Tag Archives: Tom Barrett

Effort to Recall Barrett Fails

Unfortunately, this looked doomed from the start.

MILWAUKEE (CBS) – An attempt to recall Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has failed, according to the City Election Commission.

The Commission says the Milwaukee Can’t Wait group did not get the required number of signatures.

Barrett Whines About Not Being Able to Tax More

I invite this conversation.

The City of Milwaukee is more unique than we knew.

It is the only city its size limited to using property taxes as the sole form of local taxation, a new report has found. The report also suggests the current revenue structure Milwaukee is required to operate under is ineffective and outdated.

“Milwaukee is in this unique situation because the handcuffs are so tight,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The report — “On The Money?” — will be released Sunday by the nonprofit Public Policy Forum.

Following an analysis of 39 similar-size cities, the forum found Wisconsin is the only state in the Midwest that limits municipalities to the property tax as the sole form of local taxation. And it’s the only state whose largest city has the same tax structure as all other municipalities.

[…]

The analysis also found that each of the cities studied in the report except Milwaukee has multiple taxes, and most have general or selective sales taxes, such as taxes on entertainment or food and liquor. Other findings include that state aid is typically a minor source of revenue for most of those cities, and cities with larger populations tend to draw more heavily on the sales tax and less on the property tax.

Essentially, Wisconsin does government funding a little differently than other states and Barrett wants his cake and to eat it too. Wisconsin does restrict local taxation somewhat, but does so in exchange for much higher state funding than other states. If fact, you’ll notice that the City of Milwaukee receives a huge sum of money from the state’s taxpayers:

mkebudget

You will also notice, that Barrett is very specific about talking about “taxation” since the City does rake in a tremendous amount of money through various fees like the Wheel Tax – er… Wheel Fee.

Barrett wants to continue to receive a tremendous amount of money from the state, but also wants to raise more local taxes to support his reckless spending. But it is really a matter of the philosophy behind how we want to fund out local governments. I have long been a critic of Wisconsin’s Shared Revenue structure. I would much prefer to scrap the entire framework, cut state taxes and spending, and let local people decide for themselves how much they want to fund their local governments. It has never made sense to filter so much tax money through the state and back to local governments. Except in the cases of some rural local governments that lack a sufficient tax base, the state shouldn’t be in the business of funding any local governments.

So I support Barrett’s effort to allow local governments to levy more and different kinds of taxes to fund themselves – as long as the rest of Wisconsin’s taxpayers can have back the $265 million per year that we send to Milwaukee. The state sends about a billion dollars a year to local governments. Let’s return that to the taxpayers and let local taxpayers decide how they want to fund their local governments.

Recalling Barrett

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

It is easy for most people in Wisconsin to look upon the troubles in Milwaukee from a distance, lament the immense waste of money and opportunity, pity the victims of crime, cluck our tongues in disapproval and hope their troubles remain confined by the city’s borders. Yet while Wisconsin’s direction is increasingly divergent from Milwaukee’s trajectory with the blossoming of other communities, Milwaukee remains Wisconsin’s largest city. Its gravity still tugs the rest of the state.

Milwaukee’s problems are not new. Like many other Rust Belt cities, the shifting economy coupled with dreadful local leadership has drained the city of much of its vitality. Since 2004, Milwaukee has been led my Mayor Tom Barrett, and under Barrett’s leadership, Milwaukee has suffered.

It is gloomy to recount the statistics, but recount them we must. Between 2004, when Barrett was sworn in, and 2014, the last year for which the FBI has tabulated statistics, the overall violent crime rate in Milwaukee has increased almost 90 percent. The aggravated assault rate is up 263 percent. Robberies are up; burglaries are up; motor vehicle thefts are up.

While Milwaukee has benefitted from a resurgence in downtown development, the majority of the city is languishing under an economic malaise that rivals that of Detroit. This is especially true for Milwaukee’s black citizens. In 2015, the most recent year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has data, the unemployment rate for black Milwaukeeans was 17.3 percent compared to 4.3 percent for white Milwaukeeans. The income gap is one of the largest in the nation with the median household income for black families being $25,600 compared to $62,600 for white families. Milwaukee is considered one of the worst cities in America for black people for good reason.

While Barrett has been referred to as a “caretaker” mayor due to his lack of robust leadership, his caretaking certainly seems inadequate given Milwaukee’s decline. And yet, the people of Milwaukee have elected and reelected Barrett four times. In the most recent election in 2016, he was reelected with 70 percent of the vote. Despite the fact that Barrett has been desperately trying to get out of the city by running for governor three times, Milwaukeeans seem satisfied with his governance. One can forgive those of us who live outside of Milwaukee for having difficulty mustering compassion for Milwaukee’s wellbeing when Milwaukee’s voters appear to have so little regard for it.

