Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Barrett Confirmation Hearing Set for Tuesday

If Mayor Tom Barrett is quickly confirmed, mayoral election would occur alongside Spring elections.

By - Oct 29th, 2021 02:40 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett delivers his 2022 budget to the Milwaukee Common Council as Council President Cavalier Johnson looks on. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett delivers his 2022 budget to the Milwaukee Common Council as Council President Cavalier Johnson looks on. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett‘s pending appointment to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg could be moving forward.

Barrett missed the Wisconsin Center groundbreaking Thursday because he was in Washington D.C. meeting with Republican U.S. Senate staffers. It appears it was a fruitful meeting.

A hearing on his nomination is now scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 2 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

His appointment, first announced Aug. 25 by President Joe Biden, previously appeared to be stalled alongside dozens of others as Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) engaged Biden in a proxy war over a Russian gas pipeline.

Cruz, alongside Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), serves on the committee before which Barrett will appear. The committee is chaired by Bob Mendez (D-New Jersey), with whom Barrett served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 through 2003.

But a vote on the nomination has not been scheduled.

Barrett, 67, has served as Milwaukee mayor since 2004 and is the longest-serving big-city mayor in the country. He was re-elected four times, most recently in April 2020.

In his new role he would lead the U.S. embassy in Luxembourg, located in Luxembourg City, and represent the U.S. government. Situated between Germany, France and Belgium, Luxembourg has a population of approximately 620,000, similar to Milwaukee. But despite being one of the smallest countries in Europe, the country is approximately 10 times the size of the City of Milwaukee.

Luxembourg is a sovereign nation led by a monarch, the grand duke. It also has a parliament led by a prime minister. The official language of the country is Luxembourgish, along with administrative languages of German and French.

The ambassador post is currently held by Casey Mace, the embassy’s charge d’affaires (chief of mission). Mace took on the caretaker role after appointed ambassador Randy Evans stepped down following the end of President Donald Trump‘s term in January.

Special Election Timeline

Barrett’s nomination moving forward would set in motion a series of events in Milwaukee.

If and when Barrett steps down, Common Council President Cavalier Johnson would become acting mayor until a special election is called. He would not have to resign from his council seat to become acting mayor, but could not vote during the time he is acting mayor.

State law requires a special election to be called by the Common Council “as promptly as possible.” While it is unknown when Barrett would be confirmed and step down, the date of the special election would be between 62 and 77 days from when it is ordered by the council.

Put simply, if Barrett resigns and the council calls a special election between Nov. 15 and Dec. 28, the special election would take place alongside the non-partisan spring elections. That would save the city the approximately $350,000 cost of staging a standalone election said Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg earlier this month.

A primary would be held Feb. 15 and a general election April 5. The position is non-partisan.

Johnson was the first to file for the race. Sheriff Earnell Lucas is also running, as is current alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and former alderman Robert Donovan. Other candidates that have filed include entrepreneur and Swarmm Events founder Michael Sampson, activist and former aldermanic candidate Nicholas McVey and Sheila Conley-Patterson.

The winner of the special election would not get a full four-year term, but instead the remainder of Barrett’s term, which ends in April 2024.

Categories: City Hall, Politics, Weekly

One thought on “City Hall: Barrett Confirmation Hearing Set for Tuesday”

  1. Mark Nicolini says:

    This is only a partial reply, but I think it’s necessary to correct some of the statements included in comment # 2.

    When Tom Barrett was elected Mayor, the employer contribution for pensions was exactly $0. By 2010 it had increased to $49 million. In this Budget it’s about $73 million.

    To simplify, these increases were due to historically negative investment returns due to the Global Financial Crisis. Unlike the County, there was no “Backdrop” or any other major pension benefit improvement during the Mayor’s tenure. He also supported changes that resulted from an Ald. Murphy Task Force, which maintained sustainable pension benefits while lowering liabilities by about $90 million.

    He managed this financial challenge in the face of declining State aid. During 2011 and 2012 he used a temporary budget surplus to add $44 million to the pension reserve fund (an Alderman Murphy legislative creation) to help smooth the Budget impact of these contribution increases. Mayor Barrett could have tried to use the surpluses in a politically attractive manner, to aid in his campaign for Governor. Instead he chose the high road, and won unanimous Council support for this initiative.

    Mayor Barrett and the Council, have also cooperated in increasing the amounts employes pay for their benefits, as well as for health care benefits. This has lowered the pressure on the City Budget substantially.

    As to the question, how deep is the problem, it is significant. However, it’s possible to manage IF the elected officials, Annuity and Pension Board, and labor unions collaborate toward their mutual benefit, as opposed to continuing to adhere to an actuarial death wish. Of course, meaningful support from State government could ease the problem significantly. But I wouldn’t bet the farm–or even my community garden–on that one.

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