MILWAUKEE — Mayor Cavalier Johnson joined The Tory Lowe Show on 101.7 The Truth on Monday afternoon for an in-depth, 1-on-1 discussion that touched on his raise, tax increases, reckless driving, the 2024 RNC, and how Milwaukee’s first elected Black mayor is helping his community in the two years since ‘Acting’ was dropped from his title.
“When I go to neighborhoods that I lived in and knock on those doors, or when I go to schools… and I see young people in Milwaukee and engage with young people in Milwaukee and they see the reflection in me for the first time as somebody who looks like them in this position, that’s when I’m reminded about the awesome responsibility that I have, not just as mayor, but also as the first Black mayor elected.”
Lowe, a well-known community activist with deep ties across Milwaukee, centered the conversation on how Mayor Johnson and city government are helping, or not helping, predominantly-Black communities on the city’s north side.
Mayor Johnson quickly highlighted his initiatives to curb reckless driving, explaining that many of the citizens harmed in these incidents are Black. When asked about addressing lead poisoning, which is disproportionately impacting Milwaukee’s Black families, Mayor Johnson cited his goal of eliminating the issue within 20 years – a milestone that was soon after overshadowed by the Biden Administration’s call to fix lead poisoning issues within 10 years.
When asked why expansion projects in the downtown area are being prioritized over projects on the city’s North side, Mayor Johnson told Lowe that the number of available jobs within the city limits would increase, providing stable income to locals who need it most. That segued into the Northwestern Mutual tower project — an example of the Residents Preference Program helping Black employees find steady jobs with a livable wage.
Why are taxes rising and why did Mayor Johnson get a raise?
Lowe turned the focus to increased rates for Milwaukee taxpayers — specifically highlighting a reported $20,000 raise to the Mayor’s salary included in citywide pay bumps.
“For probably 30 years, if not more than that, the City of Milwaukee — and not just the City of Milwaukee, but governments across the entire state of Wisconsin — were in a position where they were facing certain financial doom,” Mayor Johnson explained. “They were not getting enough money back from the state government to fund critical government services.”
He continued to explain that “if we didn’t get a fix here, then the City of Milwaukee would’ve fallen off our financial cliff.” Ramifications of this would’ve included the closure of public libraries and mass layoffs in the Police Department, Fire Department and other city projects.
So why did the Mayor receive a lucrative raise as part of these shifts? He explained that it was part of a wider push to make Milwaukee city jobs more competitive. As an employee of the city, his role as Mayor falls under this umbrella. Ultimately, this shift was made because the city was having trouble filling many of its roles or keeping employees from leaving quickly. By increasing the pay scale for city jobs, including his own, they’d be able to hire and keep talented people in key jobs.
Furthermore, Mayor Johnson believes updated tax rules will make it so visitors from Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties will begin contributing to the services they partake in when visiting the City of Milwaukee.
What has Mayor Cavalier Johnson done for Milwaukee’s Black community?
When Lowe returned to the question of what the mayor has done for Milwaukee’s Black community during his tenure in the role, Johnson took a moment to make it clear he still carries his roots with him closely.
“It’s not lost on me the fact that I came up in 53206, that I went to Milwaukee Public Schools, that I was the first person in my family to go to college, and the challenges, the struggles around that. It’s not lost on me that I lived on 19th & Center, and 21st & Wright and 20th & Wright, and 6th & Clarke, and 33rd & Walnut,” he explained. “It’s not lost on me that we have to get these lead service lines out of the ground because the majority of people in Milwaukee, I believe, who are lead poisoned are black children.”
His examples of specific things he’s accomplished that helped Milwaukee’s black community, whether directly or indirectly, included the demolition of the vacant Northridge site, increasing affordable housing — creating new and sustainable jobs on the north side in the process — helping to save jobs at American Family Field through the ballpark funding deal, and keeping public services available.
Mayor views the 2024 RNC as a tremendous opportunity for the City of Milwaukee.
As for the 2024 Republican National Convention, which will take over Fiserv Forum for four days in July, Mayor Johnson views this as a chance to show what Milwaukee has to offer on a massive scale. He feels it could “open the door for other political, business, sports and entertainment events to choose Milwaukee to create more opportunities for people on the ground here.”
While the city had to ‘fight and scrap’ against larger cities for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which was scaled back by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is Milwaukee’s chance to “have the attention, the eyeballs of the world on Milwaukee, to get more business to look at Milwaukee, to get more people to look at Milwaukee, to create more opportunities for Milwaukee, and to open the door, not just for the RNC — to me, this is the beginning, not the end…”
As for the actual contents of the Republican National Convention?
“I’m certainly against the political stuff that’ll happen inside Fiserv Forum, but on a business sense and growing Milwaukee, I think it makes all of the sense in the world,” Mayor Johnson said.
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