The longest-tenured big city mayor in America starts a new term on the job with the type of responsibility no mayor ever wants: Shepherding a city through a worldwide medical emergency.
While “very thankful” to defeat Lena Taylor in Milwaukee’s local spring general election, Mayor Tom Barrett says the celebration – and the work to come right off the bat – is not the typical work, thanks to coronavirus.
“It’s going to be different because, right now, we’re in the midst of a pandemic. We didn’t even have a celebration last night. No one should given the situation,” Mayor Barrett told WTMJ’s Steve Scaffidi on Tuesday.
“Right now, the priority right now is getting us through these turbulents waters to get the economy back going and get everyone healthy again.”
Barrett shows hope with the latest Milwaukee County COVID-19 numbers showing a slower increase in total cases than before.
“As I look at the numbers this morning, we are seeing the sixth consecutive day of a decrease in cases. That bell-shaped curve, we are on the downward slope in terms of new cases. I’m hoping it’s going to stay,” he said.
Yet the Mayor is still looking long-range over what he has to accomplish over his next four-year term, hoping for greater job impacts in economically-challenged areas of the city by the time he reaches his 20th year in office in 2024.
“Try to get jobs in the central city,” he said.
“Right now, we’ve been set back with the pandemic. I want us to get back to normalcy…but the priority is to take the wins we’ve had in the heart of the city, of downtown, and get more family-supporting jobs in the neighborhoods.”
The coronavirus pandemic, and the move the Milwaukee Election Commission made to shrink from 180 polling sites to five due to 80 to 85 percent of poll workers declining to work as a safety measure, definitely changed the pathway of the election which Barrett won.
Yet Barrett said that the rancor many people felt about decisions made by Governor Evers to delay the election, and from both the Wisconsin Supreme Court to negate that move and the U.S. Supreme Court to nullify absentee ballots which would be turned in after April 7 – all that woke up the voting populce.
“As the election got more contentious – just the fact we were having an election, that put more of a spotlight on the election,” said Barrett, noting what his fellow Democrats had said were voter suppression moves on the part of two conservative courts.
“When you had that flurry of decisions…(voters) were not going to let that happen.”
Mayor Barrett said that absentee voting is “the wave of the future, without a doubt,” but he also expressed reservations about access to apply digitally for absentee ballots.
“I’ve got the smart phone to do that. There are older people, people with low incomes who are unable to do that.”