Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Mayor Says Streetcar is “Trojan Horse”

Streetcar will be first leg of what he hopes will be a more extensive rail system.

By - Apr 17th, 2013 04:01 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett speaking at the Hangout.

Mayor Tom Barrett speaking at the Hangout.

“Some say the streetcar is a Trojan Horse. … I am here to say it is a Trojan Horse.”

-Mayor Tom Barrett

The Great Hall of the People took on a festive air on Monday, April 15th, when a group of several hundred young professionals gathered at the Young Professionals Week “Hangout” in the City Hall Rotunda to discuss “Sustainability in a Modern City,” a panel discussion – networking event of a sort quite popular these days.

The mayor made his way down from his office on the floor above, while the crowd milled about during a socializing session, eating free Tazino’s pizza and drinking very little of the free Blue Moon Agave Ale. Have you tried one?

The mayor’s remarks on the streetcar hinted at behind-the-scenes planning to expand the scope of the proposed streetcar. Delays, including interference from utilities and static from the AM radio airwaves, have left us the only one of the nation’s 25 largest cities without rail transit, according to the mayor. He asked the young people “to make history happen,” and the crowd gave its most enthusiastic response of the evening. Among those present were the streetcar’s principal aldermanic supporters, Bob Bauman and Nik Kovac.

However, the streetcar remained on its sidings until after Barrett brought up his #1 topic these days, namely the legislative attack on the city residency. Barrett enumerated many of the points found in our story, “How to Crush Milwaukee” in Urban Milwaukee in February.

It bugs the mayor, he said, when a public employee (usually a cop or fireman) says to him, “I have to live in the city.”

“‘No,’I say to them. ‘You get to live in the city.’”

Barrett said the move to end the residency law, in place since 1938, was prompted solely by police and fire department factions. But, he noted, there had been only a handful of voluntary separations from those departments, while there were 5,270 applicants for 100 jobs in the departments, both of city residents and those willing to move here.

Barrett also hinted at a possible behind-the-scenes legal development in the situation, calling ending residency requirements a “policy act that has no place in the budget [bill].” This could be an arguable issue before a court of law, should the legislature prevail.

The city has laid out its argument against including the residency provisions in the budget bill in an 8-point  memo from the Intergovernmental Relations Division of the Department of Administration.

According to the memo, “Right now, our goal is to ask members of the Joint Committee on Finance to recognize the provision as non-fiscal policy and to require that it be heard through the regular legislative committee process.”


Then-County Executive Scott Walker was the first to call Barrett’s plan “really just a Trojan Horse for light rail” in 2007, when Barrett outfoxed him in securing the greater share of a decades-old federal transit appropriation. Barrett himself was quoted as using the “Trojan Horse” analogy in a September 2009 Urban Milwaukee article announcing the proposed routes for the system, where he adopted the term for his own purposes. (The article was written by Urban Milwaukee president Jeramey Jannene, who hosted the panel discussion at The Hangout.)

At around the time of the City Hall event Monday, an Amtrak locomotive was hauling a 13-car Milwaukee-built passenger trainset to the Pacific northwest, where it is to be put into the Cascade service between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. [See Urban Milwaukee Facebook photo.] The trainset was one of four assembled at the Talgo facility in Century City. Talgo is now suing the State of Wisconsin over its failure to pay for two trainsets that Talgo substantially completed under a contract with the state. [See “Did the State Screw Talgo?” Urban Milwaukee, May 2012.]


At the time of this writing, Governor Walker is in China where he is leading a trade mission from April 13-21. The conference includes Milwaukeeans Dean Amhaus of the Milwaukee Water Council, Tim Sheehy of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and Ed Moreland, head of government affairs for Harley-Davidson, who opened a new dealership in Tianjin China Tuesday, with Walker appearing on a Hog. [photo] Participants paid $7,075 to join the delegation.

The tour delegation will split up Wednesday, and regroup Thursday, according to a schedule for the event, with some traveling to  Shanghai by air from Harbin, while another group will travel from Hefei to Shanghai by rail. The governor’s office did not respond to an e-mail request from Plenty of Horne asking if Walker will be on the train, which covers the 465 kilometer distance in 3 hours, or about 96 miles per hour.


