Sorry Mayor, South side Not Drinking Your Kool-Aid

By Robert Miranda

Editor, Wisconsin Spanish Journal

February 4, 2015

There is a lot of discussion going on about Mayor Barrett’s downtown streetcar proposal. In fact, the mayor showed up in Alderman Bob Donovan’s district to peddle his streetcar Kool-Aid Thursday evening.

All over the city there is discussion about who will actually benefit from the streetcar, which neighborhoods are deliberately or in-deliberately being excluded.

However, the most vigorous discussion is centering around how the proposed downtown streetcar will be financed. Of particular concern is whether or not Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) future revenues will be sacrificed to finance the downtown streetcar.

The heated debate regarding funding the streetcar project resulted in a retraction from the City of Milwaukee Legislative Research Bureau (LRB) of three memos that the department released in the last month, drawing attention to how much future tax property revenue would be “deterred” or “transferred” from MPS to pay for the streetcar financing. The retraction from LRB, the City of Milwaukee research department, has been called highly “irregular” and “extraordinary”.

The position that Mayor Barrett’s administration, downtown Ald. Bauman and eastside Ald. Kovac has adopted that no MPS future funds will be used to finance the downtown streetcar is simply not true or factual!

Let’s begin with where the majority of the financing for the proposed streetcar is to come from, Tax Incremental Districts (TIDs) #56 and #82.

TID #82 is a newly proposed district supported by Mayor Barrett, downtown Ald. Bauman, eastside Ald. Kovac and other north side alderpersons, including near South side Alderman Jose G. Perez.

The #56 TID, reported by KINGFISHmke.com “was originally created to extend the Riverwalk along the east bank of the Milwaukee River between North Broadway and the Harbor. This TID (56) has already made all of their debt obligation payments and has reimbursed all of the costs related to that project, which normally results in the TID being terminated and the property tax revenues going back to the taxing entities (MPS, Police, MATC, MMSD, City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County)”.

That never occurred with #56 TID, the Common Council along with the City of Milwaukee Redevelopment Authority and the Joint Review Board amended the #56 TID to become a “donor” TID. A “donor” TID may allocate increased, or incremental, property taxes to another TID for up to 10 years.

This is one of the ways in which Mayor Barrett’s downtown streetcar is deferring money away from MPS, Police and other city taxing entities. Those property tax revenues from TID #56 are now proposed to go to finance the streetcar, instead of going to the taxing entities, which includes MPS. THE STREETCAR IS TAKING MONEY AWAY FROM MPS.

The establishment of the downtown streetcar TID is an example of an obstacle that prevents the South side community from effectively fighting off the scourge of poverty. It becomes another impairment to MPS because TIDs that have been established in the past, by and large, have been used as “donor” TIDs to support other TIDs in the city that really don’t need them.

The results of these actions by the mayor, his networks and the status quo is clear. Poverty in the South side community grows unchecked in areas where poverty in the south side has never been able to root itself.

In the past 10 years, poverty has been able to establish a strong foothold in South side neighborhoods, destroying South side neighborhoods because the status quo have not allowed TIDs to terminate once they have cleared their debt. By not allowing most of these TIDs to terminate, the South side community becomes casualty to this economic policy because those revenue streams, which should be freed up to support economic policies that would address and begin the process of fighting off poverty in the South side, are now tied up again for years supporting other TIDs as “donor” TIDs for projects like the streetcar.

So in essence, the mayor is deferring money away from MPS, security in our streets and economic development for our South side community, when he and certain members of the Common Council prevents TIDs from terminating and uses them to be “donor” TIDs to support projects like his choo-choo train.

The cost to the economic life of our South side community by these practices is of no concern to the city’s status quo is illustrated by the fact that our South side is experiencing higher crime in our neighborhoods that are also deteriorating because of pot holes and other social factors that are compounded by poverty growing in our South side.

Only you can stop this. Call your Aldermen. No trains for the rich downtown. Fix pot holes instead. Fight crime. Fund our public schools.

Miranda is editor of the Wisconsin Spanish Journal

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on February 07, 2015

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