By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Earlier this week, Mayor Tom Barrett took his oath of office. Unlike his past four terms, Barrett’s oath for his fifth term took place in his backyard.
Following the oath, Barrett held a virtual press conference in which he called the procedure, a nice if not unusual setting.
While the ceremony was closed off to the public, a cameraman filmed it and later distributed it.
Judge Joe Donald issued the oath of office to Barrett, whose wife and daughters stood beside him.
“I am so delighted to be here,” said Donald. “I can’t think of a better person who is positioned to help us as city to overcome everything that we are dealing with.”
During the ceremony, a sign could be seen hanging from the Barrett’s house. It read, “And the world came together as the people stayed apart.” Barrett explained that a neighbor had written it on the sidewalk, and it struck a chord.
“We are being asked to do something unprecedented in our history, really something unprecedented as human beings,” Barrett said. “We’re being asked to stay away from each other and that’s not something that comes naturally to most people.”
There is something bigger at play here, he said. For the City of Milwaukee to be successful in flattening the curve and squashing COVID-19, people need to do the responsible thing, Barrett said.
“We have a responsibility as citizens to do what we can not only protect ourselves and our loved ones but to protect other people in our communities,” he said.
Barrett acknowledged that it has not been easy. Many businesses are struggling, and unemployment has hit a new record, but it’s essential that Milwaukee act collectively to defeat coronavirus.
He added that the pandemic has shown the schisms that exist in Milwaukee. When looking at a heat map, Barrett said it was clear that the African American population was being disproportionately impacted by coronavirus.
Barrett said it was not a surprise, but its high time Milwaukee starts addressing the underlying issues. Some of these issues are health related others are economic, racial and justice.
“We have to deal with those issues and in the next four years I will be dealing with those issues,” Barrett said.
The Hispanic population and the elderly population have also been impacted by coronavirus.
During the press conference, Barrett said he has four crises he plans to address: the public health crisis, the economic crisis, the fiscal crisis and the education crisis.
No matter where someone is in Milwaukee, people want access to a good education, family supporting jobs and to feel safe, he said. His priorities include creating more jobs, bridging the achievement gap and increases the number of homeowners in Milwaukee.
Despite the many challenges and obstacles that lie ahead, Barrett said he remains optimistic.