Mayor Tom Barrett
2006 State of the City Address
February 20, 2006
Dear friends, distinguished guests, and fellow Milwaukeeans, I am pleased to stand with you this morning to present my second progress report on the state of our city.
Thank you, Mr. Ed Kovachich, principal of Bradley Tech, for hosting us today. I also want to thank Jessica Dunning for her introduction and for her demonstrated commitment to success. Finally, thank you to the Air Force ROTC for serving as greeters, and the Latino Arts Mariachi Juvenil (who-ven-eel) and Hmong Peace Academy dancers for your wonderful and bright performances. Together you all represent Milwaukee's future promise.
We meet here today at Bradley Tech, the newest MPS high school for several reasons. First, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of an institution that is as important today as it was when the business leaders of this community came together to make it happen. Second, we honor the community partners who worked together to build this beautiful building. Third, we acknowledge the young people who walk these halls - and every young person attending Milwaukee schools, who represent the promise for Milwaukee's next hundred years. We have an obligation to empower them and to lay the foundation in 2006 for their future success.
Taking a page from "Law and Order," let me share with you some items "ripped from the headlines." The Wall Street Journal proclaims, "Milwaukee makes a comeback." Other national headlines:
"Milwaukee: A world leader in public housing;"
"Milwaukee: A top city for seniors;"
"One of the Five Fittest Cities;"
"A Downtown on the Edge of a Takeoff"
"Milwaukee: An 'It' City for Music."
And I look forward to even more favorable headlines when the League of United Latin American Citizens convention comes to town later this year.
Clearly, people are paying attention to the Milwaukee Renaissance, and everyone here should be proud of what we have achieved. I took office in 2004 with a vision for a Milwaukee of opportunity, a stronger Milwaukee that we can build together. I can report, after nearly two years, that I love this job, and I am happy we are making progress toward our shared goals.
It is appropriate that we gather this morning in Walker's Point, which represents the true richness of Milwaukee's diversity. We are surrounded by great ethnic restaurants and cultural attractions and we are just blocks from the heart of Milwaukee's LGBT community. The intermingling of diverse cultures and lifestyles that happens here in Walker's Point should be a lesson to all of us that Milwaukee is strongest when we embrace diversity and when we make personal efforts to be open to all groups of people.
I'm proud to stand before you today to celebrate our many achievements and to lay out a roadmap to overcome obstacles to progress.
2006 will be a year of opportunity - a year in which we continue Milwaukee's ascent among the great cities in the nation. The key to our future as a city lies in our ability to harness the power of partnerships, for it is by working together that we meet the challenges ahead and build a stronger Milwaukee.
I see many of our partners right here in this room and I want to take this opportunity to thank all community residents who serve on city boards and commissions. And I want us to take a special moment to publicly honor the career of Kate Huston, the head of the Milwaukee Library System, who will retire this summer after a 35-year career. Milwaukeeans, both young and old, have better access to educational resources and lifelong learning because of you, Kate, and we thank you for your service.
Preparing Milwaukee Youth for a Bright Future – Partnerships in Education and Workforce Development
100 years ago, it took powerful partnerships among Milwaukee businesses to create the first Tech High School with the goal of preparing the workforce with skills that were needed by local companies. The power of partnerships transformed an idea into a working model that was so successful, President Theodore Roosevelt traveled to Boys Tech to highlight the idea as a national example. I am just sorry that the room sold out today before we knew President Bush was going to be in Milwaukee, otherwise I'm sure he could have joined us. Mr. President, welcome to Milwaukee, and Happy Presidents' Day.
Bradley Tech is still a crucial part of the workforce development solution today. Within five years, more people will leave the workforce then enter it, and we must provide young people with the skills to fill available jobs with competence and confidence.
We are gathered today in a Milwaukee Public School, and education remains a top community priority for me. In 2006, we will work both inside and outside the classroom to provide our young people with every opportunity to succeed. My 2006 budget includes resources dedicated to expanded tutoring at five Milwaukee high schools. We secured a half million dollars to provide 200 at-risk students with a safer learning environment and mentors who help keep them on track. This year, I will work with local corporations and groups like the Young Professionals of Milwaukee to ensure that we find mentors for the kids in Milwaukee who want and need them.
