Robin Vos Discusses Milwaukee Crime, Speed Limits Bill

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Robin Vos Discusses Milwaukee Crime, Speed Limits Bill

Premiere Date: 
August 22, 2013

The Assembly speaker discusses a bill to raise speed limit and his tour of Milwaukee.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

We begin this week with a new proposal to raise the speed limit in Wisconsin to 70 miles an hour. Republican representative Paul Tittl of Manitowoc unveiled his plan this week. Tittl says he's confident it will pass the legislature and be signed into law by the end of the year. For his part, Governor Scott Walker says it's, quote, not on his radar. About the same response from the senate majority leader. Republican assembly leader Robin Vos says he'll support it. Speaker Vos joins us this week. Thanks very much for doing so.

Robin Vos:

Thank very much, Fred. I appreciate being here.

Frederica Freyberg:

So do you stand kind of alone on the leaders on this 70 miles an hour thing?

Robin Vos:

No, I think we're going to be able to find, not just support not from Republicans, like Governor Walker and Senator Fitzgerald,  but also from Democrats. This bill has had bipartisan support in every chamber it’s passed in. We see all the states around us, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, already have 70. Just this last week Democrat Governor Quinn signer the bill into law in Illinois. It makes no sense not to have Wisconsin join this group.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you think Illinois signing it into law, and all the neighboring states, will actually push this into law here in Wisconsin?

Robin Vos:

I think it really makes sense. This is one of those topics where everybody who's watching has an opinion, because we all drive. Certainly as we've driven in other states, we see they've been able to do it safely. Most of the interstates were designed for 75 miles an hour anyways because they were done a long time ago, and they were reduced just for fuel economy. So I certainly think the safety standards are in place, and we can do it in a way that makes sense for all of us.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Let's move along to other news that you’re speaking out on this week, crime in Milwaukee. Following a recent spate of deadly shootings in the city, you toured neighborhood a on the city’s south side with other state lawmakers and that district’s alderman. Mayor Tom Barrett even joined in. The mayor wants to hire 100 more officers and get a state match of $500,000 for more police overtime. What is your response and reaction to both of those ideas?

Robin Vos:

First of all, Mayor Barrett was not able to join us for the walk. He was definitely there for the press availability. What we want to talk about real world solutions that actually make a difference in the lives of people who live in our largest city. I definitely understand the need to fight crime. Republicans have been tough on that for a long time. So when Alderman Donovan reached out to me earlier in the year, I give him a lot of credit for saying, look, we have a problem that we have to face head-on and deal with in a real world way that makes sense. So the idea of putting more officers on the street has been around for a while. And I’m glad that it sounds like the mayor, after getting some pressure, is finally coming aboard to add more officers on the street. What I also hope, though, is that they make smart fiscal decisions. I have been more than willing to discuss having additional resources go to Milwaukee if they're spent wisely. It certainly doesn't make sense to me to have a furlough in place where officers are taking three days off the streets, and then fill them in with overtime that would be paid for by the state. How about if we just don't do the furlough? I think that’d be a good first step to see if we can get that to make an impact before asking for the state to spend the money.

Frederica Freyberg:

And so you would consider the $500,000 match, but it has to come in a way that the legislature would approve of in terms of their policing?

Robin Vos:

Yeah, certainly. I'm open to having state resources go to Milwaukee. We've invested a lot. We know that the things that make Milwaukee great, having a really good school system, having a reasonable level of taxes,  and also having a low crime rate are all important. That's why we focus on reducing our tax burden and holding property taxes down. We have School Choice and we put more money into MPS this year than the past two years. And this last part of the equation is having a safe community. But that's primarily a local responsibility, but I'm definitely willing to help step up after the locals figure out the plan that works best.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you yourself have some specific ideas as to management of policing in Milwaukee and crime fighting?

Robin Vos:

Well, I mean, obviously I'm not the police chief, so I don't want to try to micro-manage, but I think that there are certain things that just as a lay person make sense to me. It doesn't make any sense that in Milwaukee right now we have an awful lot of squad cars on patrol with a single officer in the car. So if they come across an incident where crime is occurring or they respond to a call, most of the time they have to actually wait for another car to show up so that they have backup. That doesn't seem to make sense to me as you look at policing. But, once again, I want to understand why, which is why this upcoming week I'm meeting with Chief Flynn so I can ask all those questions one on one, and really get a better understanding of his strategy and the strategy that Milwaukee is employing.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, Chief Flynn, in fact, has called you in the past week an armchair chief. What's your response to that?

Robin Vos:

Well, you know, I'm not one who really tries to cast dispersions before I've met somebody. I definitely want to maintain the benefit of the doubt that, you know, he's doing the job of the mayor. I hope that in the future police chiefs are supposed to be independent of the elected officials, which is why we have a police and fire commission. They’re the ones who hire and fire. So hopefully his strategies, which I think in many ways have proven effective, can continue to be free of politics and he will do what he believes is best, not just what the mayor says.

Frederica Freyberg:

Speaking of politics, you had the tour with Alderman Donovan in the 8th district. And just now on our air you said that while Mayor Barrett arrived, you know, he likes the cameras. Is this kind of moving into partisan politics in an arena, you know, of public safety, which I think the public would say, well, public safety ought to be separate from partisan politics?

Robin Vos:

I sure hope it can be, which is why it would have been great if he had shown up and actually taken the tour with us to listen to the people we talked to in the neighborhoods. But it seems like-- I don't want to get into a battle between Donovan and Barrett. Donovan is the one who reached out and said, I'd love to have you talk about this with some of the local residents, do a tour of the district. He'd actually been asking me for several months. It just, finally when I saw the state of shootings that happened in Milwaukee, I said, okay, I'm going to go down there and understand for myself so that as we are asked for these dollars to come from the state, I have a better understanding than just looking at it from afar. I’m somebody who spends a lot of time in Milwaukee. I own a business there. I've actually been the victim of crime. We’ve had a robbery. We’ve had graffiti. Those things impact real world people every single day, and that's why I hope politics can be cast aside. But at the same world, we live in a political environment and if the mayor is asking for money from the state, he's got to be able to explain himself in a way that all of us can understand.

Frederica Freyberg:

Speaker Vos, thanks very much for joining us.

Robin Vos:

Thanks, Frederica. I appreciate it. 


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