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Wisconsin Spotlight | May 15, 2020

MADISON — While more than 16 percent of Wisconsin’s working population is out of work and much of the state remains shut down, Milwaukee’s parking police remain on duty in full force. 

Open records obtained by Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG Network) found that, as of late last week, not a single employee in the Department of Public Works Parking Enforcement division had been laid off or furloughed. 

After two months of maintaining employee levels despite rapidly declining revenue, the Milwaukee City Council recently approved a plan that would furlough about 260 employees and reduce hours for another 500 city workers. But it’s not clear how many parking enforcement cops would be counted in those ranks. 

An official from the city’s Public Works agency did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment. 

Despite a significant reduction in traffic thanks to the travel bans incorporated in Gov. Tony Evers’ and the city of Milwaukee’s stay-at-home orders, parking agents still are writing tickets — but just a fraction of what they wrote before the pandemic.

They issued 29,352 parking citations in March, even though the statewide lockdown was in effect for much of the month. The numbers dropped in April, during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, to 4,533 tickets. 

The number of citations are down considerably since January, when parking cops wrote 52,772 tickets. 

In March, the Department of Public Works suspended all timed, metered and night parking restrictions to accommodate residents who are home because of the lockdowns. Vehicles are not required to have night parking permits. 

“Parking Enforcement will focus on safety-related violations including unauthorized parking in a handicapped space, obstructing traffic/bicycle/streetcar lanes, and parking too close to an alley/driveway/fire hydrant/crosswalk,” the city advises. 

Milwaukee, like Madison and other liberal-led cities, has been loathe to cut taxpayer-funded jobs, even as more than a half million people statewide have been forced to file for unemployment. Many of those displaced workers are having a hard time meeting ends meet, including paying their mortgages. 

CRG’s previous records request asked the city of Milwaukee’s Department of Employee Relations for information on layoffs, furloughs or reduced hours city government-wide since March 1. A department official responded that there hadn’t been any. 

Facing a $26 million hit from lost revenue between March and August, the council begrudgingly approved the plan to furlough and reduce hours for about 9 percent of the city’s workforce. 

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