Dave Reid

Common Council Creates Streetcar Committee

By - Jun 18th, 2009 11:37 am
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The proposed snow and ice fee increase, the furloughs, the possible use of eminent domain for economic development, and the formation of a streetcar committee were topics of interest at this Common Council meeting.

A raise to the snow and ice fee that was proposed to help create a surplus going into next year’s budget was defeated.  During these discussions Alderman Bob Donovan stated that “this is the same old song and dance, increase taxes and fees, and cut services.”  Additionally, he asked for a “plan” to resolve the budgetary issue, but later fought other measures intended to cut costs.  As some of the members in opposition to the raising of the snow and ice fee indicated their opposition revolved around the timing of the raise so it is likely this will be brought up again in late September.

Alderman Donovan offered an amendment in an attempt to exempt the Milwaukee Police Department and Milwaukee Fire Department from the furloughs, despite the majority of both departments already being exempted.  Alderman Nik Kovac explained that as the police and fire departments represent about 60% of the budget and due to the impending budget shortfall that if the Common Council excludes those departments that “then we’re just going to have to cut everything like crazy.”  He also suggest that the union will have to participate in cost cutting measures.  Alderman Donovan’s amendment failed and the furloughs were approved by the Common Council.

File number, 090127, was of particular interest as it proposed utilizing eminent domain for the purpose of acquiring private property, owned by the Cetina family, to convey the property to Pete’s Fruit Market for economic development.  Alderman Robert Bauman spoke at length and took issue with the character attacks that some have take against Alderman Jim Witkowikak regarding this issue, and indicated these attacks have only strengthened his belief this would be an appropriate us of eminent domain.  Alderman Bauman added that at RACM “a very strong record was presented” arguing for the use of eminent domain and that “there is no question this is blighted property.”  It was pointed out that despite claims that the Cetina family had proposed opening a restaurant in 2006 the plan presented did not include a kitchen.  Alderman Witkowiak later added that “it was presented as a full blown nightclub.”   He indicated that the Cetina family will be bring forth a new plan soon which he has yet to see, but as he said “in the interest of being fair, I’m going to ask this be held in council.”  This file was held by the Common Council for one cycle.

Alderman Bauman brought forward a file that would create a Joint Committee on Downtown Streetcar Implementation, with the goal of suggesting routes, suggesting funding options for operating costs and capital costs, and additional advisory options.  He indicated that this committee wouldn’t have any approval authority but would give the Common Council information when the time comes to vote on the proposed streetcar plans.  He added in regards to the future streetcar plans that “we may vote in the negative, and we may send the money to Saint Louis,” essentially saying a vote against the streetcar will in the long run send federal funding away from Milwaukee.  Alderman Witkowiak added that “we need to support this file, the rest of the major cities in the United States are passing us by, as far as transportation options go.”  The file was adopted on a 12 to 2 with both Alderman Donovan and Joe Dudzik voting in opposition.

More about the Milwaukee Streetcar

For more information on project details, how the operator will be selected, what the vehicles will be like, and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.

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