Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Who Is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort?

Ald. Bauman and others are certain that dark money is pouring in for this, which streetcar opponents deny.

By - Jan 20th, 2015 10:53 am
The streetcar as it meets Broadway in the Third Ward.

The streetcar as it meets Broadway in the Third Ward.

If you believe Ald. Bob Bauman, some sneaky conservative group is spending millions to pay for the anti-streetcar campaign, which is seeking signatures to demand a referendum. “I’ve heard estimates of $1 million to as high as $5 million,” Bauman says. He speculates that the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth or Bradley Foundation could be helping to fund the effort. Others point to the Koch Brothers, always a popular candidate for liberal ire.

Chris Kliesmet of the Citizens for Responsible Government, which is overseeing the petition drive, laughs at all this, calling it “unhinged ravings.” He says there has been “no funding yet nor on the horizon. Of course, we haven’t spent more than a few thousand to date, mostly on halls (for rallies) and (photocopying) petitions.”

CRG, however, did get pro bono legal help — of an unknown value — from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, as Urban Milwaukee has reported. That group, in turn, is bankrolled by the Bradley Foundation, whose most recent annual report shows a $500,000 contribution to the Institute for Law & Liberty.

The foundation report also shows it contributed $170,000 to the MacIver Institute, whose president Brett Healy led the effort pushing the state Public Service Commission, in a completely unprecedented decision, to force the city to pay for the costs of utility relocation, which raised the price tag on the streetcar project. And the MacIver Institute also has connections to the Koch Brothers, as Source Watch has reported. The Koch-funded Cato Institute did a study for MacIver calling the Milwaukee Streetcar effort a scam.

Koch Industries is heavily involved in oil and gas production, and the two brothers have gotten involved in local campaigns to stop transit. An anti-transit campaign in Nashville was funded by the Koch Brothers and the advocacy group they fund, the Americans for Prosperity.  The Americans for Prosperity also fought mass transit in Indiana and opposed the streetcar in San Antonio.

But there is little evidence such money is pouring into Milwaukee to pay for the anti-streetcar effort. The CRG’s rally on Saturday at the Elks Lounge at 55th and Good Hope, looks like it had a low turnout, to judge by the videos posted (Kliesmet claims at least 200 people showed up). There has been little publicity for the effort and no paid ads I can see. Then there’s the fact that the petition drive was launched so late that it has little chance of succeeding.  Frankly, the effort may not look like a good investment for the Koch Brothers or anyone else.

The turnout for the rally Saturday was almost all white (and older) faces, suggesting the ongoing campaign to build streetcar opposition within the minority community may not be bearing much fruit. One effort in that regard has been the radio ads that ran on WNOV featuring Nate Hamilton, the brother of Dontre Hamilton, who was killed by a police officer at Red Arrow Park.

Hamilton in his message, complains that “Tom Barrett’s precious trolley gets the fast track… yet justice for our people is at a stand-still.” He then goes on to suggest people send a message to Barrett and Milwaukee County D.A. John Chisholm (who declined to press charges against the police officer who killed Dontre Hamilton) by opposing the streetcar.

But how would stopping the streetcar send a message to Chisholm? The D.A. has absolutely nothing to do with the streetcar and has never expressed an opinion on it. The ads were paid for by Republican PR operative Craig Peterson, who says he paid “out of my pocket” for the ads because he cares about the city and believes the money being spent on the streetcar could be better spent on other forms of transit.

It’s worth noting, however, that Peterson has done work for Erik O’Keefe, head of the conservative #Wisconsin Club for Growth#. Last summer, Peterson introduced O’Keefe to a number of influential Milwaukeeans in an effort to stoke opposition to Chisholm, says a source who met with the two of them. O’Keefe has been an implacable enemy of Chisholm, ever since the DA launched a John Doe probe of allegedly illegal connections between the campaigns of Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups like the Club for Growth. O’Keefe has filed a series of lawsuits against Chisholm and the other Doe investigators. O’Keefe’s Club for Growth also was interested in working together with black activists in the city to launch a recall against Chisholm. That’s something that would have sent a message to the DA.

Ald. Joe Davis. Photo by Michael Horne.

Ald. Joe Davis. Photo by Michael Horne.

Short Takes

-In his speech at anti-streetcar rally, Ald. Joe Davis, who has announced he will run against Mayor Barrett in 2016, seemed to address Bauman’s claim that the streetcar opposition is more about trying to undercut Barrett’s reelection effort. “Some people may say this is about the mayoral race,” Davis noted. “That’s wrong.”

-While some business folks have come out in favor of the streetcar, the business community is clearly divided on the streetcar. “Our membership lacks a clear consensus on the streetcar, ranging from strong support to concerns over this investment,” Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy told the Shepherd Express.

