Milwaukee’s Rank as 4th Poorest City in Nation Comes Amidst Concerns Over City’s Schools, Public Safety

MacIver News Service | September 29, 2010

[Milwaukee, Wisc…] Milwaukee is now the fourth poorest city in the United States according to new figures just released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The news comes as one Milwaukee alderman worries about the educational and public safety institutions within Wisconsin’s largest city.

“The fiscal and educational failures of MPS have, in my opinion, helped deepen poverty in Milwaukee,” said Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan. “The tax burden heaped upon taxpayers by MPS seems to widen each year, and I think MPS bankruptcy – a process that could be initiated by a referendum put to city voters – is our only viable option to recovery and some semblance of solvency.”

The City of Milwaukee’s Poverty Rate in 2009 was 27 percent, up from 23.4 percent in 2008. By comparison, the State of Wisconsin’s Poverty Rate in 2009 was 12.4 percent, up from 10.4 in 2008.

Donovan is chair of the city’s Public Safety Committee and one of the Milwaukee Common Council’s more outspoken members. Earlier in the week, before the updated poverty statistics were published, Donovan also expressed concerns over growing public safety and police staffing issues in Milwaukee.

Donovan called the city’s sworn police officer vacancy rate “staggering,” approaching 300 positions that are not filled. He warned the rate could be closer to 400 positions by the end of 2011.

“For God’s sake I certainly hope the Mayor isn’t playing political games with the public safety of the citizens of Milwaukee,” said Donovan. “I fear this heavy load will mean that more officers will elect to hit the ‘eject button’ and retire when they hit 25 years (of service).”

Milwaukee’s poverty rate trailed only Detroit (36.4), Cleveland (35.0) and Buffalo (28.8).

Nationally, The poverty rate in 2009 was the highest since 1994, but was 8.1 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. The actual number of people in poverty in the country in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available.

In 2009, the national family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.1 percent and 8.8 million, respectively, up from 10.3 percent and 8.1 million in 2008,

In 2008 the City of Milwaukee had the 11th highest poverty rate in the nation.