Saturday, June 11, 2016

If 262 Republicans dislike Milwaukee crime, then let MKE raise its own money

You may have heard about the rant that State Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) put out this week following an incident last week where five teens in Milwaukee performed a carjacking, then went on a high speed chase with Milwaukee police into Washington County. The car was later "disabled" in the Village of Richfield, and the teens fled on foot, where authorities from Milwaukee and Washington County later arrested them following a search of the community.

So did Rep. Brandtjen congratulate the authorities for the arrest, and how they worked together to clear the streets of 5 teens who had a history of violent crime? Not exactly.
The violence and the crime that has plagued Milwaukee for decades has now begun to spill over into Milwaukee’s suburbs. I lay the responsibility for this growing and out of control problem at the door of the Mayor’s office. Mayor Barrett may not care about the safety of his family but I certainly do care about mine.

Mayor Barrett, the people of southeast Wisconsin will not sit by and watch your administration destroy the entire region with failed liberal policies and a 10 second “Tommy Tough Talk” sound bite. If you do not fill the hundreds of vacant police officer positions, apprehend and arrest car thieves, demand prison for repeat criminals and start standing up to the judges who let repeat offenders off easy you will be in my opinion “assisting and enabling” the very criminals who are responsible for the record number of shootings, car jacking’s and murders.

I will be openly advocating for funding cuts to Milwaukee unless steps are taken to dramatically cut crime in Milwaukee. I will no longer sit by while you destroy Milwaukee and its flourishing suburbs. I cannot justify financing your failed policies in Milwaukee until you take public safety seriously.
Apparently Brandtjen missed Mayor Barrett's statement in that Fox 6 story were Barrett says repeat offenders that are juviles "must face real consequences. That is not happening now and needs to change." I'm not sure what the hell Brandtjen's talking about, and I bet she doesn't have a clue either beyond her AM hate radio talking points. And somehow, I'm guessing that cutting funding to a city that allegedly doesn't have the funding to fill vacant police officer positions isn't going to allow for more cops on the street. But then again, I'm not a 262 Republican, and I don't think the laws of math are "failed liberal policies."

Urban Milwaukee's Bruce Murphy responded to Brandtjen's dog-whistling with an article simply titled "Rep. Brandtjen is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong." Murphy hammered on Miss Menomonee Falls by pointing out that not only is Brandtjen ignorng that the City of Milwaukee has increased spending on police and arrested more juvenile offenders for carjacking in recent years, but that the GOP-run Legislature has conveniently ignored the requests of Milwaukee officials when it comes to dealing with gun crimes.
As for demanding “prison for repeat offenders,” another Brandtjen solution to the problem she says Barrett must embrace, both the mayor and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn have repeatedly asked the legislature to go after criminals with guns, making it a felony the second time a felon is arrested carrying a gun. The legislature declined, but Brandtjen could choose to sponsor such a bill.

Brandtjen also criticized Barrett for failing to hire enough police. In fact, the mayor and Common Council have devoted an ever-increasing portion of the city’s budget to the Police Department. The police budget has risen from just less than $190 million in 2005 to $280 million in 2016, while the property tax levy rose at about half that rate. The problem city officials have faced is a huge, long-term decline in state shared revenue, which dropped 36 percent in real dollars from 1995 to 2014. It’s a cinch that Barrett and the council would happily spend more on police officers, should Brandtjen convince her legislative colleagues to begin restoring shared revenue to cities.
Along with the article, Murphy produces a chart which shows that for the first time, the City of Milwaukee is spending more on police than it is collecting in property taxes. Yes, some of the cost of police is offset by citations and grants from the state and federal government, but this is still a remarkable picture, especially when you realize these numbers are NOT adjusted for inflation.

Murphy also rightly points out that Brandtjen's hometown was intentionally set up to keep out certain "undersirables," and it led to many of the big-city problems that she complains about.
When Brandtjen contrasts the flourishing suburbs with the city, she is surely aware this is no accident, but is the result of suburban policies that require lot sizes for homes that assure only solidly middle-class people can afford homes while fighting the creation of any low-income housing. Cities, by contrast, have no such barriers and across America tend to have concentrated poverty and crime. And few metro areas have more spatial inequality than Milwaukee, as a recent study found.

So you might think Brandtjen would be grateful for this situation, which has left the city with most of the metro area’s poverty and the myriad of problems associated with it. Instead she wants to cut the city’s funding even more, which will hurt all its residents, including some of her own constituents.
But that's what Republicans from the 262 are all about- being able to use the employment and amenities associated with a big city, but not have to deal with the problems that arise from high-density areas with a variety of incomes and lifestyles, and not have to pay any taxes that help to allow the City of Milwaukee to thrive and continue to attract people and jobs. They'd rather shelter themselves in a Bubble from the problems that their economic segregation and defunding of Milwaukee has helped to cause, and it's driving both the city and the metro area downwards.

Going back to Murphy's chart, there seems to be an easy solution to the funding crunch that is preventing the City of Milwaukee from adding the police presence Brandtjen and other 262 Republicans like "Bullet Bob" Gannon want (that Washington County goober had another Trump-like, anti-Milwaukee statement in reaction to the blowback to Brandtjen's idiocy this week). We know from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism that Milwaukee County is the largest attractor of tourist dollars in the state, and it's a pretty good bet that the City of Milwaukee accounts for much of that spending. Why not have that tourist money be part of the solution?

This can take the form of a 0.25% sales tax in the City of Milwaukee which would be earmarked for police expenses, and it can be used as a replacement for dwindling shared revenues from the state (revenues that are not likely to be restored with deficits racking the next budget). Currently, the Milwaukee County 0.5% sales tax brings in about $70 million a year. If we conservatively assume 60% of that figure comes from the City of Milwaukee (based on population), then that means $42 million of that 0.5% tax is in Milwaukee. Cut that in half with the 0.25% "cops tax", and you have $21 million that often is paid non-residents, but goes into keeping the city safer and encouraging more of that outside spending.

And given that Milwaukee's attractions and suburban-biased economic segregation are both big reasons for needing that increased police presence, what more could be fairer? Sounds like a logical conclusion to me. Whatja say, Rep. Brandtjen?


  1. is there any information available on how much the city of Milwaukee collects in tax revenue for the state versus how much it spends?

    1. I dont know of one spot it is kept. My guess is that you'd have to find income tax returns filed from a Milwaukee address, or MKE employment alomg with sales tax remittances from there, along with other fees and revenues.

      Then you'd likely need to look at expenses sent to the City (like shared revenues) and other such things. But I imagine that's a start