Business owners, CEOs and elected officials wore stickers branded with their first jobs. There were dishwashers, life guards and waitresses on wheels.
For Mayor Tom Barrett, one of his first jobs was working on the assembly line at Harley Davidson learning “how not to drop an engine on the factory floor.”
“Everyone remembers their first job,” Barrett said. “That first job teaches us how to work with people, show up on time, and be responsible.”
It was in the same building where Barrett gave his State of the City address to a packed room at the Harley Davidson University on March 6, 2017.
He congratulated Harley Davison and the Near Westside Partners – MillerCoors, Marquette University, the Potawatomi and Aurora Health Care – on the economic growth they have created in the community.
In Barrett’s speech, he stated that in 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue calculated that the amount of state revenue generated in Milwaukee exceeded the amount of state aid paid to the City, County and Milwaukee Public Schools by more than $460 million
“This means the City is getting back 66 percent of what we send to Madison. So, if anyone tells you Milwaukee is a drain on the state, please correct them immediately,” Barrett said.
He added that the Milwaukee Dividend was even more significant because the City was home to 72 percent of the region’s poor. This was the second highest concentration in any major metro area in the nation.
Just as William Harley and Arthur Davidson had invested in themselves in 1903, Barrett said the “heart of Milwaukee” was thriving,” as $3.4 billion in investments have been completed since 2005. He added that it was more than just businesses as 2,200 housing units have been built or are under construction downtown, and 16,000 citywide.
Barrett also addressed the more than 1,000 foreclosed homes that were a safety and financial burden for Milwaukee neighborhoods.
“Foreclosed properties are not healthy for our neighborhoods; they’re costly to maintain, they attract trouble, and they are expensive to demolish. We want to get tax-foreclosed homes back into circulation. We want families living in these homes,” Barrett said.
He also added that there would be a crackdown on predatory landlords that neglected City obligations for tenants.
Although there has been light shining from downtown, Barrett was also very clear that there has also been a shadow looming over Milwaukee’s neighborhoods.
In 2016, there was a total of violent 154 homicides, and 85 percent of these were gun related deaths, according to the Journal Sentinel’s homicide tracker.
Barrett said in 2016, MPD took 2,419 guns off of the streets, and it was the third year in row with over 2,000 guns removed.
He said another challenge was the increased amount repeat juvenile offenders. He stated in January of this year, 24 juveniles (16 years or younger) were charged with car theft.
“The Mayor nor I are asking for Draconian penalties, but we are saying is constant release and constant probation, that is unsupervised, does no one any good,” said Chief Edward Flynn, following the address.
Barrett said this month Milwaukee County and MPD will share real time GPA locations of juvenile offenders, as well as a pilot program to identify potential youth offenders through the Office of Violence Protection.
“It’s a sad but true issue that the juvenile probation, is not probation at all because nobody is paying attention to it,” Flynn said.
Barrett acknowledged the Sherman Park Community for its dedication after the unrest in late August 2016, following the MPD officer involved shooting of Sylville Smith.
“Among some people in our city, there is distrust of government and law enforcement. There is deep economic and social frustration,” Barrett said in his speech. “City government can’t ignore that, and City government has a role to play in addressing these problems.”
Barrett said preventing crime was the key to keeping our neighborhoods safe. He thanked Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton and the Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) for developing and implementing a community driven Violence Prevention Plan.
Flynn said the Office of Prevention and the was a different type of messenger sent to build relationships through the community with law enforcement.
“OVP is made up of community residents who are not sworn, and it helps the message and collaboration perhaps even more effectively than just the police department,” Flynn said.