Rocky Marcoux’s Job in Jeopardy
Council majority votes no, but decision will get reconsidered. His chances look slim.
In a surprising development, Rocky Marcoux‘s job as the Commissioner of City Development is in serious jeopardy. Marcoux’s reappointment was scheduled for approval at the meeting of the Common Council and looked to be a done deal following a positive Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee vote (of 4-0 in favor of reappointment), but then things went sideways for the commissioner.
A surprise negative vote and lengthy debate on the council floor will result in Marcoux starting the whole process over at committee.
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.
As I reported on June 28th, Marcoux delivered a lengthy speech highlighting his accomplishments in the past 12 years that touched on every district in the city. Following that speech, the committee voted to recommend reappointment of Marcoux for four more years, with a diverse group of four council members voting in favor and alderwoman Milele Coggs abstaining in anticipation of a one-on-one meeting with Marcoux.
The move was clearly a surprise to many as it happened, with Bohl quickly turning on his light to speak and moving to change his vote to no. Bohl’s change to the winning side allowed him to move to reconsider, and more importantly, to advocate for sending the appointment back to committee. During a lengthy floor-debate that involved repeated questions for City Clerk Jim Owczarski on the rules, Bohl repeatedly implored his fellow council members to send the item back to committee. Bohl concluded his remarks by stating “if you don’t have a game plan in place, I think it would be foolish to literally just pull the plug here today. Again, I think we should weigh our options.”
Ald. Zielinski led the opposition to Marcoux on the council floor, but at times his comments seemed more an attack on Mayor Barrett. “This has nothing to do with him as a person. This has everything to do with the future of Milwaukee. In the last 12 years that he has been commissioner of city development we have fell far short of the expectations for the city of Milwaukee.” Zielinski went on to lament the loss of a lithium ion battery plant, that he believes was poised to come to the city until it was “mishandled” by the commissioner. In a follow-up floor speech, Zielinski went on to lament the high black unemployment rate and a number of other factors as signs of Marcoux’s failings.
During their floor speeches, a number of council member including Murphy and Bohl, seemed to be talking about Rocky as if he was already a dead duck. Murphy said it would be unfortunate for Marcoux’s long career of public service to end like this, and Bohl discussed the need for a national search if anything is to be done.
Following the floor debate, Marcoux’s reappointment was granted reconsideration on a 10-to-five vote and then unanimously sent back to committee.
Marcoux, who one high-ranking county official described to me as “an expert politician,” will certainly be making the rounds to council offices again to make his case. He’ll have to contend with the opposition of many that he hasn’t overseen enough development outside of Downtown. The commissioner has been here before though, having had his reappointment sent back to committee in 2012.
Do the council members voting against Marcoux, including Rainey who flipped his vote, really want Marcoux gone or are they driving a hard bargain? We’ll find out soon.
Marcoux was the only one of the mayor’s appointees not to be affirmed by the council.
Correction: An early version of this story incorrectly suggested Ald. Perez is a member of the ZND committee and changed his vote when the full council voted. Perez doesn’t serve on that committee and didn’t change his vote.