Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The World According to Janel Brandtjen

Republican lawmaker is angry about crime in the city. Here’s how she could help.

By - Jun 10th, 2016 12:45 pm
Janel Brandtjen. Photo from the State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2015-16.

Janel Brandtjen. Photo from the State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2015-16.

State Rep Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) is a woman on a mission. The no-nonsense legislator, serving in her first term, spoke last fall on the Assembly floor in support of a bill cutting off all funding to Planned Parenthood, charging that it encourages “young women with promiscuous lifestyles.” She is an NRA member and was a co-sponsor of the law allowing certain officers to carry firearms at schools. She was named Pro Life Wisconsin’s “Legislator of the Year,” and in response declared that “America is strongest when we observe the Judeo-Christian roots that our forefathers put forth as unalienable rights.”

And Brandtjen made a huge splash in the media this week with her call to cut state funding to Milwaukee because of a “growing and out of control problem” of crime she blamed on Mayor Tom Barrett. As she put it, “Mayor Barrett may not care about the safety of his family but I certainly do care about mine.” Did it occur to her that Barrett is the man who saw to his family’s safety and then was badly injured trying to defend a woman from a “vicious thug,” as police described the criminal, back in 2009?

Brandtjen attended Marshall High School in Milwaukee and her district actually includes a portion of Milwaukee, but her press release had no concern or praise for that part of her district, while expressing worry about homeowners in the “flourishing suburbs” in the portions of Washington and Waukesha counties she represents.

Juvenile Arrests in the City of Milwaukee

Juvenile Arrests in the City of Milwaukee

Brandtjen’s blast came in the wake of a high-profile Milwaukee carjacking that ended with a chase into Washington County and the arrest of five juveniles. Barrett, she charged, has failed to “apprehend and arrest car thieves.” In fact, the crime statistics for Milwaukee show that arrests of juveniles for auto theft is up by 396 percent since 2010, while arrests for carjacking are up by 796 percent in the last two years.

Brandtjen also condemned Barrett for not “standing up to the judges who let repeat offenders off easy.” It’s a strange charge, since the criminal justice system is not overseen by the city, but by the state, with counties operating as the local administrative arm of the state. Her beef is with the state and county, not the city.

As for demanding “prison for repeat offenders,” another Brandtjen solution to the problem she says Barrett must embrace, both the mayor and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn have repeatedly asked the legislature to go after criminals with guns, making it a felony the second time a felon is arrested carrying a gun. The legislature declined, but Brandtjen could choose to sponsor such a bill.

Comparison of State Shared Revenue, Milwaukee Property Tax Levy and Police Budget

Comparison of State Shared Revenue, Milwaukee Property Tax Levy and Police Budget

Brandtjen also criticized Barrett for failing to hire enough police. In fact, the mayor and Common Council have devoted an ever-increasing portion of the city’s budget to the Police Department. The police budget has risen from just less than $190 million in 2005 to $280 million in 2016, while the property tax levy rose at about half that rate. The problem city officials have faced is a huge, long-term decline in state shared revenue, which dropped 36 percent in real dollars from 1995 to 2014. It’s a cinch that Barrett and the council would happily spend more on police officers, should Brandtjen convince her legislative colleagues to begin restoring shared revenue to cities.

The biggest issue driving crime in Milwaukee is gun violence. Barrett and Flynn have argued for common sense legislation that could help reduce access to guns, including:

-Criminal background checks for all gun sales, something that 81 percent of state residents favor, according to a Marquette Law School poll.

-Make a “straw” gun purchase a felony.

-Prohibit habitual criminals from qualifying for a conceal carry license.

-Prohibit a felon from being within 1,000 feet of a gun store.

But the legislature has declined to enact any of these measures, instead passing a law last year ending the 24-hour waiting period to buy a gun. The law had been in place since 1976. Perhaps Brandtjen could get her colleagues to reconsider such policies.

When Brandtjen contrasts the flourishing suburbs with the city, she is surely aware this is no accident, but is the result of suburban policies that require lot sizes for homes that assure only solidly middle-class people can afford homes while fighting the creation of any low-income housing. Cities, by contrast, have no such barriers and across America tend to have concentrated poverty and crime. And few metro areas have more spatial inequality than Milwaukee, as a recent study found.

