Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

9 Reasons Why Barrett Recall Failed

Recall effort falls far short of number of signatures needed. Why?

By - Sep 6th, 2017 12:27 pm
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Mayor Tom Barrett speaking at the groundbreaking for the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett speaking at the groundbreaking for the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The attempt to recall Mayor Tom Barrett has failed, as Fox 6 reported yesterday.

Al Jansen, the south side fire fighter listed as the recall organizer, said he got “nowhere close” to the number of signatures needed to force a recall election.

“It became obvious that I overestimated the demand for changing the direction of the political leadership in Milwaukee,” Jansen wrote in a statement he presented to the City of Milwaukee Election Commission.

Under state law, Jansen’s group, “Save Our City, Milwaukeeans Can’t Wait,” needed to gain more than 50,000 signatures in a 60-day period to force a recall election. But Jansen told the news station he got only about 10,000 signatures — far short of the required total.

“Jansen told FOX6 News… he would shred the signatures he did receive, pledging not to ‘expose people to the ridicule’ of having supported his failed effort against Barrett.”

Why was the effort such a miserable failure? Let us count the ways.

1. No public face for the effort. Jansen initially avoided the media, giving the suggestion he was a figurehead for some other mysterious group. The entire recall effort seemed to seek no publicity and operate in the shadows. The fire fighters union seemed to be supporting it, but declined to endorse it or talk about it. If you’re not proud of the campaign, it’s pretty hard to convince others to join in.

2. No dark money appeared. The effort had all the earmarks of a campaign led quietly by right-wing forces from outside the city, the sort of effort Republican-leaning PR man Craig Peterson might have led. But he sat on his hands. And while the 2015 effort to force a referendum on the streetcar got support from a Koch Brothers-funded group, Americans for Prosperity (and failed anyway), this campaign got no such support.

3. Jansen seemed to have a personal agenda. He was among a small group of fire fighters who filed notices that they might sue the city in an effort to boost their disability pay, as Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice reported. It made what was supposed to be a call to the community feel more like one man’s bid for revenge.

4. Fire and police unions lack clout. While there’s little doubt the fire and police unions would like a mayor who is more sympathetic to their demands for more wages and benefits, the unions have little clout with political leaders in the city, as I’ve reported. That clout continues to decline as their members move to the suburbs and can no longer vote in city elections. City records show 30 percent of fire fighters and 27 percent of police officers now live outside the city.

5. The Streetcar issue isn’t very potent. Opposition to the streetcar was probably the biggest issue mentioned by Jansen. Polls show city residents are fairly divided on it. But there’s already been a much better organized effort to oppose this, and that referendum turned into a farcical failure.

6. The black community wasn’t engaged. The issue of lead laterals and finding the money to replace them, also listed as a reason for the recall, has the most impact in older homes, many owned or rented by the city’s African American and Hispanic residents. But would a replacement backed by the fire fighters be more concerned about this than Barrett? And who was working to get the signatures of black voters? The treasurer for the recall group was Darryl Farmer, who also goes by the name King Rick, is a member of the Black Panthers Party and was involved in a controversial incident involving threats against the North Side store, Stark Foods, as Fox 6 reported. King Rick’s clout with black voters may not be kingly.

7. CRG never got involved. When it comes to anti-liberal recall efforts the group that has had the most success is Citizens for Responsible Government, led by Chris Kliesmet and Orville Seymer. They were involved in the failed streetcar referendum and seemed to stay out of this campaign, which suggests they saw it as a loser.

8. The group had no candidate. If you hope to get people to support a recall, it might help to have a candidate waiting in the wings to oppose the incumbent. It’s not just that no viable candidate surfaced, but that there wasn’t even a short list of potential opponents.

9. Barrett simply isn’t vulnerable. Which is why there was no opponent waiting to run. The mayor just won reelection a year ago with 70 percent of the vote, and crushed the only two challengers his opponents could come up with: aldermen Joe Davis (now retired) and Bob Donovan. Jansen has now realized this, and in his statement on the recall failure said, “With the successes of downtown growth, there seems to be a lack of appetite for change.” Or maybe the voters like the kind of changes that are already happening.

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8 thoughts on “Back in the News: 9 Reasons Why Barrett Recall Failed”

  1. duncan says:

    He shred the 10,000 signatures because he really only got 1,000.

  2. Steve says:

    Where could one go to sign it?Al Jensen just did not recruit enough volunteers to canvass the neighborhoods for signatures.Like Barrett or not This recall effort was just silly.Don’t like how Milwaukee is being run then just move if you got the financial means.

  3. Timothy J Haering says:

    Barrett recall failed for the same reason Walker’s recall failed — voters realize recalls are for egregious leadership. The only thing egregious about Barrett is the absence of mustache. And thatsh the twufff. Thbbft!

  4. Paul Trotter says:

    I would classify Walker’s cowardly divide and conquer bomb dropping on teachers, custodians, correctional officers, paraprofessionals, snow plow operators, sanitation workers and all state workers while leaving out fire fighters and law enforcement as ergegious “leadership”. Fire fighters and law enforcement were excluded because they supported Walker. Fire fighters and law enforcement continue to enjoy their collective bargaining rights.

  5. Observer says:

    The city needs to explore private fire and police departments before the next contract negotiations take place. They also need to be able to appoint the doctor(s) that examine any disability claims. They want to live in Muskego? Treat them like the Hessians they’ve become

  6. Matt says:

    For all we know CRG (rhymes with P) were behind it and society has moved past these racist fossils. Or maybe a guy named ORVILLE is a modern thinker.

  7. Thomas says:

    Post # 3 makes a false equivalence. There is no comparison between the failed Walker recall and the failed Barrett recall. The Walker recall could have been successful had the Walker people not enlisted many millions of dollars from outside sources to debunk the opposition in addition to kicking the calendar during that process to result in a vote during the summer before a November election …

    Walker had to campaign for 14 months – while restricting his opponent to 3 months of campaigning, and he had to solicit dark money from all over the country to keep his job. Barrett did not have to break a sweat. TB may not be a great mayor, but he is a good mayor. Walker is a partisan hack who must fuel the fantasies and phobias of the hard core of his base to keep his job.

  8. Wisconsin Conservative Dgiest says:

    Everyone is happy with tom?
    He has gotten Milwaukee top ten worst crime, carjackings, auto theft, human trafficking heroin epidemic, pot smoking, abandoned homes and high taxes.
    Wants more money for more pork, for his toys, and top ten worst managed city. Plus bad roads, MPS “National Disgrace”, corruption, 57% youth unemployment,worst poverty and segregation,
    Torquiest, henry maier spin in graves when they see this.

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