This year will mark the second year of our Safe Summer Jobs initiative. In 2005, we placed kids in jobs throughout our community and even in resorts outside Milwaukee. The partnerships that fostered the success of this initiative have grown only stronger, and this year, we will increase our efforts to give our young people practical work experience and the understanding of what it takes to be responsible and employable young adults in our city.
This year, our Summer Youth Internship program will expand from six weeks to eight. Tom Diehl of the Tommy Bartlett Water Parks and Resorts in the Wisconsin Dells has renewed his company's commitment to hiring young people from Milwaukee. In addition to the 14 Milwaukee businesses who partnered with us last year, we have already added four new Safe Summer Job partners this year. I want to welcome and thank Astronautics, M&I Bank, Milwaukee PC and Summerfest. We have also received assistance from partners like The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Milwaukee Brewers, who have contributed thousands of tickets to help the young people in the program share in our community's excitement for their upcoming season. I'm going to keep working and adding more Milwaukee companies. There's still plenty of time to join us so I encourage all Milwaukee businesses to call my office and get involved!
Leading the Way to a Healthier Milwaukee – Partnerships in Public Health
If kids are to succeed in school and start on the path toward success, we need to pave the way through better public health, especially among low-income Milwaukee families. I am proud of Commissioner Bevan Baker and his Health Department staff for their commitment to serve our kids and our families. Late last year, the Health Department secured a four year, $1.2 million grant to fund a comprehensive home health program. The initiative seeks to improve birth outcomes, enhance family functioning, support child development and prevent abuse and neglect. This initiative is key to our efforts in addressing health disparities. But we can go further.
Today, I am thrilled to announce a new partnership with Columbia St. Mary's Hospital. I'd like Linda Mellowes and Paul Westrick of Columbia St. Mary's to stand. Columbia St. Mary's has committed to make the largest single financial gift by any healthcare system to the city of Milwaukee. This financial commitment will help us address public health disparities in our community. As other leaders in the health care community join Columbia St. Mary's and the City of Milwaukee, we can create a national model to ensure a healthy start for every Milwaukee resident. On behalf of the City of Milwaukee, our families and our taxpayers, I want to say thank you, Columbia St. Mary's. Together, we will make great strides this year to overcome public health challenges in our city.
Providing students with an opportunity to work right in the neighborhoods where our health care needs are greatest is the best way to train future health care professionals. That's why I am committed to having a School of Public Health here at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. My good friend Chancellor Carlos Santiago and I have been working hard and I look forward to making an announcement soon on our progress.
Sustainable development is another critical part of overall public health, and I am pleased that the Office of Environmental Sustainability will be established this year, thanks to the leadership and hard work of the Milwaukee Green Team. Through this effort, we will improve Milwaukee's stormwater management, energy efficiency, and green business development.
Putting Milwaukeeans to Work – Partnerships Strengthen Milwaukee's Economy
As we work together to promote better health in our city, residents need to know that opportunities for meaningful employment exist here in Milwaukee. In 2005, we forged stronger partnerships to retain, expand and attract employers to our city and to our region. When I took office, I launched an exhaustive business call program to serve as an early warning system and provide us with information that we can use to drive public policy. For example, since I took office, we have met with 121 companies in the Manufacturing and IT sector alone. Those meetings lead to issues being addressed quickly, expansions being facilitated and jobs being kept or created here in Milwaukee.
Building on our early success, in 2005 we launched a regional marketing initiative that will help us put petty disagreements behind us and allow us to compete on the global playing field. Our five-year, $12 million campaign will pay dividends by showing the world that we stand united in our intention to keep and grow regional businesses and to attract even more employers to this wonderful part of the world.
In 2006, the world is indeed flat when it comes to global commerce, and we must do everything possible to ensure that our region can compete in that marketplace. Just as we are working within our region, we seek global partners to bring investment here and sell our products abroad. We are already employing the lessons gained from our recent missions to Ireland and China. I am pleased to announce that in May, I will host a delegation from Ningbo, China to continue our efforts to increase commerce between our two regions.
