Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Presenting the “Real State of the City”

Mayoral candidate, State Sen. Lena Taylor, offers stinging rebuttal to Barrett's speech.

By - Feb 12th, 2020 02:58 pm
Lena Taylor delivers the Real State of the City. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Lena Taylor delivers the Real State of the City. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

State Senator and mayoral candidate Lena Taylor used her “Real State of the City” speech to attack Mayor Tom Barrett and what she says is a focus on the Democratic National Convention at the expense of the majority of Milwaukee residents.

“The needs of our people for the next four years trump a four-day Democratic celebration that the mayor has prioritized,” said Taylor at her campaign office Wednesday morning. “Truth be told, we have some issues to deal with in our city before, during and after the convention.” She said jobs, housing and institutionalized racism were key issues facing the city.

Barrett opened his speech Monday by discussing the convention, the same topic he left off with last year. The city was awarded the convention moments after Barrett gave his 2019 speech.

“Milwaukee is safer, our economy is stronger, and the city is more inclusive. We are working to increase economic opportunity, opportunity that’s fully and fairly shared,” said Barrett in his speech, which also doubled as a 37-minute stump speech listing off the city’s accomplishments in the past year.

But Barrett’s speech wasn’t all cheerleading. Carefully avoiding mentioning Taylor by name, the mayor issued a sharp criticism of the senator during his speech: “Unfortunately some elected officials rejected a large new facility to be built by Strauss Brands. 250 good jobs were turned away based on deliberately misleading false statements from people who put politics and naked self-interest ahead of the needs of Milwaukee residents.” (As Urban Milwaukee reported, Taylor’s aide Michelle Bryant used her radio show to stir up opposition to the deal.)

“First, let me say facts matter,” said Taylor in her response. “Second, let me say that even in a 12-step recovery you must first admit that you have a problem.” But her speech was often shaky on the facts.

While criticizing Barrett for a lack of public outreach on the deal, she said the Strauss project wouldn’t pay taxes, might not bring union jobs and would only bring 50 jobs to the city. But Strauss had proposed to relocate its entire 250-job Franklin operation to the city and maintain its union shop. The meat processor was required to create 250 additional jobs to access a city cash incentive. The project, as required by state law, would have been subject to property taxes.

Asked for clarification, Taylor said she was referring to the project’s location in a federal Opportunity Zone. The benefits of the zone apply only to federal income taxes and could partially reduce or delay a project investor’s tax burden, but have no impact on the city’s finances and are available to any applicable project. Taylor was correct in noting that 60 percent of current Strauss employees live in the city, a fact the company provided.

The 10,000 Homes Initiative, designed to create affordable housing, also drew criticism from Taylor. “The mayor tells us we are on track without any numbers,” said Taylor. But the Department of City Development provided numbers to Urban Milwaukee after Barrett’s speech showing that the city has created or maintained 2,092 affordable housing units.

Taylor also strayed from the truth on lead abatement. “The city has only replaced 2,500 lead laterals over 16 years,” said Taylor, but the city reports it has replaced 2,551 service lines since the start of 2017. “At this pace it will take 450 years for us to replace the service lines,” said Taylor. But the city’s pace is at least four times faster. The city replaced 998 lead services lines in 2019, 932 in 2018 and 621 in 2017. At the 2017 pace, it would take 112 years to replace the approximately 70,000 lead laterals in the city, which itself might have made a strong — and factual — claim for Taylor.

The legislator ended her speech like Barrett ended his – reading headlines. But with a far different tone.

“November 16th, 2019 there was a study that ranked Milwaukee as the worst city in the nation for African Americans. On November 9th, 2018 it was stated to be the worst city to raise a black child,” said Taylor. She noted Matthew Desmond‘s book Evicted, which profiles eviction in Milwaukee, was published in March 2016 and that the city has also been listed as the most segregated.

She said Barrett had failed on public safety. The city is facing a police-community relations crisis, said Taylor, with Barrett responsible for the troubles at the Fire & Police Commission. She said a sensitive investigation video leak that benefited Chief Alfonso Morales was “criminal” and could have only come from seven Milwaukee Police Department employees. Taylor promised that such investigations would be handled faster with her as mayor.

Taylor criticized the lack of homeowners in the majority-minority city as a failure of the Barrett administration. Taylor, a rental property owner, said the inability of people to own their own homes constrains their chances to build wealth. Referencing a recent report by Mike Gousha, Taylor said 60 percent of properties are owned by non-city residents. Actually, Gousha’s report notes that 69 percent of one to four unit residences are owner-occupied, down from 80 percent in 2005 and part of a decline that started when the Legislature banned Milwaukee’s residency requirements.

Taylor, repeating a line used by Alderman Tony Zielinski in his press release response, said Milwaukee is a “tale of two cities.”

“We need a mayor that is inclusive, transparent and believes in the facts,” said Taylor.

The primary election is February 18th. The top two vote getters will advance to the general election held April 7th.


Milwaukee's Real State of the City Address

LIVE! Real State of the CityTom Barrett provided a State of the City Address that was incomplete and inconsistent with the realities faced by many of Milwaukee residents.

Posted by Lena Taylor for Mayor on Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

2 thoughts on “City Hall: Presenting the “Real State of the City””

  1. Mark Nicolini says:

    In addition to getting the facts wrong, the speech (as reported) offers no specific initiatives to address her concerns.

  2. Thomas Martinsen says:

    Mayor Tom is clearly more reliable with factual information than challenger Lena.

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