Milwaukee OnLine Journal Of Social Enterprise

Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods

February, 2005

On February 3, 2005, a new path was charted for economic development in Milwaukee. For decades, developers have determined all the rules for new development, profiting from hefty public subsidies. Public officials have upheld the developer driven model, arguing that growing the tax base was their only public policy consideration.

Enter the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods coalition. In December, 2003, a few labor and community activists looked at the plans for redevelopment in the Park East freeway corridor. The City redevelopment plan talked about how big the buildings should be, building materials and windows, setbacks, etc. A TIF was established to pay for millions of dollars of new infrastructure. But when DCD officials were asked, “How many jobs will be created?”…they replied, “That’s not our concern.” Nor were they concerned with job quality, local hiring, expanded green space, or affordable housing.

Within a few months, over 30 labor, religious, community and neighborhood groups signed on to the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods coalition. Thousands of residents signed cards supporting community benefits. Hundreds turned out at public meetings and public hearings.

The premise was quite simple. Our community is one of the most racially and economically segregated cities in the country. Previous economic development efforts had yielded few good jobs, especially for City residents. As the dividing line between the prosperity of downtown and the poverty of the near North side, the Park East redevelopment provide a unique opportunity to begin breaking down economic and racial barriers. In return for taxpayer subsidies, developers should be required to meet good jobs standards.

The coalition took its community benefits agreement to the Redevelopment Authority, and was voted down. They took it to the City Council, and it was voted down. But in December, on a 15–4 vote, the County board approved the Park East Redevelopment Compact (PERC) for County owned land in the Park East corridor (A majority of the developable property).

But the battle was not over. County Executive Scott Walker vetoed the proposal and vowed to wage a full court press to sustain his veto. He solicited contributions to a fund to get citizens to lobby their County Supervisors. The Good Jobs and Livable neighborhoods coalition made a few calls, too. The vast majority of people called supported the idea of leveraging economic development for the creation of good jobs. Calls in support of the PERC outnumbered Walker’s opposition by 10–1. And supervisors stood their ground.

Now the coalition is identifying developers and investors who want to invest in the Park East corridor. This is the most valuable real estate to go on sale in our community in our lifetime. The County Board’s action has made it valuable not only to the developers, but to Milwaukee’s community as well.

Last edited by TeganDowling.   Page last modified on April 04, 2005

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