Jeramey Jannene

New Mayor Offers Upbeat Inaugural Address

A who's who crowd cheers Johnson's vision of improved public safety and family-supporting jobs

By - Apr 13th, 2022 10:51 am
Mayor Cavalier Johnson speaks during his inauguration ceremony at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson speaks during his inauguration ceremony at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson proclaimed Milwaukee was entering a new chapter during his inauguration ceremony Wednesday morning. He touted a vision of improved public safety, more family-supporting jobs, improved government efficiency and better partnerships.

“We open it with an appreciation of the significance of this moment. This is a generational transition and a departure from Milwaukee’s long custom of deriving executive leadership only from men of European background. We are a diverse city. I embrace that diversity and the change that has arrived in Milwaukee,” said Johnson in a 20-minute speech. Johnson, the city’s 45th mayor, is the first Black elected to that office.

Johnson was elected with 72% of the vote in an April 5 special election to serve the remainder of Tom Barrett‘s term through April 2024.

The ceremony drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Harley-Davidson Museum, 400 W. Canal St. Johnson said the location represented the meeting of the city’s north and south sides, a traditional dividing line between Milwaukeeans.

“With every challenge Milwaukee faces, whether it’s a matter of safety, a government fiscal issue, or a concern about Milwaukee’s children, cooperation is the best path forward,” said Johnson. “This is particularly true as we address public safety.”

Johnson praised the members of the Milwaukee Police Department. “I want that department to be sufficiently staffed, and I want officers to be in the community providing effective, respectful and Constitutional community policing,” he said.

“In some serious crime categories, the trends are improving,” said Johnson, noting that robbery, burglary, rape, aggravated assaults and vehicle thefts are down. “If we can build on those trends, if we can reduce these crimes, I am confident we can bring homicide numbers down, too.”

But Milwaukee is moving in the wrong direction on homicides. A report earlier this week revealed that through the same point last year, the number of homicides has doubled over last year’s record-breaking total.

“The homicide numbers this year are unacceptably alarming,” said Johnson in calling for tougher gun laws.

He also praised workers in the Milwaukee Fire Department, Office of Violence Prevention and the Department of Public Works.

Johnson borrowed a theme from many of his predecessor’s State of the City speeches: the need for an improved relationship with state government. “Milwaukee is not alone, the system for funding local government is broken in Wisconsin,” said the mayor, noting how the state has capped Milwaukee’s revenue sources and reduced shared revenue while collecting more in sales and income taxes.

“When our economy is strong, our city is safe and qualify of life is high, the entire region benefits. Wisconsin benefits,” said Johnson. “Think of this: We may live in a competitively purple state, but there is no way the Republican Party would even consider a convention in Wisconsin without Milwaukee.”

The mayor, who pledged he would get a cot in the Capitol on the campaign trail, said he has initiated discussions with legislative leaders. Without further action, the city faces the potential need to lay off 24% of its workforce by 2026.

Johnson focused on the economy for much of his speech, connecting it to reducing crime and improving outcomes. “With the right private sector proposals, my administration will deploy the financing tools we have to get deals done and make new employment a reality across the city,” he said. “Downtown development is wonderful and I want that to continue. Even so, my priority is investment, buildings and jobs in city neighborhoods.”

The new mayor, who has served as acting mayor since late December, said he wanted to see city government become more effective. “All levels of government must be more than plodding bureaucracies,” he said. “I will not allow that at City Hall. My approach will bring goals, accountability and results to the work of municipal government.” Johnson pledged not to be a micromanager, but someone who listens, plans and champions positive change.

Much like Johnson’s election night party, the event drew a who’s who of Milwaukeeans. If you wanted to meet a government official from anywhere in Milwaukee Wednesday morning, be it a judge, district attorney, police officer, civil engineer or sewage district leader, your best bet was to be at Johnson’s inauguration. Plenty of members of the business and nonprofit community could also be spotted in the crowd, including attorney David Gruber, JCP Construction President James Phelps, Palermo’s CEO Giacomo Fallucca and GRAEF CEO John Kissinger.

The reach of the event extended beyond Milwaukee, Governor Tony Evers was in attendance as was Racine Mayor Cory Mason. Even Johnson’s mayoral primary opponent, state Senator Lena Taylor, was in attendance, as were many of the Black council members who declined to endorse him and didn’t vote for him as Common Council President in 2020.

Johnson was introduced by his wife Dominique Johnson. Introductory presentations were also provided by Milwaukee County Board Chair Marcelia Nicholson, the Milwaukee Fire Department color guard, Praise Motivated community choir, Johnson’s son Oliver, Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Evers, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, County Executive David Crowley, Johson’s second-grade, Milwaukee Public Schools-teacher Carolyn Neumann and City Clerk Jim Owczarski. The event was emceed by outgoing city HR director Makda Fessahaye.

For more on Johnson, see our December 2021 coverage, “The Incredible Rise of Cavalier Johnson.”

Categories: Politics, Weekly

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