Patti Wenzel

Barrett questions Walker’s leadership, weighs recall run

By - Mar 8th, 2012 04:00 am
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Mayor Tom Barrett addresses luncheon attendees at the Wisconsin Club.  Photo by Patti Wenzel

Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett didn’t announce a run for governor in any recall election. Not yet, at least. He did, however, express his concern about Gov. Scott Walker’s leadership on job development and called out the state legislature for being more interested in scoring partisan points than helping the people of Wisconsin.

Barrett appeared at a forum at the Wisconsin Club Wednesday afternoon. As is the case in most of his recent appearances, the first question he fielded was “Are you running for governor?”

“I’m running for mayor, a job I absolutely love,” Barrett said. “This is one of the most unusual periods in Wisconsin’s political history and there are many chapters that still need to be written in this book.”

When asked if city voters have a right to know what Barrett’s plans are before the April 3 election, he said he honestly loves being the mayor and is not sure what the future holds.

“I am thinking about it (running for governor). Many people have said they hope I run for governor. Many people have said they hope I stay as mayor. And there are people who just hope I will go away.”

Barrett said he is not concerned that one announced candidate, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, has been endorsed by some of the state’s largest public employee unions in a recall election. He sees his statewide name recognition and remaining campaign structure from 2010 as a major plus if he chooses to run. But he is still weighing the issue, repeating his happiness with being Milwaukee’s mayor and the fact that he has four teenage children still at home as factors against another run.

Barrett hinted that any final decision on whether or not he’s in for a third gubernatorial race would come when the Government Accountability Board’s certification of the recall petitions, the setting of an election date, a final ruling on the redistricting plan and the permanency of the Voter ID injunction.

“There is so much in flux right now,” he said.

As for Gov. Walker’s and the legislature’s performance over the last few months, Barrett was harsh in his assessment.

He asked where Walker’s leadership was in the failed mining legislation and subsequent pull-back by Gogebic Taconite to pursue an iron ore mine in Iron County.

“Conservative talk radio asked me why I didn’t do more to save the mining bill, but honestly I wasn’t asked,” Barrett said.  “But my question is, where was the governor? We have to stop the ideological war and talk with the people on the other side.”

Instead of traveling the state giving press conferences about the importance of the mining legislation in his job-creation pledge, Barrett suggested that Walker should have been governing.

“Governing involves sitting down, taking off your jacket, swearing back and forth and working this stuff out,” Barrett said. “But neither side is willing to do this because it has become more fun to score political points than to create jobs.”

He said the defeat of the most recent proposal doesn’t cast Democrats as anti-jobs, since there is another version of the mining legislation — the Schultz compromise. But Barrett isn’t holding his breath that the Republican-controlled State Senate would even take up the compromise proposal because bipartisanship has become a “mortal sin” in Madison.

Barrett said he understands a company or corporation’s need to have assurances and a usable time frame for investment decisions, but not with the sacrifice of the environment.

“I understand time is money,” he said. “That’s why I work with the CDC and have streamlined the permitting process.”

While Barrett feels Walker has been absent on the mining issue, he is spitting mad at the governor and Attorney General J.B. VanHollen for the diversion of $25 million from the foreclosure settlement to fill a state budget hole.

“That budget hole didn’t exist the day before we received the money,” Barrett said. “The people effected by the foreclosure mess were victims of a bait and switch. But what Walker and the Attorney General did was a bigger bait and switch. I remember when we were campaigning, Walker was critical of the diversion of the tobacco settlement and said he wouldn’t do that. Now he has gone and done the same thing.”

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