Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Rocky Marcoux Keeps His Job

In a dramatic turnabout, the once-dead DCD head gains 11 of 15 council member votes.

By - Jul 26th, 2016 02:36 pm
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Rocky Marcoux. Photo by Laura Thompson

Rocky Marcoux. Photo by Laura Thompson

Four more years!

Yes, the Milwaukee Common Council has approved Rocky Marcoux, whose reconfirmation once looked unlikely, for another term as City Development Commissioner. Marcoux, frequently a lightning rod with the council, was the last of the mayor’s department heads to be confirmed and the only one that had to be sent back to committee.

Marcoux was confirmed on a 11-3 vote, with council members Jose G. Perez, Tony Zielinski, Robert Bauman opposing Marcoux. Bob Donovan abstained. This was quite a change from last month’s full council vote, which was 7-6 against the longtime DCD head.

That vote, and Marcoux’s referral back to committee at June’s Common Council meeting, came as a shock to many, including some on the council floor. Alderman Jim Bohl, who heads the zoning committee, made a quick motion to send the file back to committee to save Marcoux’s job.

Prior to appearing before the zoning committee again, Marcoux sent a four-page letter 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 he would 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.

Marcoux has been with the city almost his entire career. He started at the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee in 1986 and worked there for 18 years, rising to the top post. He became the Commissioner of City Development in 2004 under Mayor Tom Barrett and has now been reconfirmed for the third time.

Lengthy Floor Debate

More than a half-hour of  floor debate preceded the vote to reconfirm Marcoux. Council members Zielinski, Bohl, Terry Witkowski, Nik Kovac and Perez all spoke on the matter. Interestingly, not a single African-American member spoke, although opposition to Marcoux has supposedly centered around neighborhoods they represent.

Zielinski, a frequent critic of Marcoux and Barrett, opened his remarks by stating: “Four years ago, this matter was delayed a cycle. Four years ago, they delayed it another cycle after the first cycle. A few weeks ago this matter was delayed again. Why was this delayed, continually time and time again? The executive branch knows that the commissioner has not been doing the job we expect of him.” Zielinski then accused “the executive branch” of making the rounds to council offices to make “promises,” something Zielinski says they could have avoided by putting 10 percent of that effort into working to improve the whole city.

Bohl countered with a lengthy defense of Marcoux, noting the commissioner isn’t able to force the market to develop exactly where council members want. Bohl offered that “one individual has unfortunately become a lightning rod, scapegoat of frustration that some residents have, that we have, that some things just don’t move as quickly as we want.”

Marcoux, who leads the city’s efforts to make deals with developers and employers, has certainly shown a unique ability to make votes flip. Four years ago, Kovac led the opposition to Marcoux. Today, Kovac was one of the champions of keeping Marcoux, noting his improvement. New council member Khalif Rainey has flipped even faster, going from supporting Marocux at committee to opposing him at the full council, then abstaining at the committee and back to supporting him today. Milele Coggs, who had abstained from voting on the matter for the previous three votes, voted for Marcoux today.

Business Community Support

Marcoux had a lengthy list of supporters speak in his favor at the committee,  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.

In addition to the visible support at committee, a number of letters were submitted in favor of Marcoux and council members were presented with a stack of documents in advance of the vote showing support for the commissioner. All of this support, plus the lobbying by Marcoux and the Barrett administration, transformed the DCD head from dead duck to big winner.

For more on the opposition to Marcoux, see my colleague Bruce Murphy‘s article, Why Rocky Marcoux Is In Trouble.

Prior Coverage

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