Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Taylor Slams Barrett Over Residency

Mayoral candidate cites losses since residency requirement ended by Legislature.

By - Nov 15th, 2019 02:07 pm
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee
Senator Lena Taylor speaking outside Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Senator Lena Taylor speaking outside Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

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.

When asked what she would do to address the issue, Taylor demurred. “Instead of trying to legislate from this podium, the piece that I’m saying to you is that we need a mayor that prioritizes the taxpayers and prioritizes the people,” said the candidate.

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.

A 2015 report by my colleague Bruce Murphy predicted that the city’s tax base would be reduced by over $600 million as a result of the change.

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.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

More about the 2020 Mayoral Race

Categories: City Hall, Politics

6 thoughts on “City Hall: Taylor Slams Barrett Over Residency”

  1. blurondo says:

    This is probably the most useless press conference ever.

  2. JMcD says:

    Is this the kind of tripe we expect to hear as the election draws near? Just make up a claim, with no basis, and peddle it?

  3. jayoak says:

    Wow not all the nuts are on trees

  4. Gregg Mulry says:

    I know she is running for his job, and politics is a dirty business, but her claim is baseless. What would she have done, that Barrett did not do, when the legislature and courts took the matter out of his hands?

  5. mkwagner says:

    If Barrett bares responsibility for the end of residency because he was mayor of Milwaukee, what responsibility does Lena Taylor bare for being a member of the joint finance committee and NOT doing all in her power to prevent the residency rule from moving forward to a floor vote?

  6. Trmott says:

    Brilliant reply, Lena. “When asked what she would do to address the issue, Taylor demurred [saying] “Instead of trying to legislate from this podium, … I’m saying … we need a mayor that prioritizes the taxpayers and ….the people.”

    Translation: “I have no idea what I would do, but if elected I promise to try my best to think about it and if someone has an idea, please send me a note sometime.”

    If I were living outside the city limits and were an excellent candidate for a City job in the future, I might just toss my hat in the ring. But I sure wouldn’t take a job here if I had to uproot my family, put my kids in less desirable public schools (or pay for high quality private ones) and lower my standard of living in order to be able to pay property taxes.

    Reminder to Ms. Taylor: captive labor, company towns, etc, are things of the past. We kind of like “liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ in pursuing our lives. I know that if my employer dictated where I could live, I’d feel like a serf, resent it, and find other work. My freedom should not be secondary to your budget.

    Suggestion: make the needed management, procedural, and governance changes to reduce wasted/ineffective spending, cut the taxes, fix the schools, and we might not see people eying the greener grass on the other side(s) of out city limits.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us