Taylor Slams Barrett Over Residency
Mayoral candidate cites losses since residency requirement ended by Legislature.
Senator and mayoral candidate Lena Taylor called a press conference outside City Hall Friday morning to bash Mayor Tom Barrett over a recent report illustrating the devasting effects of the elimination of the city’s residency requirement for employees.
As of August 2019, 28 percent of the city’s 6,438 employees live outside the city. The change comes after Republicans included a provision in the 2013-2015 state budget that eliminated residency requirements. The unions representing Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) and Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) employees backed the proposal, as they had backed Governor Scott Walker in his gubernatorial run against Barrett.
Members of those two unions have also been the group of city employees most aggressively taking advantage of the ruling. Forty-five percent of both MFD and MPD employees now live outside the city.
“There is no one that bears responsibility more than Tom Barrett,” said Taylor, who was a member of the Wisconsin Senate when the proposal was passed. Calling it a crisis, Taylor said Milwaukee needs a mayor that looks out for all of the city.
The city contested the law in court, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against the city in 2016.
Taylor repeatedly attacked Barrett for appointing attorney Brett Blomme, who leads the Cream City Foundation, as head of the Board of Zoning Appeals. She criticized Blomme for not living in the city, an issue that has become part of the narrative for both Blomme and his opponent in a race for a post on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. But Blomme, whose husband and children live in Dane County, does own a house in Milwaukee.
“I will prioritize the taxpayers of the city of Milwaukee. I will prioritize the interests of the homeowners of the city of Milwaukee. And I will incentivize so that the dollars we pay out come back to the pot,” said Taylor.
The city instituted a three percent raise earlier this year only for employees living in the city.
Is it really a big deal that the residency requirement was unilaterally removed after 75 years? “We thought it would be bad and it’s bad,” said one council member who walked by the media gaggle before the press conference. Mike Gousha‘s recent report found substantial growth in the number of rental properties, particularly those owned by suburban landlords, in a number of neighborhoods long known for the heavy presence of public safety employees and owner-occupied homes. MPD recruiting classes are also getting whiter according to a department representative.
Coupled with a similar change at Milwaukee Public Schools, approximately 9,500 employees and their family members now live outside of Milwaukee.
Barrett’s campaign responded to the criticisms with a press release calling the claims “baseless and absurd.” In the statement, the campaign said: “She knows that Tom Barrett fought tooth and nail against a hostile, Republican-controlled legislature and Governor to keep them from ending residency. The facts are clear but instead of telling the truth Senator Taylor is doing what politicians often do—she’s substituting press conferences for real leadership and offers false charges hoping something can stick to her opponent and advance her political career.”
The primary election for the mayoral election is February 18th, 2020. A general election featuring the top two vote getters from the primary will be held April 7th.
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