May 2, 2016
A recent report published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel informs us that Milwaukee bureaucrats are busy seeking a $20 million dollar federal grant to expand the Milwaukee streetcar, so that it can provide service to the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.
“The idea all along has been that the original route needs extensions to make the streetcar route more successful and efficient. And this is the first next step in terms of having a meaningful extension to add to the success of the streetcar increasing connectivity downtown,” said Ghassan Korban, Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works commissioner.
Notice that Korban said “increasing connectivity downtown.” It would be interesting to hear from the commissioner of public works, or from the mayor, how “increased connectivity downtown” translates into safer Milwaukee neighborhoods, increased access for black restaurant and bar entrepreneurs into the downtown financial networks and increasing revenues to pay towards lead service line removal for more than 70,000 homes where children risk being poisoned by lead laterals drawing water from the city’s water main.
The bureaucrat from the Department of Milwaukee Public Works states that, if the city receives the $20 million federal grant, the grant will cover about 50% of the estimated costs for the Bucks extension. The city will then cover the rest of the cost by once again using a tax incremental financing district (TIF), like it did to finance the early stages of the streetcar development.
Milwaukee has subsidized economic development for the financial sector of downtown while at the same time nurturing austerity and neglect to the central city for the better part of the last 20 years. For 20 years we’ve been told that a economically developed downtown would be good for Milwaukee neighborhoods and yet, 20 years later, the only neighborhoods seeing improvement are those being gentrified nearest to the downtown district. All other neighborhoods continue to experience problems.
This is why neighborhoods in Milwaukee are crumbling. Milwaukee bureaucrats and elected leaders pooh-pooh spending money to remove lead pipes because it’s to expensive, yet cheer spending hundreds of millions of dollars for downtown development—and immediate surrounding areas—feeding downtown growth and for the wealthy.
If Milwaukee’s Camelot continues to bring economic growth because of the investments made there, why then are the central city neighborhoods not benefiting from the riches achieved? Why is there no money to remove lead pipes without having to raise water rates by 10%?
Is this the standard for our community these days? Prioritize hundreds of millions of dollars for the wealthy financial districts while at the same time refuse to fund and resolve the hazard lead pipes present to the lives of Milwaukee’s infants and toddlers?
There is a need to push even harder for fundamental change in our moral priorities in Milwaukee. When news of the poisoned water crisis in Flint reached a wide audience around the world, it was revealed that when the governorís office discovered just how toxic the water was, representatives of his administration decided to keep quiet about it and covered up the extent of the damage being done to Flintís residents, most notably to the children, causing irreversible and permanent brain damage. Citizen activists uncovered these actions, and the governor now faces growing cries to resign or be arrested.
Milwaukee officials haven’t gone to this level of criminal behavior, but it is clear that Milwaukee elected leaders of the Common Council and the Mayor have known of this dangerous toxic issue for many years.
Which means that, while the children of Milwaukee continue to drink water flowing through lead-pipes, the Bucks will draw clean water from Milwaukee’s clean lake and lead free pipes and people with money to spend get to ride to those Bucks games on a streetcar courtesy of families living with a dangerous hazard threatening their water and infants.