Mayor Barrett delivers the State of City Address

  • Mayor Tom Barrett delivered the State of the City Address Yesterday at the Harley-Davidson Museum.
  • Barrett acknowledged areas of success in Milwaukee as well as his goals for the future of the city.
  • Barrett hopes to secure federal stimulus funding, improve mass transit in Milwaukee and address issues in Milwaukee Public Schools, among other things.
  • Barrett met with President Obama and members of his cabinet last Friday to express Milwaukee's need for federal funding.

Mayor Tom Barrett delivered his State of the City Address at the Harley-Davidson Museum yesterday.

Though Barrett emphasized the reality of the current economic crisis, he reassured those in attendance with his confidence in Milwaukee's ability to withstand hardship.

He said he chose the Harley-Davidson Museum as the site of his address because Menomonee Valley provides an encouraging example of how forward thinking can transform a community.

"I am fully confident Milwaukee will withstand the current economic downturn," Barrett said. "We will emerge as a stronger and more competitive city."

Despite this economic downturn, Barrett said the development of more than a dozen projects has created more than 2,000 jobs in the Valley.

Barrett said the city has invested $6.4 million to assist businesses in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor. He said he hopes to upgrade three of the worst Brownfields (abandoned industrial facilities) in this area in 2009.

Barrett acknowledged the unfortunate reality that foreclosures are on the rise and Milwaukee's most vulnerable citizens are being impacted.

Barrett also emphasized the need to develop a work force with more family-supporting employment opportunities.

He said Milwaukee needs to grow and sell its expertise in treating freshwater, and has potential to act as a hub for freshwater technology and research in the future.

"Growing and attracting green industries is central to my vision for Milwaukee," Barrett said.

Barrett also announced that Veolia Environmental Services and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District will proceed in the construction of a 17-mile methane gas pipeline. He said this pipeline will deliver captured landfill gas from Muskego to the Jones Island Water Treatment Facility.

"With the installation of five new methane gas turbines, MMSD will be able to meet its electrical needs and eventually produce excess electricity to put back on the electrical grid," Barrett said.

Barrett said this is a win-win situation for both businesses and the environment.

Bill Graffin, public information manager for MMSD, said the project is green for the environment, but more importantly, it is beneficial for customers' wallets.

"The project is well down the road," Graffin said. "We are hoping to have the first phase completed by January 2011 and the second phase by January 2013."

Graffin said MMSD has also been successful thus far in its overflow reduction plan, a series of projects to reduce sewage overflow and backups, which totals $1 billion.

Barrett said this pipeline is in need of federal stimulus funding, and he is working to attain any federal funding that can help improve Milwaukee's infrastructure.

Barrett met with president Obama and members of his cabinet last Friday to ensure that Milwaukee's needs were heard. He said he is not a critic of President Obama's stimulus plan.

"Congress and the President have made the decision to spend the money," Barrett said. "Since our taxpayers are going to help pay that money back, I'd much rather have that money spent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, than Milwaukie, Oregon."

Barrett also addressed challenges facing Milwaukee Public Schools. He said the MPS briefings have been some of the most difficult and sobering meetings during his time as mayor.

"There are a number of factors that drive the district's financial bottom-line: enrollment, excess facilities, district spending and state school aid formulas," Barrett said.

Though these challenges require both short- and long-term commitments, Barrett acknowledged other city commitments that have already paid off.

He specifically thanked Police Chief Edward Flynn and the Milwaukee Police Department for helping to drastically reduce violent crime in Milwaukee over the past year.

Barrett also thanked Chief Doug Holton of the Milwaukee Fire Department for helping to tie the second lowest number of fire deaths in over 50 years in 2008.

Barrett asked for the support of regional leaders in the high-speed rail initiative. He said that transportation is about more than widening highways. He said it is also about local roads and mass transit.

Alderman Robert Bauman of Milwaukee's 4th District said he is in complete agreement with Mayor Barrett on most of the issues presented, especially the necessity to invest stimulus money on the city's infrastructure.

"I am a firm believer that we should have the philosophy to fix it first," Bauman said. "We need to preserve and maintain what we have first, then we can worry about expansion."

Bauman said a discussion with the Public Works Committee revealed that all Milwaukee needs is a fair share of federal stimulus money, and the committee has more than $10 million worth of projects ready to begin.

"I am glad to hear he is making a commitment to these things," Bauman said. "We really need to address all of these issues."