However there is a growing, diverse, and energetic group of Milwaukeeans who have had enough. A group calling themselves “Save Our City. Milwaukeeans Can’t Wait” — a descriptive if unwieldly moniker — has announced plans to launch a recall effort against Barrett. The group is headed by Allen Jansen, a resident of the city’s south side who has supported the mayoral campaigns of Joe Davis and Bob Donovan. The group’s treasurer is Darryl Farmer, a member of the Black Panthers Party and controversial resident of the city’s north side.

Although newly announced, the group is already garnering wide support from a varied range of Milwaukeeans who are dissatisfied with Barrett for everything from lead pipes to crime. The groups lists four reasons for their effort to recall Barrett.

First, they allege that Barrett’s misplaced priorities of using tax dollars for the construction of a downtown trolley instead of focusing on health, public safety, education, etc. constitutes malfeasance in public office.

Second, they allege official misconduct on the part of Barrett in that he pursued an agenda that personally benefitted his campaign donors.

Third, they allege dereliction of duty because Barrett failed to fulfill his obligation to sufficiently protect Milwaukeeans from crime.

Fourth, they allege that Barrett endangered public health by not acting to replace Milwaukee’s lead lateral pipes.

Of course, none of these allegations are new. Milwaukeeans knew of these failures before they reelected Barrett last year by an overwhelming margin. Yet perhaps the fact that such a coalition of Milwaukeeans has coalesced for change is a ray of hope for a city desperately in need of competent leadership.

Barrett has responded to the recall effort by saying that he welcomes a conversation about Milwaukee’s future. Well, then. Let us have that conversation.

Barrett Threatens Public Safety

Have you ever noticed how politicians like Mayor Tom Barrett will recklessly spend money on stupid stuff, but when the money runs out they only threaten to cut vital public safety? For example, Barrett is making it clear that if he has to choose between funding a non-vital trolley for a few downtown dwellers or cutting police for the rest of the city, he will protect his trolley. Budgets are about choices and Barrett is making his.

The City of Milwaukee could be forced to cut 84 police officer positions in next year’s budget, Mayor Tom Barrett said.

“I do not want to have fewer police officers in this city,” Barrett said Friday in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. “I’m trying to do everything I can to find a way to avoid this.”

Barrett also warned that Milwaukee may be forced to eliminate 75 firefighter positions, six public health nurses and 10 code inspector jobs — and close two libraries — in the 2018 budget.

“I view all of this in the context of public safety and, actually, crime prevention in many respects,” Barrett said.

Barrett Declines Comment

This is curious. Mayor Barrett never misses an opportunity to push for more gun control.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett declined comment on the gun control issue, saying he wanted to keep the focus on five arrests made Friday in connection with the fatal shooting of the housing inspector, Greg Zyszkiewicz.

Milwaukee Mayor Urges Water Filters

The same mayor who is insistent that taxpayers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a street car as a novelty attraction for his wealthy downtown patrons is telling the citizens that their water might be contaminated with lead. Mayor Barrett’s priorities are so inverted that he has failed to fulfill one of his most basic responsibilities as a mayor – maintaining a safe and reliable primary infrastructure.

Owners and residents of tens of thousands of City of Milwaukee homes built before 1951 should install faucet filters capable of removing lead from drinking water, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Wednesday.

“I strongly urge anyone who lives in a home built before 1950-’51 to get a filter,” Barrett said at a public forum on drinking water held at Marquette University Law School.

About 70,000 city residences, including duplexes, or nearly 45%, of the total, receive water from street mains through a lead pipe known as a lateral.

Although Milwaukee treats Lake Michigan water to control corrosion of lead from those pipes and prevent contamination of drinking water, this step is not a 100% guarantee of clean water, a drinking water treatment scientist said Wednesday.

“As long as the lead pipe is there, no one should consider the water safe” to drink, said Marc Edwards, a professor of environmental and civil engineering at Virginia Tech. Edwards has led independent investigations of lead contamination of drinking water in Flint, Mich., and Washington, D.C.

Barrett Encourages Walker to Veto Zombie Homes Bill

Hmmmm

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is asking Governor Scott Walker to veto a bill that he fears would create more so-called “zombie houses.”

“Zombie houses” are homes abandoned by their owners, but unwanted by the banks.

