Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett Wants To Keep His Job

Nov 20, 2019

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is running for reelection. He announced that he was seeking his fifth term on Wednesday at the Sherman Phoenix in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood.

Standing in front of a chalk board mural of a phoenix with the words "Still, I Rise" written above it and flanked by supporters — mainly black and brown people — Barrett made it clear he's more optimistic about the future of Milwaukee than he's ever been.

The Sherman Phoenix grew out of the civil unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood after a fatal police shooting of a young black man
Credit LaToya Dennis

"I'm optimistic because I know the people of our city. I know what their values are, I know that they care about their families," Barrett says.

He says those values include family and family supporting jobs, education, and safety. Barrett was first elected mayor in 2004. Since then, he says the city has seen a number of downs due to the Great Recession and what he calls hostility from Republican leaders and decades of racism. But Barrett says there have also been a lot of wins. 

"If you look at the work that we've done, not just with this building but throughout this community. Look at the Menomonee Valley, where at one point you needed an all-terrain vehicle to get from one end of the valley to the other. It is now jobs and jobs and more jobs. Look at the old Pabst site that was a deserted sight," Barrett says. "Look at Reed Street Yards. Look at what's gonna happen at the inner harbor where Komatsu's gonna create hundreds of jobs."

Still, Barrett says for him, running for a fifth term isn't about reminiscing about what he's done for constituents. It's about what he plans to do.

"If you think about the next four years, think about neighborhoods. Think about how we're gonna take that incredible renaissance that's occurred in the heart of the city and we want it to continue. We want it to continue in the heart of the city, but we want even more jobs in the neighborhoods," Barrett says.

"If you think about the next four years, think about neighborhoods. Think about how we're gonna take that incredible renaissance that's occurred in the heart of the city and we want it to continue."

Barrett then went on to talk about the failed attempt to bring Strauss Brands, a slaughterhouse, to the Century City development on Milwaukee's north side.

"I think the challenge is obviously having more investment. Again, I'll go back to the Strauss situation where I’ve done everything I can to bring 250 to 500 union, family supporting jobs to the heart of the central city. And I’ll stand behind that because that’s what we need and that’s been my commitment and that continues to be my commitment," Barrett says.

The project died after outrage from members of the public over a slaughterhouse in the area.

READ: Strauss Brands No Longer Pursuing Slaughterhouse On Milwaukee's North Side

Barrett says he realizes that many black and Latino residents in Milwaukee feel as though they've been left behind. He says he's working hard to fix that with a focus on jobs.

Barrett isn’t the only person who has thrown his hat into the ring. He faces his biggest competition from state Sen. Lena Taylor and Alderman Tony Zielinski. Both have criticized the mayor. Taylor says Barrett needs to take the blame for studies that consider Milwaukee the worst place for black people. Zielinski has also questioned Barrett's record.

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