Is Tom Barrett responsible for all Milwaukee's problems? - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Is Tom Barrett responsible for all Milwaukee's problems?


A political ad on television is attacking democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett for his record as mayor of Milwaukee.

The ad from Right Direction Wisconsin—a Republican political action committee—claims Barrett is responsible for Milwaukee's higher taxes, higher government spending, and higher unemployment.

But are those claims fair?

"I think these claims are really questionable," said Ed Miller, professor of political science at UW-Stevens Point.

We looked at the claims for ourselves.

First, the issue of taxes. The ad claims taxes are up seven of the last eight years in Milwaukee. It is true the city's property tax levy is up that many years, but that's not adjusted for inflation.

The ad also claims government spending is up $300 million under Barrett. According to city records, Milwaukee's 2012 budget is about $320 million dollars higher than it was in Barrett's first budget in 2005.

But Miller says it's only natural the city would spend more now than seven years ago.

"You have to take into account inflation during that period of time," said Miller. "The other thing, you don't know the composition of the money. Some of that spending is federal money."

The ad also attacks Barrett on this election's biggest issue—jobs.

"Milwaukee unemployment is way up with Tom Barrett," the ad says. "Job losses under Tom Barrett are so devastating that Milwaukee became one of America's ten worst cities for employment."

Unemployment is up in Milwaukee as the ad claims. It was 8.1 percent when Barrett took office in 2004 compared to 10.4 percent in March 2012. But Miller says that's no surprise because of the recession.

"Given that manufacturing was significantly impacted, we would expect Milwaukee to be impacted even more," said Miller.

As for the claim that Milwaukee was once in the top ten worst cities for unemployment, that's partially true. It was—most recently in 2007—but among the 50 largest cities. Back then, its average unemployment was 6.9 percent.

Overall, the claims in this Republican ad are definitely based on facts. But is it fair to blame just the mayor? Probably not.

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