Currently, banks are forced to put a “zombie house” up for sale five weeks after the home is found to be abandoned.

A new bill would move the deadline back to 12 months, and it has already made it through the Assembly and the Senate.

I ask out of honest ignorance… who benefits from changing it to 12 months? I would think that the banks would want to get it sold and off their books as soon as possible. And the city certainly wants it sold. But surely somebody asked for the change for their own benefit. Who? Why?

Milwaukee Responsible for Moving Utilities

This was expected. While it’s good that utility rate payers won’t be stuck with the bill for Barrett’s Folly, the taxpayers will be.

The city would be left to pick up the $10 million to $25 million tab for utility relocation costs linked to the Milwaukee streetcar project under a judge’s decision.

The decision, issued Thursday by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge William Sosnay, said it was unreasonable to require utility companies to pay any part of the costs for relocating or modifying their lines to accommodate the streetcar.

The ruling agreed with an earlier decision by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in the utility dispute, which said the city — not utilities and their ratepayers — should pay for moving underground utility lines along the streetcar route.

Milwaukee Leaders Bemoan Their Failed Policies

Let’s see… they advocate lenient sentencing – particularly on juveniles – and enact a “no chase” policy for stolen cars. Did they not expect any consequences?

Another stolen vehicle, another crash. Another fatality.

This one involved a 16-year-old Milwaukee boy who was driving a stolen Toyota Camry when it T-boned another car at N. Port Washington Road and W. Capitol Drive on Saturday morning.

It is part of a dangerous trend in Milwaukee that drew condemnation from Mayor Tom Barrett on Sunday afternoon at the District 3 police station, where he and other city leaders spoke out against the rise in car thefts, carjackings and crashes involving stolen vehicles.

[…]

In the six weeks before Milwaukee police created a task force on Dec. 1 to investigate the skyrocketing number of carjackings and stolen vehicles, a total of 94 cases were reported, said Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn. Since last March, nine people have been killed in crashes involving stolen vehicles.

Just last week, Milwaukee police arrested 14, including 10 juveniles, in four carjacking cases in an 18-hour span.

Sheriff David Clarke Not Running for Milwaukee Mayor

Just heard on the Jay Weber Show, Clarke is not going to run against Tom Barrett. Clarke was widely seen as one of the few potential candidates who could unseat the incumbent mayor. Clarke’s decision not to run makes Barrett’s reelection chances very, very good.

Barrett Announces for Reelection

Heh.

Tom Barrett sent an email to potential contributors Tuesday morning officially announcing his bid for re-election in 2016.

Barrett was first elected mayor in 2004 and was re-elected with more than 70 percent of the vote in both 2008 and 2012. The Democrat lost to Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a historic recall race in 2012.

In his email, Barrett says he’ll work to create more family-supporting jobs and continue the battle against gun violence and build partnerships between police and the neighborhoods.

Can anyone make a rational argument for Barrett’s reelection? He’s been the mayor for over a decade and what are the results? Crime is bad. The population is declining. Taxes and fees are up. Barrett hasn’t been responsible for any major new economic development. I suppose you could credit him for a piece of the new arena for the Bucks, but that was mostly driven by other folks. MMSD is still dumping poop into the lake.

Seriously… what is the justification for reelecting Barrett? Is Milwaukee any better off after a decade of his “leadership?”

Milwaukee Mayor Wants Universal Body Cameras for Cops

OK.

Milwaukee may soon become one of the largest cities in the United States to outfit all of its patrol officers with body cameras under a proposal by Mayor Tom Barrett.

The mayor said on Sunday that he will include in his preliminary city budget a proposal to spend $880,000 to equip all of the city’s 1,200 patrol officers with body cameras by the end of 2016.

“I want our police officers to be in a position to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that they are acting professionally,” Barrett said during a news conference.

Many U.S. cities have taken interest in supplying body cameras to their police departments after a series of widely publicized shootings by white police officers of unarmed African Americans over the last couple of years.

But the cost of body cameras, which can run from $350 to $700 apiece, has hindered widespread adoption in many cities where budgets are tight.

The cost of supplying body cameras to all Milwaukee patrol officers and video storage would increase to about $1 million in 2017, the mayor said.

In general, I think body cameras are a good idea. The technology is such that it is relative light and inexpensive. But many of the details still need to be worked out to balance privacy concerns for the police and the public. Also, body cameras are not a panacea and should not be viewed as such. They will offer one more piece of information to consider when evaluating a police officer’s interaction with a member of the public – or a member of the public’s interaction with a police officer.

