Mayor Tom Barrett was optimistic and enthusiastic in his annual State of the City Address Monday.
Barrett delivered the address at the Harley-Davidson corporate offices at 37th and Juneau, where he said one of his first jobs was working on the assembly line.
"I learned how not to dump an engine on the plant floor," Barrett joked.
The Mayor highlighted how Harley-Davidson has helped to promote strong neighborhoods on the West Side.
He said that, two years ago, Harley-Davidson joined with neighbors MillerCoors, Marquette University, the Potawatomi, and Aurora Health Care to form the Near West Side Partners.
"The Near West Side Partners are bringing together businesses and residents for the common good of the neighborhood," Barrett said.
The Mayor also spoke of exciting development occurring Downtown, mentioning the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, the Milwaukee Streetcar, the Northwestern Mutual Tower and an expected new office tower for BMO Harris Bank, among other projects.
"I want to thank Northwestern Mutual, the Bucks, County Executive Abele and the County Board, members of the Common Council, and the construction trades for their commitment and investments to put Milwaukeeans to work," the Mayor said.
Barrett said $3.4-billion in investments in Milwaukee have been completed since 2005, and another $1.7-billion are currently under construction.
The Mayor touted a 5.1% unemployment rate -- down from 13 percent at this time seven years ago.
He said Milwaukee's economic progress has come despite the city generating more revenue for the state than it receives in return.
"In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue calculated that the amount of state revenue generated in Milwaukee exceeded the mount of state aid paid to the City, County and Milwaukee Public Schools by more than $460-million," Barrett said. "This means the City is getting back 66% of what we send to Madison."
"So if anyone tells you Milwaukee is a drain on the state, please correct them immediately," the Mayor said.
But Barrett said Milwaukee continues to face its share of problems -- like poverty and crime.
"Despite our strong economic progress, we confront persistent challenges on a daily basis - concentrated poverty, violent crime, aging infrastructure and the nagging problems tied to the foreclosure crisis," the Mayor said.
He said Milwaukee Police and the City are fighting crime with an "all-hands on deck" approach, noting MPD's budget now exceeds the entire property tax levy.
Barrett credited police with seizing more than 2-thousand illegal guns off of Milwaukee's streets for the third year in a row.
The Mayor said the city's Office of Violence Prevention continues to craft a community-driven violence prevention plan for Milwaukee.
It's also initiated a pilot program offering intensive case management for youth identified as either at risk, repeat offenders or prolific involvement in serious crimes, Barrett said. That's supposed to help prevent troubled youths from reoffending.
"Having our officers consistently arrest repeat offenders means three things: it means the officers are doing their jobs; it means arrests are having less of an impact on deterring unlawful behavior; and it means we're spending millions of dollars to keep our neighborhoods safe only to see the same offenders back on the street reoffending," Barrett said.
Barrett addressed last summer's unrest and violence in Sherman Park. He said the Sherman Park community won't allow itself to be defined by burning and looting.
"Among some people in our city, there is a distrust of government and law enforcement," Barrett said. "There is a deep economic and social frustration. City government has a role to play in addressing these problems."
"There is never any justification for violence and destruction," the Mayor said. "At the same time, we can't be dismissive of the real concerns that exist among people in our community."
The Mayor also said his office also remains focused on decreasing Milwaukee's high infant-mortality rate among African Americans.
And in an effort to promote literacy and learning, Barrett announced a new partnership dubbed LibraryNow, which will provide free, digital access to all of the library's online resources to every student in the MPS district.
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