UPDATE: Public Works Committee Votes Down Milwaukee Streetcar, Will Still go to Full Common Council

MacIver News Service | December 10, 2014


The Milwaukee Common Council’s Public Works Committee voted down Mayor Tom Barrett’s new $123.9 million plan for a 4.6 mile downtown streetcar on a 3-2 vote. While the committee did not approve of the mayor’s new plan, the committee did vote 4-1 to send the proposal to the full common council.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Aldermen Joe Davis, Bob Donovan and James Bohl voted against a resolution supporting the project. Aldermen Bob Bauman and Willie Wade voted to support it.” Davis and Bohl switched their votes to send the plan to the full council.

The Common Council is expected to vote on the plan next Tuesday.

Original Post on December 10, 2014 at 3:00AM:

A committee of the Milwaukee Common Council voted on Tuesday to move forward with Mayor Tom Barrett’s new plan to create two tax incremental financing districts (TIF) to pay for his proposed downtown streetcar.

The Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee voted 4-1 to approve the mayor’s new plan, which includes a longer route of 4.6 miles and has a total cost of $123.9 million. The new route would go toward the lake and the new Couture development project – a proposed 44-story high-end apartment building.

The streetcar project must be approved for the Couture project to be viable according to the developer Rick Barrett. Barrett plans to purchase the Downtown Transit Center (DTC) for $500,000 and demolish it to make way for the Couture building – which would include a stop for the streetcar.

The DTC site is valued at $8.9 million and is partially owned by Federal Transit Authority (FTA). For the DTC to be purchased from the county for $500,000 by Barrett’s firm, the FTA requires a replacement transit project to be built in its place.

Ald. James Bohl, chair of the committee, was the sole council member to vote against the proposal. The full Common Council is expected to vote on the plan next week.

However, Ald. Bob Donovan – a candidate for mayor in 2016 – would like to see the plan go to a referendum so voters can approve or reject the project. Donovan plans to introduce a resolution for a referendum on Monday, December 15 to the Finance and Personnel Committee.

If approved by the committee, the full council would vote on the referendum proposal the following day, December 16.

Donovan is calling for a referendum because he believes the mayor is trying to go around voters by issuing debt to pay for the streetcar from the city’s Redevelopment Authority.

“I’ve learned that the mayor is making a desperate attempt to thwart a referendum on the streetcar project by having the Redevelopment Authority issue bonds to pay for the construction costs,” Donovan said in a statement. “The move is meant to sneak around the state statute provision that allows for a referendum on the borrowing for the project.”

The MacIver Institute will provide updates as they are available.