Barrett Stresses Jobs in UWM Talk

At a forum Monday at UW-Milwaukee, Milwaukee Mayor Barrett, a Democrat running for governor of Wisconsin, stressed the importance of making higher education more affordable, creating a high rail system, and improving the economy.

Barrett also outlined his plans for the state if he is elected into office. Barrett headlined the third “Fireside Chat” at UW-Milwaukee last Monday.

Barrett’s first focus as the chat began was on jobs. “Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs jobs. That is by far the biggest issue the state is facing right now,” Barrett immediately said after giving a short review of his resume. “What can we do as a state to create more jobs so people can support their families? There is only one candidate in this race who has worked to create jobs in the state of Wisconsin.

Affordable education was another important topic during the chat. Mayor Barrett expressed his desire to continue to help fund higher education and pledged to give his full support to UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences.

Students, staff and citizens from the community gathered in the Alumni Fireside Lounge to hear Barrett speak and answer questions from the audience.

The chat was the final of the “Fireside Chat” series, with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and Mark Neumann, both Republican gubernatorial candidates, each hosting their own individual chats. The series, which was free and open to the public, was sponsored by UW-Milwaukee Panther Advocates. According to their website, Panther Advocates is a coalition of UWM alumni focused on higher education at the university. Their objective is to make sure the voice of the campus community is heard when issues involving the university come before the state Legislature. Participation is voluntary and is open to current students as well as alumni.

The lounge is small, with a fireplace in the back, providing a more casual and less formal setting. Lynn Wilk was a contact for all three events. “Bringing the three candidates to the university’s Alumni Fireside Lounge will allow them to discuss matters of higher education and other priorities with UWM students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community in a nonpartisan setting,” Wilk said in a press release for the chats.

UWM’s own Political Science Professor and Chair Marcus Ethridge served as moderator for the event. Audience members were allowed to write down questions and representatives from the College Democrats of Wisconsin and College Republicans of Wisconsin decided which of the questions would be selected for answer by Mayor Barrett.

Lisa Brown, events director for the College Democrats of Wisconsin, says questions are picked based on how they relate to the current hot topics. “It’s probably going to focus around transportation because we have one candidate, our candidate, Mayor Tom Barrett is for the railway from Madison to Milwaukee being put in, then healthcare and education reform,” Brown said. “Those are the three hot topics.”­­

Mark Zeihen, co-chair for the College Republicans, was also on hand to help moderate. He was unsure which of the Republican runners, Neumann or Walker, would win the primary and go on to run against Barrett. “That’s tough, I really don’t know yet,” Zeihen said when asked which of the two would be a better candidate. “That’s why I’m happy we’re having these forums right now.

Turnout for the event was large, with each chair in the lounge being filled and guests standing in the back. Brent Johnson, a UWM freshman, was an undecided voter and attended the previous chats with Scott Walker and Mark Neumann. “Most important to me personally is making more jobs. I’d like to be employed over the summer,” Johnson said before the chat began. “I’d like to hear how Tom Barrett plans to create jobs, just like I heard from Scott Walker and Mark Neumann.”

Barrett was first elected mayor of Milwaukee in 2004, and was elected into office for a second term in 2008. According to his biography on his website, he received 79 percent of votes in 2008, the largest percentage a candidate has received in 40 years.

Barrett pledged to use his experience as Milwaukee mayor to create and continue to provide jobs for the citizens of Wisconsin, and talked about the success of the “Milwaukee 7.” He explained how he reached out to business leaders in seven counties around Milwaukee County to create more jobs in the area. Two of those successes include the Midwest Airlines deal that created 800 jobs, and Talco, a high speed rail builder, who recently announced that it would build its North American headquarters in Milwaukee on the former Tower Automotive grounds.

Barrett said these opportunities came to Milwaukee by being “proactive and aggressive” and convincing companies that this is “a good state to raise a family in and to do business in. That’s what I’ve done for the past six years as Mayor and that’s what I plan to do if I am elected governor.”

Johnson was pleased with what Barrett had to say. “He’s definitely not a bad candidate for governor,” Johnson said after the chat. “I’d like to see our School of Freshwater Sciences grow and I’m glad to see that if elected governor he would move that into the forefront.”

The Republican Primary will be held in September and the general election for governor will be held in November.