Further maximizing Milwaukee's ability to effectively compete in the national and global marketplace, requires fresh, bold ways of thinking and cutting edge ideas. I want to thank Nik Ivancevic and Donna Raffaelli of Midwest Fiber Networks who are here with us today, for partnering with the City to launch the Milwaukee Wireless Initiative. This multi-million dollar investment comes at absolutely no cost to taxpayers and will position Milwaukee at the forefront of new wireless technology in large cities in the United States, and even worldwide. It will open the door to new jobs, job training and help us bridge the digital divide.
Working with the private sector, and with the Milwaukee Common Council, we have achieved major successes. Our efforts will enable Manpower to bring 1,000 employees downtown and add 300 new jobs in Milwaukee. Manpower could have chosen to locate anywhere in the world, and its corporate leadership has chosen to locate and grow here. Jeff Joerres has joined us today. Jeff, thank you for your partnership with the city of Milwaukee and your commitment to our future. We look forward to putting even more Milwaukee residents to work.
I also want to thank the Common Council members for recognizing the importance of Manpower's presence in Milwaukee, and your support.
Just a few years ago, you couldn't even get to the western end of the Menomonee Valley without an all-terrain vehicle, and what's more, there was no reason to go there. Within a few months, Canal Street will be completed all the way through the Valley to Miller Park, and in the next year, hundreds of employees will make their way to work every day in our vibrant Menomonee Valley. Palermo's will bring 200 jobs to its new facility in the Valley, and Proven Direct will build a new facility and add 80 jobs. Many of those jobs will be available to residents of the neighborhood.
Let's go from the Valley to the northwest side, where we are also seeing growth in jobs.
MORTARA INSTRUMENTS, a technology manufacturer with its global headquarters in the Bradley Business Park, is poised to increase its Milwaukee employment by 15% in 2006 and 2007, thanks mainly to its superior product, but due also to a partnering hand from the City of Milwaukee.
In the central city, MEDOVATIONS will acquire land to expand in 2006. This company offers extensive job training and employs 56 people from the surrounding neighborhood.
And last, but certainly not least, another thriving business is LENA'S, a Milwaukee-owned and operated grocery, which added a new location in 2005 and is actively pursuing additional opportunities for growth in 2006 and beyond. Derrick Martin, one of Lena's owners who puts his heart into his business and into our community, is present today. We are honored to have you here, and even more honored that you continue to grow your business here in Milwaukee. Thank you, and thanks to all the employers who have joined us today.
These success stories are part of our ongoing efforts to retain and attract businesses here to Milwaukee. In 2005, our Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation made $20.4 million in loans, helping to create more than 800 new jobs and keeping 400 jobs here. We work with small businesses and entrepreneurs to link them to the resources. For 2006, we have added another tool to our economic arsenal: $18 million in new market tax credits - this offers a competitive advantage in attracting companies to our region. Let there be no doubt in this region and around the world, "Milwaukee is open for business!"
We have more good news to report in the designation of Milwaukee as the sixth city in the White House Urban Entrepreneur Partnership Program. I want to thank those who helped in this effort. The goal of this program is to expand minority business ownership and create wealth and jobs in our communities. This is a critical endeavor and I look forward to working with Congresswoman Gwen Moore who has worked tirelessly to end the cycle of poverty and shares my vision for a brighter future for all Milwaukee.
Realizing the seriousness of the issue of poverty in our community, I have reached out to Deborah Blanks, Hugo Cardona, David Riemer, and other leaders to work me to address our challenges. I will press on and work to fulfill the vision that you and I share to provide opportunities to all people in our great city.
Since taking office I have heard daily from employers who need skilled workers and workers who want family-supporting jobs. It's like ships passing in the night. Unfortunately, our current system to deal with these challenges is fragmented and inefficient. A recent UWM report cited the need for fresh leadership in developing a more efficient and effective system. That's why today I'm directing my administration and the Mayor's Workforce Advisory Council to prepare an action plan for workforce excellence that will energize and mobilize our city and region. We will seek investment from private resources to compliment public funding, and better coordination of services in 2006.