So you might think Brandtjen would be grateful for this situation, which has left the city with most of the metro area’s poverty and the myriad of problems associated with it. Instead she wants to cut the city’s funding even more, which will hurt all its residents, including some of her own constituents.

34 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The World According to Janel Brandtjen”

  1. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    What Brandtjen gave away is that these dimwitted suburbanites want to live in a Bubble. They want all the benefits of being close to a big city, be able to use the amenities of that city whenever they want, but don’t want to deal with any of the consequences that come from not giving adequate funding to that city.

    The chart that shows how shared revenue keeps getting cut to the largest city in the state is telling. The City has hired more cops, but could certainly do more if they were given more financial flexibility (and remember GOPpers, police are not subject to the “Tax-saving tools” of Act 10). And Since Milwaukee County gets more tourist dollars than any other county in the state (according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism), there seems to be a logical solution.

    Allow the City of Milwaukee to levy a 0.25% sales tax, and the money is earmarked to pay for police. If you figure that 60% of the County’s $70 million in sales taxes comes from the City (probably a low figure), that’s $21 million a year that goes to cops, and is taken off of the property tax. And it actually makes suburbanites like Brandtjen’s constituents in the Falls pay for some of the extra police that their extra traffic and visiting causes, but that seems like a small price to pay for a safer, better city, right Jan? Sounds like a deal to me.

    If Brandtjen and the rest of the Bubble-Worlders are not down with that, and just want to whine and hide from the reality their 262-area code GOP arrogance has caused, they can have a nice glass of STFU, because they really don’t care to solve the fiscal and social problems caused by ghettoizing poverty in the city, and neglecting the most important economic engine in the state.

  2. Milwaukee Native says:

    Rep. Brandtjen’s plan for saving MKE:

    Remove access to birth control.
    Accelerate the ongoing defunding of city services.
    Weaken any common-sense gun safety measures.
    Mandate that everyone honor (only) our Judeo-Christian roots as part of inalienable rights, the ones that our slave-holding founding fathers bequeathed to some of us.

    Her fact-free simple-mindedness surely makes her a darling of right-wing radio. Sadly, she’s probably not an outlier.

  3. David Ciepluch says:

    I would be interested in what Milwaukee and Dane County collect in fall fees, state income tax, sales tax, gas tax, etc. that goes to the state. And what is returned to both counties and municipal governments. Are we getting our share of revenue returned or being fleeced?

  4. David says:

    Most people outside of Milwaukee do not understand how shared revenue works. They don’t understand that Milwaukee sends all sales taxes, all income taxes, various fees and a portion of the property tax revenues to Madison. Madison then sends less and less back to Milwaukee. The police and firefighters, Milwaukee’s biggest obligations, were left out of Act 10. In addition, now they allow public employees to live outside the city. Furthermore, Milwaukee’s share of the foreclosure crisis aid from Washington was pilfered by the state to cushion their budget.

    Milwaukee spends less per capita on residents than just about all our peers in the Midwest, yet we’re constantly bashed by suburbanites and outstate residents. We don’t have a way to raise revenue.

  5. Bill Kurtz says:

    Typical collar county mentality (and that collar is starting to seem like a noose). If Milwaukeeans won’t elect the kind of people the Brandtjens want (Bob Donovan, David Clarke) as mayor, they should be punished.

  6. Steve B says:

    As James Causey said in the JS, Brandtjen seemed fine with Milwaukee’s crime problem so long as it didn’t spill over into her lily white (with a smattering of minorities, but not too many!) suburb.

  7. Jason Novak says:

    So I guess as long as 1 percent of all vehicles in Milwaukee are getting car jacked, who cares? Nothing to see here until an important white liberal is affected.

  8. Jake says:

    Republicans and conservatives and their supporters are fascists. I think it’s time to stop pretending.

  9. WashCoRepub says:

    “Prohibit habitual criminals from qualifying for a conceal carry license.”

    I have yet to see any statistics that cite the number of habitual criminals that have been convicted (or even arrested for that matter), while in possession of a concealed carry license. This is typically just an item on the ‘checkbox list’ of talking points delivered by the usual cadre of gun-confiscation zealots.

