MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Sunday, March 19th stood in the middle of the state's largest public housing development and said President Donald Trump was sacrificing neighborhoods like it in Milwaukee.
The president's budget released last week slashes federal funding for housing and urban development programs, with White House officials saying the initiatives simply don't work. Barrett said Milwaukee gets close to $18 million from grant programs that are on the chopping block.
The 65-year-old Westlawn public housing development on Milwaukee's north side has received $30 million in federal funds to rebuild its aging west side to match the new homes on the complex's east side. Barrett said the planned rebuild is in jeopardy with the president's budget.
"He campaigned on making this country great. You don't make this country great by tearing down neighborhoods where people are struggling to support their families," Barrett said.
The Westlawn grant was announced to much fanfare in September 2015, under President Barack Obama's Department of Housing and Urban Development
In proposing the cuts, President Trump said the community development grant program "is not well targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results."
"We can't spend money on programs just because they sound good," said Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget.
In response, Barrett said it was a "fabrication" to say the grant programs don't work for inner cities.
"In my mind, that statement is based on as much fact as his claim that President Obama was wiretapping him," Mayor Barrett said. "You can't see it from Trump Tower. You can't see it from his Florida estate. But you can see (it) in these neighborhoods, you can see people who are working to improve the lives of other Milwaukeeans."
Alderman Cavalier Johnson, who represents a north side district, said his grandmother lived in Westlawn for 15 years, and would've loved to have been in one of the newer homes.
Johnson recalled that as a candidate, President Trump urged African-Americans in the inner city to vote for him because they have nothing to lose.
"Well evidently, when you look at dignity and where you live, when you look at opportunity for summer jobs, when you look at after-school programs for kids, you got a lot to lose," Johnson said.
President Trump's budget would also cut federal TIGER grants, which fund local transportation projects. Milwaukee is using the program to fund the downtown streetcar project.
Barrett said he doesn't think TIGER grant cuts will affect the streetcar construction, though he said he wasn't "100 percent certain."
Conversely, Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele have said the proposed bus rapid transit line between Milwaukee and Wauwatosa would likely not happen if Congress passes President Trump's spending plan in full.