Partnerships are Fueling the Continued Milwaukee Renaissance
In 2006, we will continue to build on the catalytic partnerships that have Milwaukee poised to continue the renaissance that has been noticed around the country. New projects have opened, and more are planned, for the Bronzeville Cultural District. A special congratulations to Ralph Hollman and the Urban League for your new headquarters.
The Pier Wisconsin Project will open to the public in September and the Harley-Davidson Museum will begin to rumble when it breaks ground in the Menomonee Valley later this year.
While development is driven by the private sector, we continue to cultivate partnerships that raise the bar and ensure that public projects are done on time, and done well. This year, the downtown Amtrak Station will undergo a $13 million transformation - thanks to a city and state partnership - that will result in a facility that will be the envy of our competitors and a real asset in spurring further commerce in this region. Another public project, the new combined DPW and Water facility at the Tower Automotive site, has been completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Let me repeat that - ahead of schedule and under budget - and will bring 500 people and increased economic activity to 35th and Capitol each and every day.
To forge stronger neighborhoods, we need partners on the streets, recreating vibrant commercial districts throughout the city. In 2005, we created three new Business Improvement Districts, including one right in this neighborhood along Cesar Chavez Drive. Our partners in this effort are putting their money where their mouth is - more than $500,000 in additional private investment has hit the streets in these districts. I want to publicly applaud all of the BID and Main Street Milwaukee Partners for their efforts to make Milwaukee stronger. Thank you for all your hard work.
In addition to the neighborhood commercial strips, we continue to bring the American Dream of home ownership to more and more Milwaukee residents. In 2005, we made $2.9 million in loans for housing rehabilitation or new construction, and the total investment in these housing initiatives grew to nearly $8 million.
In neighborhoods throughout the city, we have found partners to turn vacant lots into new single-family homes. The Legacy Project on 20th and Fond du Lac will build 75 new single-family homes and provide a grant program for home rehabilitation for existing owners. In Metcalfe Park, we will partner to launch a rent-to-own housing initiative to put people in homes - their own homes - where they can raise their families and build wealth.
Just blocks from here, the Walker Square Neighborhood Initiative created 73 new homeowners in 2005 with more than $8 million in property value. Fernando Campos, who has helped more than 130 families own their homes through the United Community Center's Program, has joined us today. Thank you, Fernando and the UCC, for being a true partner in building the American Dream on Milwaukee's south side.
Partnerships are Creating Stronger, Safer Neighborhoods
Our residents need to feel safe in every Milwaukee neighborhood. As a community, we must intensify our efforts to hold criminals responsible and attack the root causes of crime.
Our effort to reduce violence in Milwaukee starts with guns. Last week, within a twenty-four period, thugs with guns killed three people. One was a mother who got caught up in the crossfire resulting from an argument. Imagine if she was your mother.
A few weeks ago, an innocent nine year-old girl was shot and wounded on, of all places, a playground. The shot came from hundreds of feet away. A shot fired by a teenager in an argument - an 18 year-old with a gun. Imagine if she was your daughter.
I'm here to tell you that these Milwaukee residents are our mothers, they are our daughters, our sons and our fathers who are being murdered by people who have no business carrying and using guns. We must get illegal handguns and the criminals who use them off our streets!
In the last five years, police have confiscated over 11,000 guns. Despite a record number of guns taken off the streets, 95 people were killed by someone shooting a gun in Milwaukee last year. We need to do better.
Our state legislature needs to end its preoccupation with an NRA agenda that puts more guns on our streets and instead, enact laws to stem the flow of illegal guns into our neighborhoods.
Let's expand criminal background checks on all firearm transactions and stop the sales of handguns to anyone under the age of twenty-one. There is absolutely no need for a teenager to have a handgun in the city of Milwaukee. We should require ballistic fingerprinting for all handguns sold in Wisconsin. And, the state must direct more resources to its Crime Lab for DNA Analysis.
