Debriefing the State of City

By Andrea Tritschler

“We are one Milwaukee,” Mayor Tom Barrett began. “Milwaukee is strong, and this is a year to build on our strengths.”

Barrett’s State of the City address, held at Alverno College Monday, followed that theme, focusing on Milwaukee’s strong industries, infrastructure and the development of our downtown, as well as the importance of Milwaukee partnerships and sense of community.

“The overall health of the city depends on the quality of life each of its families has, and that starts with a job,” Barrett said.

As of December of 2014, Milwaukee had an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent– which is two percent higher than the state average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

His address promised job market growth this year in already-developed industries like manufacturing and construction, as well as with Milwaukee’s largest companies.

Barrett isn’t seeking only to spur economic growth, but to continue the momentum of the city, which he said starts with a vibrant, healthy downtown. He couldn’t help mentioning the streetcar project, which was voted to pass by the common council. But, he said the project just one part of his comprehensive transportation plan, which includes adding ten miles of bike lanes throughout the city this year.

He mentioned city programs that are aimed at creating stronger neighborhoods. Milwaukee is putting $20 million toward the development of urban gardens and city-funded improvements to vacant lots and homes.

Barrett was careful to address Milwaukee’s most troubled zip code, and the problems with gun violence in the city.

“I will never accept the silent premise that gun violence is inevitable in Milwaukee,” he said.

The Mayor said Milwaukee has seen a reduction in gun-related fatalities, but has experienced an increase of non-fatal shootings. He made a pledge to take action and work to close loopholes on gun purchases.

The conversation quickly shifted from crime to libraries. With the looming shadow of Governor Scott Walker’s proposed $300 million budget cuts to higher education, and the proposed $12 million state cut to Milwaukee schools, the education of our city is facing an uphill battle.

Barrett declared the development and revitalization of Milwaukee Public Libraries a priority in the city, stating that they “have a role in lifetime learning.”

The Mayor closed with a unifying reiteration that we are “one Milwaukee.”

The address, per usual, left me with more questions than answers. It seemed as though the Milwaukee he spoke of is better than the one I’m living in. One Milwaukee. The idea is nice, but I just don’t think we’re there yet.

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Where do you think the city will be by the end of the year? What questions would you ask Mayor Barrett about his plans and progress? Share your thoughts with contact@rustmil.com