MILWAUKEE — A week after losing the recall election to Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is back to work and focused on the City of Milwaukee. On Wednesday, June 13th, Barrett sat down with FOX6’s Mike Lowe for his first, in-depth, one-on-one interview since the recall.
Lowe: Mr. Mayor, it’s now been a little more than a week since the recall. You’re now back to work. What have you been up to the last week?
Barrett: There’s been a lot going on here at City Hall, and that’s one of the great things about being mayor — there’s no lack of things to do.
Lowe: You seem to be taking it all in stride, not looking back.
Barrett: I certainly am not someone who is a woulda, coulda, shoulda guy. I think what happened was we had a very historic moment in the state of Wisconsin. I think everybody recognizes that. It was so unusual, but I’m not the type of person who sits around and feels sorry for himself — I never have been. I’m not going to start right now, that’s for sure. There’s too much work that needs to be done here.
Lowe: There’s that phrase that I think is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson — “If you shoot the king, you must kill him.” I mean, obviously, the sense there is, if you pull the trigger you’ve got to hit the target or you’re in big trouble. Is there a sense for the Democratic Party that that could be the case now?
Barrett: Oh, I don’t think so. To the contrary. There’s two things going on here. Going through that experience, I don’t know that anybody enjoyed it, and clearly you have a situation where Gov. Walker and the Republicans for the most part had a big win — but they lost the Senate, so the public face might be very, very positive.
Lowe: What are the challenges facing the city now, with the cuts to state aid?
Barrett: We’re going to have to make some significant cuts, and that’s going to hurt all departments, and we were going through all the departments this morning, and all of their requests. There’s not a single department that will receive their requests that they asked for.
Lowe: Why does infant mortality seem to be one of those problems that we can’t seem to solve?
Barrett: A person’s life expectancy is more dependent on their zip code than their genetic code. That’s a pretty provocative statement.
Lowe: Zip codes where that’s a problem, we also see high poverty and unemployment. How do you kind of tackle these issues in the African-American community? I know you’ve made that a priority.
Barrett: You’ve nailed it, those zip codes where we see high infant mortality, we have employment issues and that is more than just health care. This is more than simply a public health model for this. It goes back to jobs we’ve lost, of development, education.
Lowe: At the same time we’re talking about all of these challenges, there’s a lot of good things going in Milwaukee that doesn’t always get covered on the news. What would you like to highlight?
Barrett: It’s a perfect week for people to come downtown and dine, whether it’s a lunch or a dinner — it’s a great way to see downtown. Of course, we’re coming into prime time with Milwaukee’s festival season.
Lowe: You now have a national profile in some sense. You’re very well known around the state now. How can you use that to the advantage of the city? Your role as mayor and your new standing.
Barrett: One of the things that did happen is a lot of people took shots at the city and you are going to see me speaking out very strongly on behalf of the city, because it doesn’t deserve the bad rap it gets from the media at times. This is a great city. Do we have our challenges? Are we facing them head on? Absolutely. But there is a lot to be said for Milwaukee.