government that looks like Milwaukee and listens to all of Milwaukee. But it doesn't end there. As mayor, I am committed to economic opportunity for all citizens. For example, this beautiful building will undergo significant renovations in the next few years. I pledge to you that the work will be done by people who reflect the rich diversity of Milwaukee.
As we move forward from this day, we must remember that the full measure of our success will be seen in Milwaukeeans not yet born and a Milwaukee not yet known. This is a new day and a new beginning for each of us. Let us be judged in this time for how well we serve the men and women of this community who pay their taxes, work hard to make ends meet and dream of a brighter, stronger future.
To be mayor of Milwaukee, my home and the city I love, is a privilege and a challenge – a privilege I do not take lightly and a challenge I embrace. This service is also an honor and – as I have pledged before you today – I will fulfill it "to the best of my ability."
Thank you for your trust, your friendship, your sense of community and your willingness to move forward – together. Let's get to work.