When Sue Black was named CEO (and later owner) of the Milwaukee Wave Indoor Soccer Team earlier this year, she said that one of her priorities was its “Milwaukee Wave of Hope” charity, a 501(c)(3) corporation. Indeed, the foundation was mentioned as one of the assets Black purchased when she bought the team from Jim Lindenberg.

So what is the “Wave of Hope?” It consists of several programs, including “Making Waves,” described in its website as “the largest, multifaceted, multimedia community outreach program by a professional sports team in the state.

“In 2009, the Milwaukee Wave soccer players went to more than 100 Wisconsin schools and approximately 23,000 students, teachers, administrators and family members.”

The charity also provides 100 tickets to each Waves home game to local organizations.

Gifts to the foundation totaled $89,768 in 2011, the most recent year for which information is available. An additional $40,649 was raised from a charity dinner and a golf outing. Disbursements, mostly to children’s charities, totaled $130,653.

(Here is the Milwaukee Wave of Hope IRS 990 PF.)


The 10th annual Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Prizes will be announced over the next 3-4 weeks, according to Terri Famer, Vice President for Administration of Wisconsin’s largest foundation, with $574 million in assets.

The conservative-leaning organization awards up to four $250,000 prizes annually, usually to winners who don’t need the cash. Past “innovative thinkers and practitioners whose achievements strengthen the legacy of the Bradley brothers and the ideas to which they were committed” include Edwin Meese III, Jeb Bush and George F. Will, the Washington Post columnist who is also a member of the foundation’s board of directors.

The Bradley Foundation spends heavily in its “Bradley Legacy Civic Identity” giving, donating millions of dollars annually to non-political civic groups in Milwaukee like its orchestras, museums and charities and to private colleges in Wisconsin.

But the great majority of the 2011 $34 million in grants paid were in such areas as “Civil Society,” “Law and Society,” “National Defense and Foreign Policy,” “Public Discourse,” and “Public Policy Research.” The foundation has long been the biggest funder of conservative policy making in the nation.

The foundation has already booked the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for 90 minutes on Wed., Jun. 12, 2013, for the celebration of its prize winners. Party starts at 7:30 p.m.


The Milwaukee Messenger Invitational XII is set to hit the streets at “High Noon, 4/20, Milwaukee” according to the Eric von Munz-designed t-shirt for Milwaukee’s longest-running alleycat bicycle race. As usual, there won’t be an empty sofa or futon from Bay View to Riverwest as messengers come in from out of town on what might be a rainy day. The race originates from the downtown headquarters of Breakaway Bicycle Courier, which is to say the alley behind 224 E. Wells St., in the Century Building. The pre-party will be Friday evening at the Uptowner, 1032 E. Center St., hosted by DJ Armahn “The Hammer” Gonz.

…Hundreds of hungry folks descended on the Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago St. Sunday, April 14th for the 18th annual “Taste of Italy.” The event offers dozens of stations of Italian specialties prepared by volunteers from the many Italian social organizations in town, including the Societa di San Giuseppe, which offered three different soups served up by Judge John DiMotto and other members. This annual event is one of the best deals in town, with 7 tickets, good for food and drink, for only $10. …The Milwaukee Brewing Company is in the process of installing solar panels [photo] on its roof that will reduce energy costs by 27 percent. …Despite the terrible muddy conditions, work continues on the foundation of the 14-unit WiRED Properties development at 1530 N. Jackson St., with workers from Hunzinger Construction putting in some weekend hours to keep the project on schedule. … Dan Fitzgibbons got committee approval Tuesday for his proposed tavern “The Curve,” 1634 N. Water St. Among the entertainments checked off on his license: “Wrestling, comedy and poetry.” Quite a combo.

“I think they will go well together,” Fitzgibbons tells Plenty of Horne.

What kind of wrestling?

“Dick the Bruiser type wrestling, jello wrestling, all sorts of wrestling.”

How about Beer Pong?

“They didn’t have a category for that,” he said.


A special fundraising event is scheduled for Milwaukee’s Comedy Cafe, 615 E. Brady Street, April 26th, for the benefit of Milwaukee Police Sergeant Sebastian Raclaw, who has stage 4 cancer of the abdominal cavity, a rare diagnosis. The 35-year old Raclaw is not accepting personal donations, but has established a foundation through the Medical College of Wisconsin to support research into this disease. Admission is $10 at the door. A 6 p.m. show has been added to the event, details here.

