Mayor Tom Barrett Needs to End His Trolley Folly Lawsuit

April 23, 2015

For Immediate Release
Contact: Nick Novak, 608-237-7290

Mayor Attempting to Stick Southeastern Wisconsin Ratepayers With The Bill

[Madison, Wisc…] Shortly after the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) ruled that the City of Milwaukee must cover the costs associated with moving utility lines for a proposed downtown streetcar, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett decided to move forward with his plan anyway and filed a lawsuit against the PSC.

The city’s lawsuit calls for the PSC to overturn its decision, which would leave utility ratepayers all across Southeastern Wisconsin holding the bill for millions of dollars for a project they will not benefit from.

Brett Healy, President of The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, filed a petition as a WE Energies customer back in 2011, asking the PSC if it was appropriate for the City of Milwaukee to force utility customers to pick up the tab for the cost of relocating utilities in the streetcar project. The PSC agreed with Healy and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the law firm that drafted the petition.

In November of last year, the City of Milwaukee sued the PSC in Milwaukee County Circuit Court over its decision. The City asserted that the PSC did not have the authority to force it to pay for the relocation costs of utilities. The City’s lawsuit is still pending.

While the lawsuit continues, the Milwaukee Common Council and the mayor both approved the $124 million project. The first construction contracts should be awarded in July with actual work beginning within the year.

What started as a small 2.1-mile plan has now ballooned into a massive public works project. The expected expansion to UW-Milwaukee, Marquette University, Bronzeville, and Walker’s Point will dramatically increase costs for Milwaukee residents – and Southeastern Wisconsin ratepayers if Barrett wins his lawsuit.

As construction is set to start soon, Healy released the following statement calling on Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to drop his lawsuit against the PSC:

“The mayor needs to focus on the real challenges facing Milwaukee, but Barrett only seems concerned with building a streetcar to nowhere with other people’s money.

“If the mayor truly believes the people of Milwaukee need a streetcar, he should stop the lawsuit to force utility ratepayers outside the city to pay for it. The mayor convinced the city council to approve the project, so why is the mayor still trying to stick it to those of us who live outside the city?

“I call on Mayor Barrett to end his lawsuit against the PSC that only aims to make ratepayers outside the city pay for his trolley folly.”