Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Rocky Marcoux Wins Committee Approval

DCD leader was thought to be in trouble, but city committee votes 4-0 to reconfirm.

By - Jun 28th, 2016 02:56 pm
Rocky Marcoux. Photo by Laura Thompson

Rocky Marcoux. Photo by Laura Thompson

Despite rumors suggesting otherwise, Commissioner of City Development Rocky Marcoux is on track for four more years at the helm of the Department of City Development. The city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee voted to confirm the reappointment of the long-time commissioner following a lengthy presentation and question-and-answer session.

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.

Prior his reappointment hearing, Marcoux spent well over an hour giving a fast-paced presentation with countless slides. The presentation, which came at the request of committee chair Jim Bohl, was intended for Marcoux to provide an “update on city-wide (non-downtown) development, job and business growth initiatives.” Boy, did he.

Marcoux, known for giving high-energy, lengthy speeches about the good things happening in Milwaukee, turned the dial up to 11 for this speech. His speech was fast-moving and wide-ranging, strategically touching on projects in every aldermanic district. The commissioner has a rare gift for making every item he talks about it seem even more important and more successful than the one before it, and this morning’s speech was no exception.

Let The Questions Begin

When asked by alderman Russell Stamper, II which accomplishment he’s most proud of during his time as commissioner, Marcoux offered up the Growing Prosperity action plan. Growing Prosperity is a city-wide plan that according to Marcoux “has seen national attention as an economic development blueprint.”

Listing other accomplishments during his time on the job, Marcoux noted that he was able to move “men and women of color” from 17 percent of the Department of City Development’s workforce to 34 percent. According to Marcoux, the 77 employees in the department are 58 percent female, up from 54 percent in 2004. Challenges and opportunities lie ahead though, as Marcoux noted 17 of the employees are retirement eligible.

Marcoux, who frequently must interact with the council, praised the team effort that has led to many brownfield redevelopments in the city. He also said he’s pleased with the number of Milwaukee residents working on city projects, but added the city is nowhere near where it needs to be.

When asked about his plans for the next four years by rookie council member Khalif Rainey, Marcoux waved the Growing Prosperity plan and said “this is a ten year plan and we’re 18 months into this plan. I would hope we would achieve all of our mid-range plans in this plan in the next four years.” Marcoux went on to reference redeveloping brownfields into job centers including Reed Street Yards and Century City, finishing the Lakefront Gateway project, extending the streetcar beyond Downtown and improving the city’s housing stock.

Rookie Mistakes

The power shakeup on the Common Council under new president Ashanti Hamilton is still very evident at the committee level. Last time Marcoux was re-appointed he sat in front of a committee with all veteran council members and was questioned on detailed process and strategy issues. This time Marcoux had to field questions from council newcomers Rainey and Stamper about how his department works. Stamper, who refers to the commissioner as “Rock,” even had to be corrected by Marcoux when Stamper asked about DCD employees giving out fines. That’s for the Department of Neighborhood Services, and under the purview of another commissioner.

The Old Rocky Road

Alderman Nik Kovac, who grilled Marcoux during the 2012 reappointment hearing, said “four years ago I told you I wanted more consistency and transparency.” Kovac praised the grocery store planned for Bronzeville, but asked Marcoux for a little more transparency about how the city pivoted to land one on the near South Side — that is, how Marcoux went from trying to land the planned move of the FBI office at S. 1st. and E. Greenfield Ave. to getting a grocery store as part of the Freshwater Plaza development at the same time. Marcoux noted the change came out of a discussion with neighborhood stakeholders.

Before voting, Kovac closed his remarks by stating that “I had some very strong critiques of the commissioner four years ago.” Drawing laughter from the audience Kovac noted that “I even like his slides, kind of in the same way you like War and Peace and Anna Karenina.” Stating that the DCD “job is extremely complicated,” the alderman ticked off a number of things Marcoux has done well, including the redevelopment of the Menomonee Valley, an “absolute A+.. that gives us hope for the 30th Street Corridor,” the department’s focus on the entire city even as the market focuses on Downtown, the marketing of the facade grant program (something Kovac noted at the Good City Brewing opening) and Marcoux’s leadership on the streetcar and how the streetcar will expand to serve much of the city. “Overall he runs a competent department and he’s a competent and passionate individual.”

Kovac also praised structural changes that have taken place, including moving historic preservation out of DCD to the city clerk’s office and assigning plan examination to DNS.

Kovac closed his remarks by saying “I wanted to change horses four years ago, but it turns out the horse himself has changed.”

Alderwoman Milele Coggs, who represents the northwestern portion of Downtown, Harambee and areas to the west, abstained from voting on the reappointment. Explaining her abstention, Coggs stated “I represent some of the poorest people in the city and some of the richest people in this city.” She noted that while Marcoux has helped steer lots of improvements to parts of her district, including a new grocery store, much of her district is overlooked. Coggs said she couldn’t leave those people behind.

Marcoux, who was rumored to be the only commissioner going office-to-office selling himself to council members in advance of the post-election re-appointment hearing, has been unable to meet with Coggs yet. Coggs, perhaps just a shrewd negotiator looking for more projects in her district, will meet with Marcoux before the full council vote.

Alderman Stamper concluded the hours-long DCD showcase by motioning for approval of Rocky’s reappointment. The motion carried 4-0, a signal that Rocky’s reign may continue in Milwaukee.


One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Rocky Marcoux Wins Committee Approval”

  1. Margaret says:

    It is sad that neither Rocky Marcoux nor Nic Kovac feel any need to do anything abut the disaster area that is Downer Avenue.

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