Esperanza Unida

Dear Milwaukee Community:

Many people have asked me in recent days what was my plan to save Esperanza Unida when I first took the position as executive director in 2006. Now that the City of Milwaukee is foreclosing on one of the agency’s buildings, because of property tax delinquency, some of you asked if I had a plan.

Yes, I had a plan. My plan had the support of Aldermen, the mayor of the City of Milwaukee and various CEOs of international businesses like Bucyrus International, and presidents of area community colleges. My plan had the support of Don Sykes of the Workforce Development Investment Board, in addition, over 30 community based organizations who were partnered with MATC. My plan even had the support of the president of the country of Turkey and his Secretary of International Trade. My plan had the support of business CEOs of various countries.

My plan was just a Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) vote away from having Esperanza Unida become a major international business partner that would be bringing international contracts to our community, and having people in our community trained to get jobs created by those contracts.

Had Christine Neumann-Ortiz, former State Representative Pedro Colon and MATC board member and labor attorney, MATC board member and Voces de la Frontera board member Peter Earle voted and spoke to support Esperanza Unida’s plan, this agency in 2007 would have created a sister city economic/manufacturing trade partnership between Istanbul, Turkey, the City of Milwaukee, Bucyrus International and the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

All we needed was for MATC Board of Directors to vote for this plan. A plan that was endorsed by the president of MATC and his staff, the CEO of Bucyrus International, the mayor of Istanbul, Turkey, the mayor of Milwaukee, Alderman Joe Davis Sr. the Chairman of the Sister City committee of Milwaukee and the CEO of the Milwaukee Investment Board.

But Christine Neumann-Ortiz, former State Representative Pedro Colon and MATC board member and labor attorney, MATC board member and Voces de la Frontera board member Peter Earle joined forces to block my plan.

In March 2007, the MATC board voted 5 to 4 against my plan. Former State Representative Pedro Colon, a MATC board member, and labor attorney and MATC board member Peter Earle, voted against this plan to save Esperanza Unida.

Why did these people turn against a plan to help our community? Ask them.

Robert Miranda
Former Executive Director, Esperanza Unida
Editor, Spanish Journal


Esperanza Unida Official Statement: Unauthorized Loans Created Toxic Debt Agency Could Not Possibly Control

FORECLOSURE OF 611 INTERNATIONAL BUILDING

DATE: JANUARY 5, 2015

On January 5, 2015 the City of Milwaukee will take ownership of the title of the 611 West National Avenue Building via foreclosure. The foreclosure allows for extinguishing toxic debt, asset disposal at a fair price, and supporting economic development in the Milwaukee South Side. Esperanza Unida has worked closely with the City of Milwaukee to ensure a smooth transition and the start of a new chapter.

In 2013, Esperanza Unida conducted numerous improvements to the 611 West National Building. These physical improvements increased the valuation of the building from an estimated $600,000 to the current asking price of $1.3 million. In 2013, Former Secretary Manny Perez was brought in to restructure the corporation. Addressing these issues involved many difficult decisions given the financial complexity and toxicity of the problems and the lack of economic development in the Milwaukee South Side.

Nevertheless, since 2013 Esperanza Unida has trained 140 workers in forklift operations, has provided transportation services to workers within 50 mile radius, and has helped 30 transitional workers with work experience aimed at empowering them to become self- sufficient.

At the root of the issues is inappropriate loans made against the 611 International Building approved by the 1994 Board of Directors and Executive Director, Richard Oulahan. These loans - in the amount of $790,000- were made in addition to the original loan of the project as revolving lines of credit after the initial renovation project was completed. According to BMO Harris, until at least 2002 then Executive Director Richard Oulahansigned for loans using the preexisting loan as line of credit and the 611 West National Building and the 1329 Building as collateral. From a compliance and sale standpoint, these issues were brought to the attention of the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Authority by Executive Director Manuel Perez.

The debt crippled the organization financially as it set it in a course of chronic indebtedness and lower revenues that became more complex as the organization fell behind in IRS taxes, UI, DOR, and many others and it caused serious disrepair due to lack of maintenance and repair budgets. This was worsened by the downturn in the economy.

A sale could not occur due to the restrictions imposed by the US Department of Commerce on the sale of the property. The foreclosure effectively prevents that the tax payers of the City of Milwaukee pay $712,000 to the US Department of Commerce given that the City of Milwaukee is a co-applicant of the 611 International Building. The lack of economic development in the Milwaukee South Side prevents attracting tenants that can sustain proper rental rates.

Those factors –together with the existence of accumulated toxic debt- justify the need for ownership to be transferred to a qualified investor that can infuse capital to the 611 Building, to conduct additional improvements that the building will need, and accelerate economic development along 6th and National Avenue. This should also contribute to creating additional jobs in a community that is in serious need of economic development and job creation.

As we move forward in the sanitization process at Esperanza Unida, we motivate the entire Milwaukee South Side community and government leaders to unite to stimulate needed economic development and job creation in the Milwaukee South Side. This involves sound urban planning and implementation, focus on results, needed street repairs, additional support to business development and entrepreneurship, crime prevention and ongoing security, as well as workforce development.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on January 11, 2015

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