Wow! Now I feel terrible.
Sure, Tom Barrett is a nice guy. (As I’ve stated in previous posts, this is always the first thing that everyone says about him.) Yes, he got beat up trying to help someone, so I understand that some people who may never have given any thought to him have joined his “nice-guy” fan club. But, really, what has he done as mayor of Wisconsin’s largest city?
Where's the beef?
Tom Barrett is to be admired for having done nothing to embarrass Milwaukee. But he has also done little of substance to help Milwaukee. He has appeared at press conferences, shaken hands, and given pats on the back. Aside from that, the most notable thing he’s done is shave his mustache.
(Looks nice!)His saving grace may be the hiring of Police Chief Flynn, who has managed to change the perception of Milwaukee as a crime-ridden city. Other than that stroke of luck -- thanks to the Bradley Foundation’s intervention into the mayor’s failed search for a chief – Tom Barrett has merely gone through the motions.
I know this sounds harsh, but I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said at city hall – or worse. The word from inside is that the mayor has been totally hands off and has left a huge void in city government. In reality, rather than Tom Barrett running the city of Milwaukee, there are four other people doing the real work. They are named below in order of my ranking of them in power/influence:
First, Common Council President Willie Hines has basically taken the reins of city government and nearly single-handedly made Milwaukee more efficient. He’s the one who put forth the audit of police overtime (which Chief Flynn has followed); he cut waste and dedicated more funding to infrastructure. As my alderman, he has been easily accessible. At the same time, he seems to be constantly out working on behalf of the city. If there is one – and ONLY one – reason that I’d want Barrett to be governor, it’s so that Hines could be mayor.
(Barrett 2010. Bad for Wisconsin. Good for Milwaukee! …Hmmm, that needs work.)Second, Chief of Police Ed Flynn has made MPD more effective and raised morale among officers. (Well maybe not the detectives but....) He has cut overtime and boosted Milwaukee’s confidence in its police force. AND...Thank God for a cool summer.
Third, Rocky Marcoux, as head of the Department of City Development, makes decisions totally independent of Barrett (not that he’s doing a great job) and has carte blanche to do whatever he wants. And fourth, Patrick Curley, the mayor’s chief of staff, is the one who makes day-to-day decisions about what’s good for Milwaukee.
Hines, Flynn, Marcoux and Curley. What.. No Moe?I'm not a reporter, I just happen to be watching on the day the Mayor of Newark, N.J., Cory Booker, was on Meet the Press. His demeanor impressed me. He referred to Newark as "his city." He had vision for the city and was passionate about the city’s issues. Ownership has its merits.
I see no such passion and vision in Tom Barrett.
What’s clear to me is that Mayor Barrett is hands-off. For example, did you hear the back-story on how 50 of Milwaukee’s finest were sent to Pittsburgh for the G20 Summit? As Dan Bice wrote in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Chief Flynn had decided it was a bad idea – Pittsburgh didn’t have its act together. But Barrett got a call from the mayor of the former Steel City and said, “Sure, why not?” The mayor had no clue what sending police officers to Pittsburgh entailed. A fiasco was born when, instead of sending the legislative file to the Common Council when he first got word, he sat on his hands and waited until the 11th hour. President Hines had to call a special Common Council meeting to get the proper approval.I’m just saying… Barrett doesn’t run this city.
I’ve heard Mayor Barrett talk about the reasons why he might (or might not) run for governor: family, funds, campaign organization, etc. What I’ve never heard from him is what he would DO as governor. Why does he want the job? Because it’s the job he’s always wanted? (See 2004.) Because it’s a “promotion”? What’s his agenda? What are his goals? What is his vision?No one knows.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin and Milwaukee are in trouble. They need visionary leadership, passionate involvement and innovative solutions from their executives. I am absolutely in agreement with those people who say Tom Barrett is a nice guy. But nice isn’t good enough.