Eminentoes

Milwaukee’s Unfavorite Son

Alderman Mike McGee is not exactly a boy scout, though he does have something in common with Michael Jackson.

By 6.13.07

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Among gritty industrial cities along the Great Lakes, Milwaukee has always been something of an oddity. European immigrants who came to work in its brewing, printing, and metal-bending industries elected three Socialist mayors who served for 44 of the 50 years from 1910 to 1960. Despite the party label, city government was like people who lived in Milwaukee: honest and hard-working.

Like many industrial cities, sections of Milwaukee are now plagued by crime and drugs. People in those areas elected Mike McGee to the city council in 2004. Honest and hard-working have never been used to describe him. McGee was arrested late last month for public corruption.

When he was sworn in, McGee said that he would never take money under the table, but that is just what he is accused of doing. He allegedly solicited bribes at $1,000 or $2,000 per pop to him or to his gun buy-back program if businesses desired to keep their liquor licenses. If convicted of federal conspiracy charges, McGee could face 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

McGee already faced a recall election this year. The recall petition said McGee was an embarrassment to Milwaukee. McGee said the campaign manager for the candidate who led the recall should be lynched as a traitor to the community.

Is McGee an embarrassment to Milwaukee? McGee threatened to kill a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair and said she was bearing his child, violating her restraining order against him. In court, he originally denied having sex with the woman and then reversed himself. At a rally after off-duty Milwaukee police officers beat up a man, he called the former Prosecuting Attorney a "dumbass" and the police officers "faggots." When gay leaders were upset by those comments, a Milwaukee state senator asked for an apology in vain. McGee later told students, "Man, I should have kicked his ass."

Although elected as Mike McGee, he legally changed his name from Michael Jackson only in 2006. He was discovered to have both names when he made an illegal turn while driving a car owned by someone else on a Milwaukee street, causing a three-car accident. He and the car's owner were found liable and owed about $7,000 in damages. When McGee defaulted on about $1,500 he owed, the Wisconsin DMV revoked the driver's license he was using, Michael Jackson. That is when the state discovered he had two driver licenses and two Social Security numbers: one for his birth name, Michael Jackson, and one for his name from adoption, Michael McGee.

Like father, like son. The elder Michael McGee represented the same area on the Milwaukee City Council from 1984 to 1992 and was controversial in a different way. He ran saying he was starting a Black Power militia but then did nothing of the sort because he said he opposed violence. When he said bratwursts from Milwaukee's best-known manufacturer had been poisoned, he belittled former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist as "Norkwurst" for eating them in public.

That voters are not represented by the older Mike McGee should be obvious now. While the older McGee was best known for fiery rhetoric, the younger McGee has been best known for thuggish behavior. A hearing is set in his case for June 22.

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About the Author

Mark G. Michaelsen writes frequently about public affairs.