More about the Milwaukee Streetcar

For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.

Read more about Milwaukee Streetcar here

21 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Mayor Says Streetcar is “Trojan Horse””

  1. Tyrell Track Master says:

    Good wrap up… I’m not sure it’s a good idea to use the term “trojan horse” but I do get the Mayor’s point. The real risk is that if there is NOT an expansion then the streetcar really will be useless and only make the goon squad stronger … i would like to see a more comprehensive plan for expansion as soon as anything breaks ground.

  2. Kate says:

    Not to disregard the point of this excellent article, but what’s wrong with Blue Moon’s Agave Ale?

  3. Chris Byhre says:

    Who is in the ‘goon squad’? I never heard of it. Or is that just your label for people who disagree with you? I believe that the street car will be a complete waste of money, will not spur development and will not come anywhere near even the most tepid ridership projections. It is a century old technology that is not efficient and will be shunned by people who enjoy convenience in their transportation. Because I have a strong conviction in my beliefs I do not need to resort to name calling people who disagree. Time will tell who is correct.

  4. #2 Dear Kate —

    As I wrote in the article, “Have you tried one?”

  5. Bruce Thompson says:

    Interesting article on the street car. I just got back from a trip to the North West, where we were visiting family. Seattle not only has street cars but is ripping up streets to extend the lines. It also has a recently built light rail line (mostly elevated above the streets) from the airport to downtown. And a bus tunnel under downtown which is being extended to the Capitol Hill neighborhood (sort of like our East Side). And suburban commuter trains. And, of course, the Talgo cars we could have gotten for free will soon be running between Seattle and Oregon.

    Very thoughtful of our leaders to save us from Seattle’s fate.

  6. Chris says:

    Agreed Bruce. I’ve found Seattle to be a city that’s getting harder and harder to leave with each visit. They’re investing in a sustainable, multi-modal future and as a result, young creatives are moving there in droves.

    Amazon is about to build a massive corporate headquarters in the heart of downtown. Guess where they’re going to do this? Right along a streetcar route. Coincidence? No.

  7. Chris Byhre says:

    Seattle has a metro population more then double that of Milwaukee and is projected to reach Tokyo like population density before the middle of this century. Geography plays a significant role in not only the growth of Seattle but also it’s population density. Trains and trolleys make a lot of sense in some communities, just not ours.

  8. #7 Chris Byhre: Nonsense. We have ample population, population density and geographic features to have rail transit. Again, we are the only city of our size to not have it. We can no longer allow the automobile to pollute our environment or our political policies.

  9. Chris Byhre says:

    Mr Horne, Your rebuttal lacks any proof, substance or anecdotal evidence that would assist your claim. To say that all the other cities our size have them sounds like a child saying that they need a certain toy because all their friends have it.

  10. Dave Reid says:

    Funny thing “Geography plays a significant role in not only the growth of Seattle but also it’s population density.” The Milwaukee region is more dense than the Seattle region http://seattletransitblog.com/2012/10/27/population-weighted-density-how-seattle-stacks-up/. And when you compare just city densities (not weighted densities) the two cities are very comparable: Seattle – 6,717.0/mi². Milwaukee -6,214.3/mi². If anything Seattle shows Milwaukee is prime for fixed rail transit.

  11. chris byhre says:

    Dave, I am sure Mr. Horne and the others appreciate you trying to prop up their failing arguments. So you cite information from a pro train Seattle blog and that is going to settle it? Interesting that you fail to mention that Seattle population is actually growing at an 8% clip this century and was growing at 9% throughout the 90’s. Milwaukee on the other hand has seen consistent population decreases in that same time span (and in the years before). Also. the stats on your pro train blog show Seattle taking up 5872 square miles and Milwaukee only 1454 miles. This would refute your argument that the two cities are comparable since it has Seattle taking up more than 3 X’s as much space. The Seattle area has more then twice as many people as the Milwaukee area and is actually growing rapidly, something not seen here in over half a century.

  12. Kyle says:

    According to the data in that blog, we should probably be comparing Milwaukee to Providence and Buffalo (assuming you want comparable populations and areas in your analysis). If you don’t want to keep those comparable, I notice we’re almost equal to Stockton, CA. So we’ve got that going for us.