Body cameras are, however, another thing that adds to the cost of a police force. That cost needs to be weighed against any potential benefit outside of a mayor pandering to the anti-police community before his reelection campaign.

Hundreds of Criminal Interviews Lost in Milwaukee

This is a massive story.

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Watchdog

MADISON, Wis. – Hundreds, maybe thousands, of Milwaukee criminal cases could be compromised due to a malfunction in January of a contracted video system used for capturing interviews and confessions of suspects, multiple sources tell Wisconsin Watchdog.

Among the interviews lost is that of Darmequaye D. Cohill, 21, who was charged in January with first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree recklessly endangering safety, both offenses with a dangerous weapon, in connection with the shooting death of a 13-month old boy.

Michael Crivello, president of theMilwaukee Police Association, and James Toran, the Milwaukee lawyer who previously served as Cohill’s defense attorney, confirm that the Milwaukee Police Department’s Tracer “video interview solution” system went down in January, not long after Cohill was arrested. The system is provided by MediaSolv Solutions Corp. Perhaps thousands of interviews and confessions of suspects have been lost, and many cannot be retrieved.

“They lost a lot of stuff,” Toran said. “It’s pretty bad.”

Sources in the police department’s homicide and drug investigation units say that because confessions have disappeared, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office has been pleading down felony cases to much lesser charges.

A few questions come to mind… First, this happened in January and we are just now finding out about it? And it is worth noting that we get this huge story from the alternative media – not from Milwaukee’s only newspaper or from Milwaukee public officials.

Second, these systems should be highly redundant. Why wasn’t this one? Kittle explains:

Several sources say the Milwaukee PD begged the city for more funding for additional storage and data backup last year because the system was reaching critical overload. The funds were denied, sources say, and within months the entire system crashed.

A spokeswoman from Mayor Tom Barrett’s office did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

So Barrett and the Council can fund tens of millions for a street car but can’t find the cash to upgrade critical storage and backup systems for the MPD? Someone said “no” to the funding request and the public deserves to know who it was,

Third, where are Milwaukee’s elected leaders on this? This happened 5 months ago, criminals are not being held accountable for their crimes, and everybody is just pretending like nothing is wrong?

This is a major screw up that could have been avoided that is damaging hundreds of criminal cases. Someone is responsible and the public needs to know who.

Barrett Calls for More Gun Laws in Response to Milwaukee Violence

I’m having a hard time not concluding that Mayor Barrett is just a raving mad on this issue.

The Democratic mayor called for policy action, in the form of more state resources to combat gun crime in Milwaukee. “I don’t want to lock up more people who are carrying a nickel bag of marijuana, but I do want to lock up more people who get involved in gunfights in parks, on streets, outside taverns,” the mayor said.

I’m sorry, but it is now legal for people to get in gunfights in parks, streets, and outside taverns (apparently gunfights inside taverns are taboo)? Last time I checked, that was already illegal. How would more gun laws help?

Barrett is also railing against concealed carry, but I haven’t seen it reported that a single one of the Milwaukee murders was committed by someone legally carrying a gun and illegally using it. One of the most egregious, the murder of a driver and teen, was allegedly committed by a felon who was on parole. He was breaking several laws by possessing a gun.

There might be a few tweaks to our gun laws that make sense, but they are not going to fix the violence in Milwaukee. The mayor of that city, Tom Barrett, is failing in his job to protect the citizens of his city and he is desperately seeking to deflect blame elsewhere.

Bad Day for Wisconsin

Congratulations, Wisconsin. Today was a healthy bipartisan spread of stupid decisions that will hurt the state for years to come. First, Governor Scott Walker reaffirmed his decision to turn away thousands of private sector jobs and over a billion dollars in private economic development despite an offer by the Menominee to essentially indemnify the state taxpayers for any possible losses that may result from building the Kenosha casino AND give $220+ million to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

With that decision, Walker also made it exceedingly difficult to pass any state funding bill to help build a new arena for the Bucks. Many people from outside Milwaukee already opposed taxpayer support for an arena, and now they likely won’t support a dime of my tax dollars going to build an arena in Milwaukee since Walker is turning down over $200 million in private funding for that project. Walker’s decision makes it quite unlikely that Wisconsin will have an NBA team in 36 months and all of that private investment and economic activity will leave the state too.

To cap it off, Mayor Tom Barrett finally got his trolley in Milwaukee, thus obligating the taxpayers to hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer expense for decades to come.

And people wonder why Wisconsin’s economy lags…