Monday, March 16, 2009

Milwaukee's leadership fails to fight for family supporting employment

Robert Kraig and Amy Stear have an excellent column on the abysmal failure of Milwaukee's economic and political elites to make family supporting job creation a priority.

Since the late 1970's the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC) have controlled the region's economic development strategies promoting an approach that relies on business tax breaks and subsidies. The result-Milwaukee has lost thousands of family supporting unionized jobs. It now has the 7 th highest poverty rate in the country and the second highest black white unemployment ratio.

Stear and Kraig write:

The visceral opposition to the sick days referendum is also about something larger. Like the reform battles 100 years ago, the sick days referendum advances an economic populism that the local political establishment and its allies in the business community would prefer to sweep under the rug. As the city has hemorrhaged family-supporting jobs, the political and business elite have steadfastly refused to allow job quality to become a central public policy focus. The paid sick days ordinance is a dramatic step in the opposite direction endorsed by over 159,000 Milwaukee voters.

Forcing a major issue into the public sphere over the objections of entrenched interests accustomed to having their way at City Hall is exactly what La Follette era Wisconsin progressives hoped direct legislation would achieve. The city's disgraceful decision not to legally defend an overwhelming vote by its own citizens is a black mark on the progressive history of Milwaukee. But it is not too late for the city to reverse course and defend the ordinance in the next stages of the legal process. We believe it is incumbent on Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council to stand up for Wisconsin's democratic traditions and use the power of their offices to defend the people's right to decide.

The entire column is linked.

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