MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) — You may have heard on the campaign trail or in televised debates how both candidates for Milwaukee mayor want to fix a “broken relationship” with Republican lawmakers in Madison.
So what does that look like? We asked both candidates and Republican lawmakers their thoughts.
Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said he’s met with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and other Republican lawmakers about bringing the Republican National Convention to Milwaukee. He also said he wants to talk to them about changing the state’s shared revenue formula to bolster police officers and other services.
“We need in our community the ability to raise revenues at the local level,” said Johnson. “That’s part of the reason why I speak frequently about the need to repair the city’s broken relationship with the state government.”
Johnson has asked the state Legislature to use a portion of the nearly $2.9 billion budget surplus to help the city tackle challenges with public safety. However, top Republicans have no plans to use the funds until the next budget cycle and prefer using the money toward tax cuts.
Former Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan said he’s heard from Republican lawmakers about their desire to help with what he calls a public safety crisis. While he agrees with Johnson about hiring more police officers, Donovan criticized his opponent for not reaching out to lawmakers sooner to help.
“For two years you’ve had the opportunity to get your cot in Madison,” Donovan said. “I believe I have the relationships already existing in Madison that can pull that partnership off. That’s what’s critical.”
The calls to rebuild a relationship with state lawmakers comes after former Mayor Tom Barrett often butted heads with GOP leaders. State Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha) said he’s optimistic about the future.
“For so long the previous mayor all he would do is play politics and take political jabs at the GOP-controlled legislature – then put his hand out and ask for help,” Allen said. “Whether it’s Johnson or Donovan they are nonpartisan officials that haven’t played that partisan political game and so the opportunity is good.”
Both candidates have called on lawmakers for more state resources to combat crime, but some Republicans expressed doubts their colleagues would agree with that approach.
“I think when someone just comes asking for new resources I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine). “They need to have a comprehensive plan instead of asking for money.”
Wanggaard suggested Milwaukee use resources available to them such as funding for a program signed into law last year which allows cities to create community-oriented policing.
The bipartisan bill allows cities with more than 60,000 residents to apply for grants to place police officers in high crime neighborhoods. It’s a program that was first used in Racine over 30 years ago.
“[Milwaukee] can’t say they don’t have the resources for COP houses,” he said. “It’s not taking officers away, it’s creating a multiplier by working with people in the neighborhoods. The most important takeaway is to have people feel and know they are safe in their neighborhood.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos ignored multiple requests for comment. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said in a statement, “I’m always interested in working with community leaders to make Milwaukee and Wisconsin the best it can be.”