By Karen Stokes
After a historically unusual election on April 7, Mayor Tom Barrett succeeded in winning his 5th term as mayor of Milwaukee by defeating State Sen. Lena Taylor 63% to 37% according to election results released on Monday, April 13.
“Thank you first and foremost for allowing me to serve the city that I love. Thank you for allowing me to have a job that energizes me everyday to try to make the city a better place,” Barrett said.
After the Republican controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Gov. Tony Evers executive order to postpone in-person voting on April 7, citing the threat to public health for both voters and poll workers, Wisconsin moved ahead with the election.
Sixteen states, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Wyoming and Puerto Rico rescheduled their contests or switched to voting by mail with extended deadlines.
Despite a statewide stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines, voter turnout was relatively high.
“This was the most unusual and most inexcusable election process I have ever seen,” Barrett said.
He continued, “What is noteworthy is health experts who spoke on this said how bad an idea it was to hold an in-person election. It’s ironic that the Wisconsin Supreme Court which canceled its oral arguments and the US Supreme Court which has cancelled their oral arguments still found it was ok for people to go to polling places in the middle of a pandemic.”
After this election, business as usual will not continue as there is a flood of serious issues in Milwaukee that require immediate attention.
“There’s no honeymoon right now. I woke up this morning and had meetings before 8 a.m. to try to navigate through this storm,” Barrett said. “Once we get through this pandemic and I know we will get through this then the focus is to create more family supporting jobs.”
The mayor explained that his first priority is to help navigate the city through the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 16, 2020, at 2 p.m. there were 1,508 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and 74 deaths in the city of Milwaukee according to the City of Milwaukee Health Department.
“I look at it as a challenge on two fronts, first is the health front. We are still seeing people getting sick and dying so we need to continue the social distancing and encourage people to take care of themselves for their own sake and the sake of the community. Along with that is the economic crisis that has come and is having a huge impact on people with lower incomes, who work part-time or hourly workers. We will try to do everything we can within the city’s power to help get people back to work and get small businesses back to work,” Barrett said.
Another priority for the mayor is the health disparities that continuously plague members of the African American community.
“The other thing we’re seeing right now is the health disparities that are coming to light when you look at the impact that COVID-19 is having in the African American community and how that needs to be a priority,” said the mayor.
Looking at the future of Milwaukee and events taking place this summer, there are questions about whether the Democratic National Convention will take place or will it be postponed. Barrett said that the convention is absolutely coming to Milwaukee the week of Aug. 17.
“What we don’t know is what that means specifically,” the Mayor said. “We don’t know if people are going to want to travel, I hope so. We don’t know for certain how many days it’s going to be but we do know that the Democrats are going to nominate their candidate, Joe Biden and they’re going to do it in Milwaukee.”
“The convention would be a great shot in the arm for hotels, restaurants and other locations and for the city itself to have a robust convention but public health and science will dictate that and I’m supportive of that. I’m in regular contact with the chair of the committee, Joe Solmonese, and chairman of the party, Tom Perez,” Barrett said.
After the past 16 years of experiencing many ups and downs the mayor believes his favorite success story is the fact that Milwaukee has 20,000 more jobs than we had 10 years ago. For example, the Menomonee Valley and the Old Pabst site have been transformed to vibrant job creating locations. The mayor wants to extend that success to even more neighborhoods.
“As long as I’m mayor I’m going to do everything I can to lift up every neighborhood and do whatever I can to make sure we do not divide this city,” Barrett said. “We have a president right now who loves to divide people and pit them against each other and that is exactly contrary to my approach in life. We are stronger when we work together.”