Downtown Streetcar Election Nightmare

By Chris Johnson and Robert Miranda, KINGFISHmke

September 28, 2015

Last week, news started to spread that the construction of Mayor Tom Barrett’s $124 million taxpayer funded three mile long Milwaukee Downtown Streetcar, which was supposed to begin this October, will be postponed until next year; most likely after the upcoming spring primary election in February and general election in April. The postponement was briefly mentioned in a WUWM article published earlier this month.

This began a discussion as to why would the robber barons and their kleptocrats down at city hall want to delay the construction of this boondoggle? According to Ald. Bob Donovan, “Mayor Barrett and streetcar aldermen want to get themselves reelected without facing a significant anti-streetcar uprising from Milwaukee voters.” In order to do this, Donovan asserts that, “streetcar supporters have delayed construction to keep the potentially multi-billion dollar project out of sight and, they’re hoping, with fingers crossed, off the minds of voters.”

The Mayor and the “streetcar supporters,” as Donovan calls them, may have some legitimate reasons to be concerned about this upcoming election cycle. Who are the “streetcar supporters”? The “Underboss” is President Michael Murphy, the “Caporegimes” are Aldermen Bob Bauman and Nik Kovac, the “Soldiers” are Aldermen Ashanti Hamilton, Milele Coggs, Willie Wade, Jose Perez, Terry Witkowski, and Russell Stamper.

Another possible concern, in particular for Aldermen Bob Bauman and Nik Kovac, could arise if the construction of the streetcar, which will require tearing up busy downtown and east side streets, sidewalks and bike pathways to move utility lines and other infrastructure, is significantly increased traffic congestion, which might not sit well with voters who live in those districts and may negatively impact their chance of getting reelected.

Let’s not forget that, with winter around the corner, those infamous Milwaukee snowfalls on top of road construction could be disastrous on commuters travelling between downtown and the fashionable east side. Commuters who vote!

Lastly, the “streetcar supporters” who represent the north side might have a difficult time explaining to their constituents why they voted for funding the streetcar that does not include their neighborhood. Most of them suffer from record high unemployment, poverty and crime, according to just about every study and social indicator, and the streetcar does absolutely nothing to address the issues that impact them the most.

The current proposed route does not go to any of the north side communities; it does not connect communities of high unemployment with areas where there are jobs, and there are no guarantees on hiring from these communities. Simply put, there is nothing in it for these constituents, so why did their elected representatives support it? Who are they representing?

This almost sounds like taxation with no representation. This topic might come up during the next election. In fact, we guarantee it will!

If history repeats itself, the African American community will not benefit from the streetcar

Between 2009 and 2012, the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) was awarded $60 million in construction and other contacts for the Westlawn Redevelopment Project (Westlawn Project) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). One of the requirements in receiving these funds was that HACM was to recruit, hire and train “low income individuals” and people who lived in and around Westlawn “to the greatest extent feasible.” This is part of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1968, Section 3. It is the law.

It was discovered in an audit conducted by HUD in 2013 that the Westlawn Project was “Noncompliant” in training and hiring in accordance with Section 3. The agency that was contracted to train individuals to work on the Westlawn Project was an organization named Big Step and the President was Earl Buford. Big Step admitted in the audit that they had no record of training one person for the Westlawn Project. The company that was contracted to oversee the Section 3 compliance for the general contractor, Hunzinger Construction Company, was Randy Crump of Prism Technical and Marketing Services LLC.

It came out in the audit that not one resident from Westlawn Housing was hired, and in fact, not one HACM resident was hired on the entire project, which is the exact opposite intent of the Section 3 laws.

So, who did the city contract with to oversee the training of new workers and diversity compliance on the Downtown Streetcar project? No other than Earl Buford, who Mayor Barrett appointed as president and CEO to the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership along with Randy Crump of Prism Technical and Marketing Services LLC.

The two very people that were responsible for training and diversity participation on the Westlawn Project, which was found to be “Noncompliant,” are the same duo that Mayor Barrett put in charge of overseeing training and diversity on the Downtown Streetcar. How do you think that is going to turn out?

Once again, Mayor Barrett and the “streetcar supporters” are going to have to explain to the African American community why, during a time of record high poverty, as recently described in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, and unemployment they are engaging in the same old “business as usual” that has not benefitted all of Milwaukee; just a hand selected few downtown and on the east side.

This could become an election nightmare for some.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on September 28, 2015

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