Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Committee Again Says Yes to Rocky

DCD head Rocky Marcoux once again endorsed at committee, but his fate is still uncertain.

By - Jul 19th, 2016 05:15 pm
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Rocky Marcoux. Photo by Laura Thompson

Rocky Marcoux. Photo by Laura Thompson

An unusually subdued Rocky Marcoux appeared before the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development committee today. The city development commissioner was in front of the committee for the second time to defend his job following a rejection and referral from the full Common Council. Marcoux is being nominated for re-appointment by Mayor Tom Barrett, but needs approval from the majority of council members. Following a lengthy hearing, he received a 3-0 approval, but with two abstentions his future is still very much up in the air.

Last time, Marcoux did a slide show for this committee, but not this time. “I understand you took a vote and there’s no slideshow, that’s okay,” he joked. “We did 220 slides last time and there was 100 in reserve.” But then he got quite serious, quoting from a four-page letter he had sent to the full council where he noted that “the desire of the Common Council to see even more job and economic opportunity and commercial growth outside the greater downtown area is heard loud and clear, and is supported by the Department and the Barrett Administration.”

In the letter, Marcoux announced his intent to create a new position within the Department of City Development, the Neighborhoods Economic Development Specialist. That position, which Marcoux dubbed the “ombudsperson,” would be responsible for working with council members to target new growth opportunities, fill business vacancies, and assist in carrying out council member-led priorities and initiatives.

In response to a question from alderwoman Milele Coggs about the city’s black male unemployment crisis and what his department can do about it, Marcoux stated “I think we all acknowledge that the level of unemployment in this city is egregious particularly African American male unemployment.” He went on to detail the many things DCD does, including preparing land, often brownfields, for manufacturers. Marcoux noted that Coggs’ sixth district and Russell Stamper II‘s 15th district have the greatest amount of vacant land and the highest number of foreclosures. Marcoux noted that although those are clear challenges, he sees them as opportunities as well.

During the hearing Coggs asked a number of questions of the commissioner, and ended with a statement noting that as historic as the level of Downtown development is, there should be a comparable effort to develop a skills and employment pipeline for city residents to rise from poverty.

Marcoux faced a number of employment-related questions from the committee. Ever the expert salesmen, he was able to turn almost all of them into examples of what DCD has done and what he intends to do in the future. He strongly pitched the efforts the city has undertaken at Century City to area alderman Khalif Rainey, who originally voted for Marcoux at committee and then voted against reappointment at the full council.

Marcoux had a lengthy list of supporters speak in his favor including former city development commissioner (1988-1992) Ricardo Diaz, former Walnut Way head Sharon Adams, Ingeteam CEO Aitor Sotes, JCP construction head James Phelps, developer Kalan Haywood and Prism Technical COO Lafayette Crump

Diaz, ever quotable, ended his remarks with a quip: “As a member of the Green Bay Packers board of directors, one thing I know is you don’t change your quarterback at halftime when you’re up by two touchdowns.” It echoed the sentiment of civic leaders who have gone on record supporting Marcoux, pointing to the city’s development boom.

What’s Next?

Does he have the votes to win approval at the full council next Tuesday? As my colleague Bruce Murphy has written, Marcoux will likely need a yes vote from either Coggs or Rainey if he is to be reconfirmed and it remains unclear if he’ll be able to land the vote from either. This time around Rainey abstained, giving him three different positions to date on the issue. Rainey will meet with Marcoux again in advance of committee.

Coggs, who has abstained in every vote regarding Marcoux, did do again, although she indicated she plans to vote at the next full council. She has a meeting scheduled with Marcoux on Monday in advance of the council vote, the last in a series of meetings held since her first abstention. She stated that “several of the issues I brought to the forefront are being worked and I’m grateful for that,” but expressed dismay that they’ve taken so long to be addressed.

The yes votes for Marcoux came from Ald. Nik Kovac, Stamper and Ald. Jim Bohl. You can bet there will be heavy politicking by Marcoux to make sure he has at least five more yes votes by the next full council meeting.

Prior Coverage

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