State of the City: Mayor Tom Barrett confident despite homicides, police reform

MILWAUKEE  — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Monday, February 8th struck a confident tone as he delivered his State of the City address -- despite a spike in homicides and a federal review of the Milwaukee Police Department.

In his address, Barrett said the plan to address the challenges facing the state's largest city includes economic development, health care and violence prevention.

The speech was delivered at the Hmong American Peace Academy near 84th and Glendale in Milwaukee.

"It`s an award-winning school that`s educating Milwaukee`s future leaders," Mayor Barrett said.

This was Barrett's eleventh State of the City address. He began with the positives in Milwaukee -- like improvements made to neighborhoods plagued by abandoned and foreclosed homes, an increase in employment and an investment in Milwaukee's youth.

"We`ve demolished nearly 600 run-down properties, making neighborhoods safer. At the end of 2015, there were more Milwaukee residents working that at any point since 2011. Since 2005, nearly $25 million has been raised to employ Earn & Learn teens in Milwaukee. That`s a lot of hope and opportunity. More than 25,000 teens have been hired," Barrett said.

Mayor Barrett also highlighted the decrease in teen birth rates in Milwaukee, and an increase in the number of lead-safe homes.

But Barrett didn't deny a troubling fact about Milwaukee.

"2015 was a challenging year for Milwaukee," Barrett said.

He acknowledged a spike in both homicides and car thefts.

"But it has not deterred our officers, who took more than 2,500 guns off our streets in 2015," Barrett said.

Barrett didn't mention the police reform efforts being led by the Department of Justice. He did discuss the plan to put body cameras on each Milwaukee police officer by the end of the year, and said after the speech it's vital for transparency and reform.

The federal DOJ review of the Milwaukee Police Department launched after several protests following the shooting death of Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park in April 2014.  The officer involved was fired but not prosecuted.

Mayor Barrett ended the speech by thanking some of the city's "all stars," and urging perseverance.

"I have faith in our residents and faith in the future of this great city," Mayor Barrett said.

Mayor Barrett is seeking a fourth term in office.

The primary election is February 16th.