Mayor Tom Barrett confident in State of the City address

GREG MOORE | Associated Press

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett struck a confident tone during his State of the City address on Feb. 8, despite a spike in homicides and a federal review of the city’s police department.

Barrett said his plan for Wisconsin’s largest city includes economic development, health care and violence prevention, but he didn’t mention the Department of Justice-led investigation of Milwaukee police. He said a plan to put body cameras on each officer by the end of the year is “on-track and on-budget,” and that the effort is vital for transparency and reform. The federal review was launched following the shooting death of a homeless black man at the hands of a white officer in a downtown park that spawned a series of protests. The officer involved was fired but not prosecuted.

Here’s what the mayor said about key issues:

HOMICIDES: Barrett acknowledged a significant increase in homicides — 145 in 2015, compared with 86 the previous year — and said the solution would involve community partnerships focused on youth development. He also said the county and state should work with Milwaukee police to deal with violent young offenders. Barrett said over a heckler that police took 2,500 guns off the street in 2015, a 9 percent increase over the previous year. An unidentified woman yelled: “What about the children?”

YOUTH PRISONS: The mayor didn’t mention an ongoing investigation into allegations of abuse at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake during his address, but he said afterward that he planned to speak with stakeholders about the matter this week. He said the situation at the Irma facilities was “a fiasco — a manmade disaster.” He said he was aware of a Milwaukee County plan to move 170 young offenders from Lincoln Hills but that alternative housing hasn’t been announced.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Barrett said the city will continue to reduce neighborhood blight by selling foreclosed homes, demolishing run-down buildings and giving vacant lots to adjacent property owners. He said the work has created jobs and raised property values. He also touted a construction boom downtown and said many contracts have gone to local small businesses.

HEALTH CARE: Barrett hailed a new clinic that plans to offer adolescent and primary care on the northwest side, where he said a large population has few options for children’s health care. He also addressed a plan to put nursing students in two dozen schools and efforts to reduce teen pregnancies.

REFUGEES: The mayor delivered his remarks from the Hmong American Peace Academy. He said that as politicians call for limiting refugee entries, it’s important to recognize the origins of a community that has found success after fleeing Southeast Asia during and after the Vietnam War.

RE-ELECTION: Barrett, a Democrat who was elected mayor in 2004, is seeking re-election and faces a primary challenge Feb. 16 from Alderman Bob Donovan, Alderman Joe Davis and James Methu.