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Community Leaders Weigh In on Mayoral Recall Effort

LaToya Dennis
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett could face a recall election.

Some Milwaukee residents want to oust Mayor Tom Barrett, just more than a year after he cruised to re-election to a fourth term. A group known as “Save Our City, Milwaukeeans Can’t Wait” has launched a recall effort.

Organizers say they’re upset about the Milwaukee Streetcar project, along with what they call a soaring homicide rate. They’re also angry about lead exposure from water pipes in older homes. The organizers have 60 days to gather more than 50,000 signatures.

Organizers of the recall attempt wouldn’t agree to an interview, but we found others who are in favor of the effort. One is Tracey Dent, leader of the violence prevention group Peace For Change Alliance. Dent says he’s upset about an announcement Mayor Barrett made last month, that the city may have to cut dozens of law enforcement positions in the next budget. Dent says he questions the Mayor’s priorities.

“Cutting police officers, firefighters and EMTs but yet he still finds funding for his streetcar. The homicide rate is worse than it was last year, at least by five or six homicides, and I don’t see the value of cutting police officers when violence is getting worse, not better,” Dent says.

Dent says even if recall organizers fail to gather the required number of signatures, he thinks it’s a worthwhile undertaking.

“I hope they can do it, but at least the effort is out there and putting the mayor on notice that we are tired and he needs to make some better decisions regarding the city of Milwaukee,” Dent says.

While Dent supports the recall, another community leader, Johnson Smith, says he thinks it’s a waste of time. Smith is head of the non-profit organization Phenomenal Men; it helps re-acclimate people who’ve been incarcerated. Smith says he believes Mayor Barrett is doing a good job.

“He’s out in the community, he’s trying to do some things for the community, he’s not perfect but I like some of his policies and positions,” Smith says.

Smith credits the mayor with redeveloping parts of the central city and says ultimately the people who live there could prosper.

“He’s got a big development coming down North Avenue to 27th Street and the community will benefit from it,” Smith says.

Urban Milwaukee Columnist Bruce Murphy keeps an eye on city politics. He says organizers of the recall picked issues that may resonate with some of the people asked to sign the petitions.

“If you’re going to run against Barrett, crime and the streetcar are probably as good an issue as anything, crime has always got some legs,” Murphy says.

Yet, Murphy says news of the recall effort comes as a surprise, considering the mayor won re-election so handily in April of 2016.

If organizers succeed in gathering more than 50,000 signatures in 60 days, the Milwaukee Election Commission would schedule a recall election later this year.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.