I understand that enacting these laws will not stop thugs with guns overnight. But these laws will help stem the tide and assist police in catching criminals who use guns to destroy lives. We can not, and I WILL NOT, accept the status quo.
I have directed public safety officials to seek funding for neighborhood crime detection cameras. In 2006, I will seek strategic installation of crime cameras in neighborhoods with high criminal activity. We have already sent officers to Chicago to observe that city's crime camera network. Chief Hegerty and I are interested in stopping crime and catching criminals, and we want to return a sense of security to all Milwaukee neighborhoods.
Stories from across the world and in our own country in 2005 remind us that danger on our streets comes not only from criminals but can also result from terrorist actions or natural disasters, and we must be prepared to face these challenges head on. We are currently working to enhance the regional capabilities in preventing, responding to, and recovering from a large-scale disaster or terrorist incident.
Our efforts will enhance public/private partnerships by engaging businesses in public safety initiatives. In fact, in a few weeks, a joint exercise drill will be held between emergency response agencies in the region and Northwestern Mutual in downtown Milwaukee. This is the first time the public and private sectors have partnered to conduct such extensive planning and exercising in Milwaukee.
Keeping Our Promise to Milwaukee Taxpayers – Partnerships in Responsible Governance
I will continue to provide the resources necessary to ensure public safety. At the same time, I am committed to keeping taxes in check and providing other essential city services. Because we have been good stewards of public resources, the city has maintained a bond rating higher than either the county or state. I refuse to introduce budgets that blow up and go into the red after they are passed. And as we construct our 2007 budget, I will continue to involve citizens in the process through our community budget workshops.
In September of this year I will introduce a budget that meets the state's levy freeze. Accomplishing this will take an additional $20 million cut from the city's budget but we will get it done. However, even as we cut costs and meet our responsibilities to taxpayers, the State Legislature continues to look the other way when it comes to property tax relief - and that is costing Milwaukee residents a lot of money.
I am calling on the State Legislature to do right by Milwaukee taxpayers. Here are four REAL solutions for tax relief:
First, start by fixing the funding flaws in the School Choice Program. The Choice funding flaws cost city taxpayers millions of dollars per year. Since taking office, I have said that the Choice enrollment cap should be raised and that Milwaukee property tax payers should be treated fairly.
If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me, "Mayor you're right on the issue, wrong on the timing", I'd be buying all of us dinner. Families enrolled in the Choice program should not have their lives disrupted. At the same time, Milwaukee homeowners should not be punished for expanding the Choice program. Taxpayers should not be paying more for children attending a Choice school than they do for students attending MPS. Let's solve both of these challenges at the same time and move on.
Second, stop forcing us to pay police officers after they have been fired and charged with a crime. The vast majority of police officers in Milwaukee are great public servants. But, in 2005 the city paid more than a half million dollars in salaries for officers after they were fired. No other city in the state faces this situation. Representative Barbara Toles' bill should be passed, and it should be passed this session.
Third, eliminate state fuel taxes on local governments. Rising fuel prices drive up the cost of local government services like police, fire, snow removal and trash pick-up. Eliminating the fuel tax would put $800,000 back in the pockets of Milwaukee taxpayers.
And finally, make a real commitment to State Shared Revenue. Equalizing tax bases across Wisconsin has long been a proud tradition, but it has eroded. Over the last 10 years, we have seen a real dollar decline in shared revenues of $65 million. Let me give you an example of why this program is so important. This year, the tax levy for the entire city is $213 million. The budget for the Milwaukee Police Department alone is $209 million. You can do the math.
We need state government to be our partners in progress, and we will continue to push for action that helps us provide the essential services to Milwaukee residents.
We are confronted with challenges in 2006, but we are also emboldened by the sea of opportunity that lies ahead. Like the promising young student Jessica Dunning who introduced me today, we must seize the opportunities before us and create an even brighter future for Milwaukee.
I am optimistic and excited today because I am surrounded by the city's partners in this endeavor. You should have high expectations from your city government, and we should all have high expectations of each other. We will be asking much of you this year. As partners, we can move forward with vision and action to show ourselves, our nation and our world, that there is no end to what we can accomplish together in Milwaukee.