  10. Alene says:

    Bruce Murphy — Thank you for explaining how Rep. Brandtjen Is wrong and what she could do to help. It’s too bad some of our Reps in Madison do not have the vision to see sensible solutions to problems and then act to reduce or eliminate those problems. Just blaming someone else is not the answer. Certainly cutting funds to help resolve the problems does not work. Since they want to continue to reduce the amount of shared revenue the cities get, maybe the cities should keep all of the taxes they take in so they can fix crime problems. If they are not getting their fair share of the shared revenue, then where is it going? Who is getting it, or is it being used to plug holes in the budget to ensure the wealthy and corporations get their tax breaks and incentives?

  11. Vincent Hanna says:

    Someone who repeats whatever they hear on talk radio calling out others for their routine talking points. I love irony. And speaking of talking points, the NRA crowd loves to claim that gun control advocates want everyone’s guns when no one is actually advocating for gun confiscation. It’s a nice fear tactic. Even the NRA recently conceded that Obama has been ineffective in this endeavor, because he never actually tried to take people’s guns.

  12. Chuck says:

    Washcorepub – The NRA has been so effective at outlawing the collection of gun related data, or even an electronic means of reporting the data, that the story can never be told objectively. Your comment is disingenuous.

  13. David Nelson says:

    Ciepluch: You aren’t addressing the connection Brandtjen made that is addressed in this column: “And Brandtjen made a huge splash in the media this week with her call to cut state funding to Milwaukee because of a ‘growing and out of control problem’ of crime she blamed on Mayor Tom Barrett.” Why not address whether it is reasonable to connect the two, and whether the suggestions made on this page to reduce crime might be effective?

  14. Vincent Hanna says:

    Reasonable to blame Tom Barrett for a rise in crime? I’d say no that’s not reasonable. Or is it reasonable to say Scott Walker is equally to blame as he is the governor of the entire state?

  15. David Ciepluch says:

    Nelson: This state legislators first reaction is to punish Milwaukee for crime in Menomonee Falls by cutting funding. Milwaukee sends a great deal of money to State Government and already receives a reduced amount in return. The US Constitution 10th Amendment states that States have the power to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. That power is in turn granted to municipal governments. Along with it is the funding to do the job.

    During my lifetime, I have paid hundreds of thousands in taxes to government. It is insulting to have continual bashing from politicians from suburban communities, and rarely step foot in the city. Milwaukee is treated as a bastard child by the rest of the state’s politicians even though for the past 150 years, Milwaukee was a great economic engine to support the state.

    The example I stated is theoretical that Milwaukee and Dane Counties could exist without the State of Wisconsin and their interference, racism, ignorance, taking of tax funds and fees. Recognition and cooperation need to occur but I am not sure that is possible right now with toxic government at the state level running and ruining Wisconsin as a place that used to solve problems.

  16. David Nelson says:

    Ciepluch: Aah. I understand you better now. Sometimes statements are pretty terse here and reading between the lines difficult. I probably did not do a good job of that.

    And you’re right. The reflexive hatred and disrespect from other communities is a disservice to Milwaukee and the state as a whole.

    As I often do, I’ll point out that many urban folk disrespect the rural folk pretty reflexively as well. If we are to improve the situation, there needs to be opportunities for mutual respect, generally, if not on certain subjects.

  17. fightinbobfan says:

    Washcorepub and the NRA are soft on crime.

  18. Thomas says:

    Jake (post # 8)

    I would not call all Republicans and conservatives fascists. I consider most reactionaries who call themselves conservatives de facto fascists in that their desire to return to a pre FDR GOLDEN AGE would effectively do away with large segments of our population: further impoverishing those who rely on social security, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, food stamps, and those who have health insurance for the first time in their lives due to THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT.

  19. Thomas says:

    Dear Readers,

    Allow me to clarify a phrase in post # 18. “pre FDR GOLDEN AGE (sic) pre-FDR “golden age.”

    Bandtjen’s conservative credentials do not impress. She appears to wish to conserve the wealth and safety of those who have both at the expense of those who have neither. I see her as a reactionary more than a conservative.

