Barrett delivers State of City address

Photo by Ben Greene/
Photo by Ben Greene /

Mayor Tom Barrett highlighted Milwaukee’s public transportation system, health, local economy and crime rates as areas needing improvement in his 2013 State of the City address at the Pritzlaff Building Monday morning.

Eight community leaders opened the ceremonies with short presentations on the work they have done to redefine Milwaukee, followed by the mayor’s speech.

Barrett said he secured $61 million in federal funds to be invested in new, fuel-efficient buses and the establishment of a streetcar route in Milwaukee.

“Our city’s future is tied to more people living, working and investing in Milwaukee,” Barrett said. “A modern transit system is one element of our strategy to make Milwaukee the place they want to live. It’s not the only element, and it’s not our only strategy to grow Milwaukee. But a modern streetcar is an important ingredient.”

The mayor cited Cincinnati, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Kansas City, Mo., as good examples for the future of public transit in Milwaukee. All five cities either already have an established streetcar system or are in the process of obtaining one. Barrett said Milwaukee has already taken the first steps toward building a streetcar route, but the final timetable of implementation is not completely up to him.

“The final engineering phase is about to start and will determine the exact route,” Barrett said. “Yet, despite the progress we’re making, the reality is that we’re not in full control of the streetcar’s future. The State Public Service Commission may very well disrupt and delay the streetcar.”

Another main point in Barrett’s address was the state of resident health in Milwaukee. Specifically, the mayor said he hopes to devote more resources to postnatal and early childhood care. Last year, Barrett said, nearly 9,000 Milwaukee public health nurses helped expectant mothers deliver healthy babies and supported families during their children’s first years. Barrett said he plans to add even more nurses this year. He also mentioned his Healthy Birth Outcomes Initiative during his address.

“This effort is focused on reaching my ambitious goal of reducing the infant mortality rate by 10 percent citywide, and by 15 percent among AfricanAmericans by 2017,” Barrett said.

Regarding Milwaukee’s economy, Barrett said Northwestern Mutual will be a major contributor to the increase in area jobs. He said the financial firm plans to add 1,700 jobs downtown in its new tower, which should be completed in 2017.

Additionally, Barrett said he expects the actual construction of the building to “create hundreds of construction jobs for Milwaukee residents and generate new opportunities for Milwaukee-based small businesses.”

Finally, the mayor said he hopes to reduce crime rates across the city, but especially in three areas with irregularly high numbers. Barrett cited the Amani, Metcalfe and Washington Park neighborhoods, located in northwest Milwaukee, as areas that bear a disproportionately large burden of the city’s crime.

“These neighborhoods are just 2% of the City’s land area,” Barrett said. “But in 2012, 13% of the City’s violent crime, and 8% of all crimes, were committed in these three neighborhoods.”