  13. Dave Reid says:

    @Chris “Geography plays a significant role in not only the growth of Seattle but also it’s population density.” The key comparison, which you made, to Seattle is in regards to density. So again, at the city level our population density is very comparable. And as a region we have a higher population density. This same comparison, as Horne was pointing out, can be shown favorably for Milwaukee in regards to all sorts of US cities that already have fixed rail.

  14. Chris Byhre says:

    I only mentioned Seattle because the train proponents mentioned it in their comments on this article. Why do you ignore that the Seattle area is more then twice as populated as the Milwaukee area? Seattle is growing at almost 10% while Milwaukee is consistently shrinking. This population trend in both cities goes back more then 3 decades and will continue. There is not enough demand in Milwaukee, there are not enough people, and there are less and less each year, and a significant amount of people do not want it nor will they use it. You also never mention that we can not afford it (I know the Feds are paying the first approx 70 million, which is still actual money by the way). It works for Seattle, it works for a select few other cities, that is great. In the end we should both be happy, you are going to get your beloved trolley and I will be proven correct over time that it is a total waste of money.

  15. Dave Reid says:

    @Chris I ignored the region population for a multiple of reasons, but here’s an easy one because it is fairly arbitrary. See that report used Milwaukee – West Allis – Waukesha region, say we use the Milwaukee – Racine – Waukesha region and boom we’re at 2,025,898 in population. Amazing huh. Hence a way to actually compare is to look at the weighted density. As far as population. I’ll add that the City of Milwaukee’s population decline has essentially stopped, in fact the 2011 estimate showed a slight uptick over 2010 and 2000. Further, even Milwaukee County has a slight uptick from 2010 to 2012 http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/55/55079.html. No doubt tiny moves, but apparently those trends have broken. And I’ll add that it’s possible the lack of fixed transit is hurting Milwaukee’s pop numbers (seeing the transit oriented development along the Lynx in Charlotte and the Portland Streetcar in Portland in person make this evident to me anyhow)… could be.

    “there are not enough people” I’m curious what number would be enough? “a significant amount of people do not want it nor will they use it” Evidence? Because I have some, that actually “we” do want it. We’ve actually had our elected officials vote on it. Then we’ve re-elected these folks. I’d think if there was some actual big opposition from residents of Milwaukee that they might not have been re-elected? But they were.

  16. Kyle says:

    Dave, you ask for evidence to support Chris’ statements, but toss on the idea that a lack of fixed rail is what is hurting Milwaukee without anything resembling evidence, even if two cities with countless other factors have convinced you.

    Let’s take a moment to clear something up here. Most opponents to the streetcar think that the $100 million phase 1 is useless and doesn’t serve enough people to justify the cost. Because the densest area isn’t worth it, they see no way that less dense areas to be added later can help (because they will presumably cost just as much). Proponents of the streetcar think a complete system would be a great asset to Milwaukee, but most will privately admit that phase 1 by itself isn’t very useful.

    With that in mind, can we be honest about the cost? Rather than claiming this will cost less than $100 million, most of which is federal money, let’s estimate the cost at $1 billion, with only $70 million currently funded. How much support would the project have with the new numbers? I would guess even less than a new NBA arena does (but no, I don’t have evidence to support that guess).

  17. Chris Byhre says:

    Dave, you ignored the fact that Seattle is more then twice the size of Milwaukee because it works against your argument. I made several general statements about the desire locally for the trolley. The fact is in SE Wisconsin people love their cars. We do not carpool, we do not like mass transit. Statistics have shown this to be true. I know there are train lovers out there, there just are not enough to merit this expense. You are right, we have elected officials in Milwaukee like Tom Barrett who are for the trolley. In October of 2012 in the Chicago Tribune Barrett himself said that the street car is..”more about attracting attention then public transportation”. Wow, there is a ringing endorsement from one of the biggest supporters of the trolley. The last time trains and trolleys were a major issue in an election, the anti train candidate (Walker) won easily over the overt train booster (Barrett). As a trolley supporter I would stop touting Portland as a success story. There was not significant development along the light rail line in Portland for 10 years after it was built. Only after over 1.5 billion dollars of subsidies were handed out to developers was anything built on the line. Why people in Milwaukee vote they way they do is a topic for another day. (You try and explain Barrett, Moore, Holloway, McGee’s, the common council as a whole etc. because I sure do not get it). Smile Dave, in a few years you will be able to ride the street car in circles all day and not have to worry about sitting next to anyone. I think it will be a great place for people who are nervous in crowds or large groups to get away from it all.