  20. Tomw says:

    Let’s see, Madam Representative, perhaps my Bible is different from yours but for every quotation regarding sex and/or sexual promiscuity there must be at least 20 regarding generosity to the poor and justice for the oppressed. Judaeo-Christian values are much more centered on justice and mercy than on judgment and punishment of the poor. How about a sales tax in Milwaukee used to fund transportation to the industrial parks in Washington and Ozaukee and other surrounding counties so that Milwaukee residents could get to the jobs there and then also one to fund day care for the children of such workers. “Fighting crime” doesn’t just mean more cops, jails or judges, it also means addressing the root cause of poverty which is lack of employment opportunities AND affordable child care.

  21. Donald George MacDonald says:

    I have an image in my head and
    if I could I would draw it.

    My image is of our mighty, towering city elevated
    with its central weight supported by strong stilts of homes…
    homes breathing with families filled with dreams…
    dreams to learn to earn to rise.

    But the weight of our towering city elevated
    slowly presses down on the core.

    And homes once filled with dreams
    slowly collapse on the bowed and broken.

    And the once strong stilts of homes
    slowly become empty, rotting shells.

    And our mighty, towering city elevated
    crashes, hammers down on the core.

    And the breath of dreams is slowly smothered.

  22. Donald George MacDonald says:

    Don’t only blame the usually youthful perpetrators of crime in the City of Milwaukee.

    Also harshly condemn the environment our youths have been born in and raised in and continue to live in simply because of the color of beautiful brown skin and because of the cultural shades that are different than white.

    Also harshly condemn our many city and county and state politicians wearing their superior suits and ties who have, for many decades, chosen to turn their eyes and minds and hearts away from the the suffering caused by inequality, poverty and discrimination…to emotionally isolate and physically segregate themselves from injustices and racism believed too complicated for them to want to try to understand…from solutions feared too difficult for us to want to try to achieve together.

  23. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Thank God for Gannon, Brandtjen then Frankovis and Clarke that wills step up and expose the idiotic ideas of Murphy/Barrett/Flynn/Chisholm and Krermers.
    Even the village idiot knows the the reason that the crime wave is accelerating in the Lefty run cities, in Chicago, Milwaukee, in the top ten, worst crime cites, is the failure to put gun wielding thugs, straw buyers for them in jail. In Chicago only 6% of gun yielding thugs, of all colors go to jail. Clarke sez it is the same here.
    I will not let my wife drive east of 92nd st,, in her convertible ,with all the little thugs from 12 up, car jacking, like South Africa where we have hundred thousnad per year with 45,000 killings.
    Even the bigger village idiots like Murphy put out a list of things, of no clue in crime. When we see everyone
    of the thugs, that is caught, has long line of felonies we can say: Bruce sweetie, why aren’t they jn jail.

  24. David Nelson says:

    wcd: You connect crime in large U.S. cities with crime in South Africa. I assume you mean that the common thread is people of African heritage. If that is the case, why not say so directly, so the few of us who haven’t figured out that you are motivated by racism will get get it loud and clear?

    It is so seldom that long time commenters with these views have the guts to admit what they really think. They usually hide behind a revolving set of made up names so they can’t be identified. Why not be courageous and say exactly what you think?

    In return, I’m sure some of us will say, “Right on! That’s some straight up admission of intolerance, just like in the good old days. This guy doesn’t pussyfoot around. No pretending and no filler. Nothing but the unvarnished truth.”

    That’d be a great day. Wouldn’t it?

  25. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    The racists in Milwaukee are those that are apologists for this slaughter, like you Nelson. There is no plan to fix the slaughter, by the left, or even teach kids to read, something that I have worked for for years.
    Comparing to SA is where we are going.
    As far as me. i work with all nationalities, colors, religions daily, in pharmacy, and volunteered to work in inner city for decades cause Black people are easier to get along with tithe white people . The techs are aghast at the inability of the white “Masters” that are on this site and rule Milwaukee will not protect them and their families.
    When Duncan came here and declared MPS a “National Disgrace” all we get is excuses and blaming Bush or Reagan. or their little sister.

  26. Vincent Hanna says:

    WCD, do you ever think you are too quick to call people you don’t know racist? I get that you’re a conservative guy. I have many conservative loved ones, but we can discuss contentious issues without any insults. Why do you call people you don’t know horrible things?

