Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Bids Farewell To Alders Murphy, Borkowski and Rainey

Trio leaves, but not before singing, doing impersonations and issuing a challenge.

By - Apr 9th, 2024 01:45 pm
Michael Murphy, Mark Borkowski (right side in middle image) and Khalif Rainey. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

Michael Murphy, Mark Borkowski (right side in middle image) and Khalif Rainey. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

Three Common Council members with more than 65 years of combined elected service have cast their last vote.

Michael Murphy, Mark Borkowski and Khalif Rainey each opted not to run for reelection, with their replacements winning elections last week. On Tuesday, the outgoing trio said farewell at their final Common Council meeting and drew praise and plenty of laughs from friends, family and colleagues.

“We are fortunate that Alderman Murphy’s achievements are recorded on paper, because there are many,” said Common Council President José G. Pérez after joking that there is no truth to the rumor that his first legislation was chiseled into a tablet. Murphy’s accomplishments include the creation of the Housing Trust Fund program to support affordable housing, the development of the MKE Plays program to overhaul the approximately 50 city parks, the creation of and subsequent policy implementation from the opioid task force, and multiple decades of fiscal stewardship as chair of the Finance & Personnel Committee.

Murphy, first elected in 1989, joked that he would only speak for one hour for every decade served. He leaves as the third longest-serving Common Council member in its history and said he has served with more than 60 different council members, five mayors and five council presidents. Approximately a decade ago, Murphy also served a partial term as council president himself.

The westside alderman came to City Hall as an aide in 1984 at the age of 22, and said he is leaving with a sense of gratitude. “I am immensely grateful to the people of Milwaukee who saw fit to elect me to office in 1989 and elect me eight more times,” said Murphy.

“I have always been proud of answering my own phone and holding hundreds of neighborhood meetings and walks,” said the alderman, noting the job is a mix of constituent services and public policy.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson looked on from the gallery during his remarks, with Murphy noting that Johnson wasn’t even a twinkle in his mother’s eye when the alderman first came to City Hall as an aide.

A large contingent of Murphy’s family and friends were present in the chamber, including his siblings, wife Terry Tuttle, daughter, predecessor and former boss Brian Burke, former comptroller Wally Morics and former chief of staff Sarah Zarate. He spent much of his speech thanking them and civil servants for the roles they played.

Murphy also noted that he’s leaving in an era of declining media coverage. He thanked the two reporters present and said he entered in an era when it was once more than a half dozen at every meeting. “Without the media, without that bright sunlight, we would have serious problems, not only here in our government locally, but nationally,” said the alderman.

Borkowski Goes Out Singing

Mark Borkowski will join Murphy in retirement from elected service. Both are in their 60s and have held elected office for more than three decades.

Borkowski has made a career of representing the public interests of the southwest side. He was first elected to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors in 1992 and made the jump to the Common Council in 2015 following the death of Joe Dudzik in a motorcycle crash.

“2015 was a lousy year, a terrible year,” said Borkowski. “I came in a special election. You had lost a member to a terrible accident. I had lost a good friend.” He gave a eulogy at Dudzik’s funeral.

Borkowski acknowledged what many council observers have noted in recent years: he’s not the same politician that came to City Hall. He said he arrived with a “terrible chip on my shoulder,” but came to change. “The last eight years have been really special to me. I have grown so much. I really, really have.”

His colleagues certainly noticed. While he still is almost certainly the most conservative member of the nonpartisan council, Borkowski has drawn a growing amount of praise for his support, guidance and willingness to work with others.

He leaves having served on every Common Council committee; a feat only achieved last week after volunteering to fill in for Murphy on the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. Borkowski long-chaired the Judiciary & Legislation Committee, but never shied from blunt criticism or praise on the Licenses Committee or anywhere else he served.

“His hard work will certainly be missed,” said Pérez, who also praised the alderman for his responsiveness. Borkowski said it was the council’s staff that deserved praise. “Every time I take a tour through, I say ‘hey, these are the people that work.'” he said.

“People have asked what I’m going to do after this, and I’ve said ‘well I’m going to be a singer,'” said Borkowski, who then immediately began to sing the chorus of “Listen to the Music” by the Doobie Brothers and “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. “Pay per view baby,” said Borkowski when someone reminded him the meeting was being recorded.

Borkowski thanked his family, friends and constituents, as well as his political mentor Craig Peterson, who was in the chamber.

Later in the meeting, the alderman left his colleagues with a challenge: name something after Murphy. “If there ever was a person who is most deserving of having something named after that person, it is legendary alderman Michael Murphy. Please, in the near future, find something appropriate,” he said.

What’s Next For Rainey

Rainey, 43, ends his tenure after two terms on the council.

A representative of the central city district that includes Century City and Sherman Park, he leaves a legacy of having worked to combat the city’s food deserts and improve conditions for the city’s African American residents.

“Even as he was set to leave us, he was lobbying the federal government to get an Al Jarreau postage stamp [Jarreau] richly deserves,” said Pérez. Rainey also previously had a park renamed for the jazz musician.

The alderman, who made the jump to the council after serving on the county board from 2013 to 2016, reflected on how things changed quickly after he was elected.

“I remember being sworn in. It was like the best day of my life,” said Rainey. “Then four months after that my district was on fire and it was the Sherman Park riots. As Alderman Borkowski said, that was a baptism by fire so-to-speak.”

Rainey thanked many of his other colleagues for their service and wisdom. He praised Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs for her passion and had the chamber in laughter after performing an impression of the booming, deep voice of Ald. Russell W. Stamper, II.

He ended his speech with laughter by invoking a line former mayor Tom Barrett gave in a 2022 interview. “It’s all yours baby.”

Rainey has not confirmed what he will do next, joking with Urban Milwaukee and his colleagues that he’s headed to Disneyland. At both the city and county levels, he was involved in the creation of the offices of African American affairs.

Who’s Next?

The council, sans the three outgoing members, will gather April 16 for its charter meeting to be sworn in and to elect a new president. DiAndre Jackson will replace Rainey, Peter Burgelis will replace Borkowski and Sharlen Moore will replace Murphy. All 15 members are elected to four-year terms.

For more on each of their careers, see our earlier coverage of Murphy, Borkowski and Rainey.


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Categories: City Hall, Politics

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