Barrett pushes for M7 to focus on region’s central cities

Milwaukee mayor argues now is the time to address longstanding issues

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett challenged economic development leaders from across southeastern Wisconsin to focus on creating jobs in the region’s central cities, arguing there is no better to time to focus on longstanding issues.

“I think as a region we have to ask ourselves a question,” Barrett said. “If we can’t create jobs in underserved areas during the strongest economy in our lifetime, when do we do it? When should we do it if we can’t create jobs now in the most underserved areas?”

Barrett’s remarks came at the third annual M7 Economic Development Forum, held Thursday at the Italian Community Center. He noted that communities in southeastern Wisconsin spent a lot of time fighting with each other prior to the formation of M7 and a lot of progress has been made since the organization fostered more collaboration.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that the part of this region that has not shown well in this effort is the central city of Milwaukee and to some extent the central city of Racine,” Barrett said.

He acknowledged that leaders of the communities and counties that make up the Milwaukee 7 organization have to focus on their own areas.

“First and foremost, we have to be looking out for where our bread is buttered,” he said. “In other words, if you’re from Walworth County, of course Walworth County is by far your biggest priority.”

But Barrett also recalled visiting New York City as a student in the 1970s. He and a group of friends were walking toward Central Park when a police officer stopped them and strongly advised them against going into the park.

“New York City instead of running away from the problem ran to the problem,” Barrett said. “We’ve spent a lot of time as a society running away from the central cities here and I honestly believe the only way we’re going to solve all these problems is not through social programs, it’s going to be through education and creating jobs.”

The mayor said he’d rather see jobs created in Wauwatosa over Walla Walla, Washington or in Cedarburg instead of Colorado.

“I’m not trying to take away anybody’s desire to have jobs in their own community, again, you would be committing malpractice if you weren’t trying to get jobs in your own community,” Barrett said. “I want you to get as many jobs as you can for your communities, but I also want you to say and do something that says, ‘Okay, let’s deal with this problem.’”

Barrett also noted that while the 2020 Democratic National Convention will put a spotlight on the region’s strengths, it will also highlight challenges. He said the convention should be a reminder that longtime issues need attention moving forward.

“It’s not like we should be cleaning our house because our in-laws are coming, that doesn’t seem that sincere,” he said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett challenged economic development leaders from across southeastern Wisconsin to focus on creating jobs in the region’s central cities, arguing there is no better to time to focus on longstanding issues.

“I think as a region we have to ask ourselves a question,” Barrett said. “If we can’t create jobs in underserved areas during the strongest economy in our lifetime, when do we do it? When should we do it if we can’t create jobs now in the most underserved areas?”

Barrett’s remarks came at the third annual M7 Economic Development Forum, held Thursday at the Italian Community Center. He noted that communities in southeastern Wisconsin spent a lot of time fighting with each other prior to the formation of M7 and a lot of progress has been made since the organization fostered more collaboration.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that the part of this region that has not shown well in this effort is the central city of Milwaukee and to some extent the central city of Racine,” Barrett said.

He acknowledged that leaders of the communities and counties that make up the Milwaukee 7 organization have to focus on their own areas.

“First and foremost, we have to be looking out for where our bread is buttered,” he said. “In other words, if you’re from Walworth County, of course Walworth County is by far your biggest priority.”

But Barrett also recalled visiting New York City as a student in the 1970s. He and a group of friends were walking toward Central Park when a police officer stopped them and strongly advised them against going into the park.

“New York City instead of running away from the problem ran to the problem,” Barrett said. “We’ve spent a lot of time as a society running away from the central cities here and I honestly believe the only way we’re going to solve all these problems is not through social programs, it’s going to be through education and creating jobs.”

The mayor said he’d rather see jobs created in Wauwatosa over Walla Walla, Washington or in Cedarburg instead of Colorado.

“I’m not trying to take away anybody’s desire to have jobs in their own community, again, you would be committing malpractice if you weren’t trying to get jobs in your own community,” Barrett said. “I want you to get as many jobs as you can for your communities, but I also want you to say and do something that says, ‘Okay, let’s deal with this problem.’”

Barrett also noted that while the 2020 Democratic National Convention will put a spotlight on the region’s strengths, it will also highlight challenges. He said the convention should be a reminder that longtime issues need attention moving forward.

“It’s not like we should be cleaning our house because our in-laws are coming, that doesn’t seem that sincere,” he said.

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