  18. Tom D says:

    Chris, you wrote, “There was not significant development along the light rail line in Portland for 10 years after it was built. Only after over 1.5 billion dollars of subsidies were handed out to developers was anything built on the line.”

    In saying this, you are confusing two DIFFERENT Portland rail projects: the light rail (also called “MAX”) which allegedly caused no development for 10 years, and the Portland Streetcar which clearly triggered development within three years of its opening.

    My father-in-law used to live near Portland, and I visited there in July 2002 and May 2004. I saw a marked increase in development and pedestrian traffic near the Streetcar over the 22 months between my two visits. Since my second visit came within 3 years of the Streetcar’s July 2001 opening, it is totally untrue to say that the 2.4-mile Portland Streetcar triggered no development for 10 years.

    The second question you raise is whether the development was triggered by the streetcar, by the financial incentives, or by both. While I don’t have the background to completely answer this question, let me point out two facts ignored by Streetcar opponents:

    1. Development was centered along the streetcar tracks and was NOT evenly distributed throughout the urban renewal area. In 2008 Portland quantified this effect by measuring new development in terms of Floor-Area Ratio (“FAR”)–the ratio between the square footage actually built vs the maximum square footage permissible by zoning.

    Portland found that new development one block from the Streetcar tracks averaged 90% of FAR. This fell off to about 70% two blocks away, 60% three blocks away, and only 43% four or more blocks away from the Streetcar.

    2. Before the Streetcar route was finalized in 1997, only 19% of all CBD development was within 1 block of the Streetcar tracks. Between 1997 and 2008 (when this report was issued), 55% of new CBD development was within 1 block of the tracks.

    Clearly the Streetcar had a lot to do with the new development in Portland. You can read the 2008 report at:

  19. Andy says:

    All the talk about population and population density comparisons between Seattle and Milwaukee are moot because there are many cities far less dense then either that have thriving light rail and street car systems. Even Portland, which is heavily discussed in this comment section, has a population desnity that is 2/3rds of either Seattle or Milwaukee. Yet Portlands rail system is robust.

  20. Fernando Moreno says:

    It is just ridiculous how sad these anti-choice “arguments” are. Forcing residents to remain dependent on one mode of transportation is stupid policy. We have underfunded our bus system for decades now, thanks to the anti-public bias of libertarians and other dreamers like Walker whose Randian views of economics have never been successfully implemented on a scale larger than my child’s lemonade stand. There’s a reason that libertarian economies don’t exist anywhere on Earth. Because THEY DONT WORK. Thanks to the streetcar, Chicagoan tourists (like my in-laws and sister), can soon roll out of their couches, hop on a Metra across the street, arrive at Milwaukee’s Multimodal Station, hop on a streetcar, and be at Summerfest in 2 hours, without having to spend ten seconds driving, or parking. Anyone who thinks that will have no effect on development, tourism, or exposure to our downtown area, is just sad. The arguments about density are specious too. The exact same things were said about Minneapolis, Denver, Cleveland, and Salt Lake City’s systems. And every one of those city’s systems is thriving. Let’s cut to the heart of the matter: conservatives and libertarians don’t want to pay for anything that doesn’t benefit them first, foremost, and immediately. It would be nice if they would just admit that and stop this sad game of pretending its about “density”, or other such nonsense. Then the real debate could occur. The one about whether or not public goods actually exist, and the degree to which libertarians and their ilk owe virtually their entire way of life to the largesse of the society they loathe so openly and hypocritically.

  21. Nicky says:

    I can think of a counter elmapxe where light rail (streetcars) to an unpopulated place was a success, but the differences are so extreme that it may serve to illustrate what it would take.That counter elmapxe is the twin peaks tunnel in San Francisco. When it was built almost a century ago, there was nobody living at the west end of the tunnel. However, the density east of the tunnel was high enough that it was pretty much saturated and the travel time in the streetcars through the tunnel was so much faster than the other options, it made West Portal (as the neighborhood is known) a very desirable place to live.

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