  27. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    The leaders of Milwaukee are all racists. They confine the Blacks to the ghetto, refuse to educate them or protect the families, or develop programs to reduce unemployment, and poverty.
    they push a wage that will make most inner city kids unemployable. Yes they are racist and either incompetent or doing it on purpose, in one of the top ten worst managed cities in World. instead of taking are of the inner city problems they built trolleys for yuppies and a Bucks arena fro billionaires, hardly something for the kids.

  28. Tim says:

    I’ve never seen a smart, capable & successful person put others down with any regularity. The way “wisconsin conservative digest” aka Bob Dohnal treats others, says more about him that he would like to let on.

    At this point, I’m hoping that we’re seeing the shell of a dementia-riddled man that is reverting to base, child-like tendencies. My view of humanity is too romantic to accept him prima facie, as a regular joe that fell under the siren song of right-wing propagandists. Even if he boasts about his rag the WCD as though he is J. Goebbels himself.

  29. Vincent Hanna says:

    Isn’t the issue that you disagree with anti-crime and anti-poverty efforts, not that nothing whatsoever is being done about it? That you have policy differences with people doesn’t make those people racist. It’s troubling that you are so quick to give people you don’t know and disagree with labels. What does that accomplish exactly? Do you feel better after you call people names?

  30. DT says:

    WCD, your emails have multiple grammatical errors, and poorly formed sentences, but you say you teach kids to read. That’s scary to me. I would think that being able to write properly should be a fundamental requirement for someone teaching reading.

  31. David Nelson says:

    Well Vincent, I did goad WCD.

    Probably shouldn’t have. That was kind of cheesy and impolite.

    I imagine he has confused me with a number of other folks on this site (also not racists), as he tends to think any disagreement with him is a cardinal sin. He simply has trouble telling us apart.

    When you want everything to be white, clean, and neat, it is hard to contemplate anything to the contrary.

    Nuance is fine when accompanied by honesty.

    Honesty is frequently of limited utility without some nuance.

    Why? because it is entirely possible to be in earnest and ignorant at the same time.

    WCD is not about nuance. This would involve being considerate. Being considerate does not always mean to be kind; it means quite literally – to consider.

    Perhaps the most damning thing I can say about him is that what he lacks in poetry he makes up for in tragedy.

    Is there anything more tragic than having an inkling of limitation, yet being unable to do anything with it.

    To desire praise for positions which affect many, many people, yet to have no interest how many of those people may be affected.

    There is a rage there that is not of recent origin. It provides a certain energy, but must not be looked at directly. To do so might provide illumination.

  32. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Tim, thanks I read Alinsky’;s rules plus taught Donals trump and forgetful yes, but I cannot forget the 40 plus years I have campaigned to fix MPS so that we do not have to watch the hundreds of thousands of kids cause of the inept Lefties running MPS. But it up give the power back to the neighborhood.s
    Nothing you clowns can say will bother me, I the herd everything he salt 50 years of writing columns, newspapers. love it when attacked I can then attack back.
    David you are so full of crp not worth reacting.
    Here are Milwaukee’s Problems:
    Crime wave
    bad roads, no cops to flood crime areas cause they pump all the money into goodies to gt rejected, heroin epidemic, human trafficking, abandoned house, MPS national disgrace and on and on. In competent leaders, corruption makes Milwaukee a national disgrace mirrored by the dummies here that apologize for it all day, Sorry fro typing have 3000 emails to do today.

  33. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    David you cannot possibly had me with hatblaoney after lifetime of running campaigns and writing articles, I laugh at you well written BS. Nothing there, empty Baloney

  34. 2fs says:

    I propose that all elected officials be required to take tests – after all, they’re so keen on schoolchildren doing so – to make sure they’re aware of how government works: which levels of government are responsible for what, and so forth.

    Any official who scores below a certain level is tossed out of office. And once in office, even if they’ve passed such a test, if they make public statements that cynically play upon the public’s ignorance of such governmental responsibility, they similarly get tossed from office.

    Why *shouldn’t* our elected officials actually understand how government works in this country? Yet the number of elected idiots making statements suggesting a complete lack of familiarity is huge…

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