An North Shore Exponent Exlclusive
CITY HALL-MILWAUKEE-In front of a packed crowd, Milwaukee Mayor and potential Democratic Governor challenger Tom Barrett faced a very tough crowd of people who questioned the motives of the Mayor and the Milwaukee Common Council in the proposed 2009-2010 budget.
A majority of the people that came to the hearing expressed their genuine disapproval towards cuts and furloughs on public safety and the Milwaukee Arts Board. The walls of city hall were packed as many people wanted their just two or three minutes worth to express their disapproval towards the Milwaukee City budget.
Milwaukee firefighters who donned their red t-shirts were easily found and drew the loudest support over cuts towards Fire and EMS services. One firefighter who testified and who is a member of the Milwaukee Fire Department honor guard said: “I am the member (of the honor guard) who prepares to tell families that their loved one may not come home. Mayor Barrett, if you move with these cuts our process (on the honor guard) is going to be accelerated.” An EMT on the Milwaukee Fire Department argued that the cuts proposed by Mayor Barrett would move the fire department backward. The EMT said that Milwaukee rates 2nd out of North American cities for response time for critical emergencies. The speaker was different from other speakers critcizing Mayor Barrett and the City Council and suggested: “instead why not we go towards creating jobs that will put people in the houses, get them to the stores, and give needed revenue to the city.” Orville Seymer of Citizens for Responsible Government who spoke at the event reminded also the Milwaukee Common Council of what happened during the John Norquist era as Mayor. Seymer citied that the relationship between public safety and the former Mayor soured over deep cuts to public safety.
The other large crowd of people that shown up at the public hearing was arts advocates and lovers. These people were crticial of a proposed provision in the budget that would cut funding to the Miwaukee Arts Board by seventy-five percent. One speaker who spoke against the proposed cuts to the Arts board would see the results damaging to Milwaukee’s economy. The person told the Common Council that close to 9,000 jobs are connected to the arts and said “that cutting funding for the Milwaukee Arts Board would have a ripple effect to Milwaukee’s economy” claming that other businesses like bars, restaurants, and parking garages would be affected by cuts to the Milwaukee Arts Board. Many arts advocates claim that cutting the funding to a medium that promotes arts in Greater Milwaukee would diminish Milwaukee’s image.
It is yet to be seen how the Milwaukee City budget will impact Mayor Barrett on other key issues including a planned takevoer for control of Milwaukee Public Schools and whether the handling of this budget could affect his intentions towards running for Governor. The next step in the Milwaukee City Budget is when the Finance and Personnel Committee on October 29th and 30th will be approving amendments to the budget. The City budget is expected to be taken up by the Milwaukee Common Council on November 6th.