Mayor Johnson Looks Back On His First 100 Days In Office
Public safety, financial issues, economic development and contracting COVID-19 for the second time.
“I’ve got a lot of energy for this job. I continue to be energetic about the challenges that we face and the opportunities that abound,” said Johnson in a press conference held in his office Friday morning.
The bullet points in the report track the dozens of press conferences Johnson has taken part in since he first became acting mayor, including welcoming the new Viking Octantis cruise ship, working with the Milwaukee Police Department to launch new traffic safety initiatives, handing out gun locks, touring the Garden Homes neighborhood with Governor Tony Evers and others, calling on insurance companies to back a program to pay for universal driver’s education, showcasing Bublr Bikes new e-bikes, effectively securing the Republic National Convention, attending the opening of Komatsu Mining‘s South Harbor Campus, looking at construction work on the 44-story The Couture and introducing a Vision Zero policy to eliminate traffic deaths.
But Johnson spent most of his time at Friday’s press conference answering questions about public safety and the city’s fiscal issues.
State shared revenue has been held flat for nearly two decades, a move which is short-changing the city more than $100 million annually from what was intended as an income tax rebate. Johnson noted the funding once covered all of the MPD budget. Today it covers approximately one-third.
“You don’t need to be an accountant to understand that if you’ve got rising costs with declining revenues that you’re going to have a problem,” said the mayor. The issue is reaching a crisis point, starting in the next budget the city will need to come up at least an extra $50 million annually to restore the pension system to 100% funded or eliminate approximately 25% of the city’s jobs. Johnson’s administration is proposing to set aside nearly all of the remaining federal ARPA funding to delay the city’s fiscal cliff by up to two years.
“We’ve been telling this story for a long time and now those problems are coming to a head. And now we really need the assistance of our partners in state government because only they can help us to provide the assistance that we need to solve the dire fiscal challenges that the city faces,” said the mayor.
Johnson reiterated his pledge to get a “cot in the Capitol” to get a deal done, but noted he didn’t expect ever to have a literal cot. “What I meant is I’m going to continue to develop these relationships,” he said. Johnson noted he went to Manitowoc last week for a League of Wisconsin Municipalities event where other city leaders expressed their challenges with the state’s revenue structure to Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu. “We’re sort of the canary in the coal mine… the dire financial challenges we face, they’re not unique to Milwaukee.”
The mayor acknowledged it was difficult to meet with legislators at this point given that they’re out campaigning for re-election. “That doesn’t stop me from being able to go to the Capitol and to go knock on doors, deliver information and try to catch legislators that I might. And that’s exactly what I’ll do,” he said.
Johnson acknowledged the city is still dealing with challenges with gun violence and other public safety issues. “It’s something that is always top of mind,” said the mayor.
He said he wouldn’t be able to solve the issue himself as mayor given state-imposed limitations. “That’s just not how it works,” said Johnson, who said it was another reason he needed to continue to build relationships with state leaders.
When asked if the city is getting enough support from District Attorney John Chisholm to address issues like record vehicle theft, Johnson didn’t explicitly answer.
“I have said time and again, and I’ll say this now, and I’ll say this now. I said when there were a lot of questions about my own brother who right before my election as mayor was arrested after committing a heinous crime with a gun. I have said that individuals, time and again, no matter who they are, if they cause death, if they cause harm, if they cause destruction in Milwaukee, then they should be held to account,” said Johnson. “If folks hurt somebody, if they kill somebody, if you’re endangering public safety, my expectation is they will be held accountable.”
Johnson said he has conversations with Chisholm and reiterated his belief that people are held accountable.
Johnson has had more than 100 days in the mayor’s office. As Urban Milwaukee reported on Dec. 22, Johnson ceremonially walked to the mayor’s office just after 5 p.m. following the resignation of Tom Barrett. His first full day in the office, Dec. 23, was 211 days ago.
Shortly after the press conference was held, Johnson’s office said the mayor took a COVID-19 test that returned a positive result. “The Mayor has been tested on at least five occasions this week, and today’s is the only test that returned a positive result,” said his office in a statement.
It’s at least the second time Johnson has contracted COVID-19 this year. A spokesperson said his symptoms are mild. Johnson is fully vaccinated and received a booster shot.
Those in the room with Johnson were all wearing masks.
A copy of the 100 Days report is available on Urban Milwaukee.