-Former City Clerk Ron Leonhardt offered a comment after my story which argued the streetcar referendum effort is unlikely to succeed. He notes that once the petitions asking for a referendum are submitted, the City Clerk must review each and every signature and certify that the petitioners have the minimum number of valid signatures and meet all the other statutory requirements for petitions of this sort. This can take several days or more, especially if a legal opinion is needed from the City Attorney. Then, at the next Council meeting, an ordinance would be introduced to establish this referendum requirement. The City Charter forbids an ordinance being adopted at the same meeting that it is introduced. Instead, the ordinance would be referred to committee and could not return to the full Council until the next Council meeting in February, at the earliest.”

If it takes until February for the Council to vote on whether to have a referendum, and if a majority vote no, as they have in the past, then it must go before the voters to decide if a referendum should be required for any city spending of more than $20 million on a rail transit project. But by law, there must be 70 days before the next election, which would rule out the April election. This would move the referendum to the February 2016 election. And if voters okayed the provision requiring a referendum for any such rail project, then such a referendum giving voters a chance to approve or deny the spending would be held in the next election. This moves the whole thing to the spring or fall of 2016.

Milwaukee Streetcar Maps and Renderings

Milwaukee Streetcar Coverage

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

59 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Who Is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort?”

  1. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Dark money, sounds racist to me, from one of the biggest White Liberal racists in Milwaukee. What a joke. I spend all day on Facebook for free though I did spend $20 yesterday.
    We have hundreds of people around country working this on social media getting to everyone from the GRASS ROOTS.
    right now I am guessing that 80% of the people are against it. Go to FACEBOOK: Wisconsin Conservative Digest, LIKE US and find the up to date news.

  2. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    People do not come and stay at those time hundreds urned in petitions, got more total of 500 plus. All white hair?? That is when you need to get scared. When you piss off the seniors they go to the streets, phone, emails and get the 50,000 or so that we will get. Take heed, never piss off the white haired people.

  3. Patty says:

    The reason this petition drive has had such an overwhelming response is because it’s not “funded” and it’s not political. It’s citizens who have had enough of being ignored. The proponents and the opposers can yell all they want, but the side that is asking for the people to have a voice will win out, and for exactly that reason.

  4. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Well we got some funding, that is nice cause the people are overwhelmingly agaisnt it.

  5. PMD says:

    Ha “some funding,” he says, from billionaires no less, real men of the people. Where is the concrete evidence that people are overwhelmingly against it? I’d love to see that.

  6. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    The petitions are coming in by the thousands, overwhelming response. Remember, we are the people that defeated light rail, recalled Ament and many other public officials. we are not lazy people when we see corruption and the theft of the public’s money. This turkey will not help the Black families or Hispanic families that need buses to get to work. The Yuppies will not come here till there are jobs and the white liberal racist in this community chase jobs away.

  7. PMD says:

    Have you personally counted the petitions? Exactly how many signatures are there?

  8. Tim says:

    Dohnal, where’s the petition drive for Waukesha County to expand transit? These buses running from the shopping centers & business parks of Waukesha County to the high poverty neighborhoods of Milwaukee, when are these needed buses going to materialize?

  9. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    That is really god idea, organize that. We do know that there were several occasions when Walker wanted to move to get the money for buses with the money but Barrett refused. Check it out with Bruce. Journal wrote about it.
    PMD. We are having a contest like jelly beans in a jar. I saw 500 people come in and get petitions plus drop off petitions plus many of us have sent out thousands of petitions to print out. Pick a number between 50 and hundred thousand and if you win, will give you all the unused petitions plus bag of jelly beans from the Reagan library.

  10. PMD says:

    You have at least 50,000 signatures? I have a bridge in Alaska to sell you. It’s a great deal.

  11. Dave says:

    “Take heed, never piss off the white haired people.”

    That’s what you do. Create phony outrage and lie to them over and over again convincing them something new and good for us will cost them money so they will help you defeat it to keep Milwaukee nothing more than a second rate city in a second rate state.

  12. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    50,000 childs play. I am not stupid enough to buy a bridge that they did not build. Only the Left wants to build stuff that no one will use and will take 100 million from the kids at MPS and the copshop to hold down crime.

  13. PMD says:

    When the streetcar is built WCD, will you ride it?

  14. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    WISN radio just announced that the money from FEDS does not have to go the trolley, but can be used for buses, if Barrett would go after it. As usual the Left is lying again, they get their money from SOROS!!! I know that Scott wanted to spend the money on the buses so that the Blacks and Hispanics could get to work.

  15. Bruce Murphy says:

    Just a factual point regarding number of petition signers Organizer Chris Kliesmet told me he did not know how many signatures they had, but the original goal to have 35,000 in time for today’s Common Council meeting and the goal wasn’t met. New goal is to have at least 35,000 signatures by Feb 8.

  16. PMD says:

    If Walker is truly that concerned about spending money on buses to get people to work, why not divert some funds from expanding roads (which is a pointless waste of money) to expanding bus routes? Maybe because the people who need to get to work don’t donate large sums of money to him?

  17. Dave says:

    “…will take 100 million from the kids at MPS and the copshop to hold down crime.”

    There’s that lie again.

  18. PMD says:

    WCD I thought you had at least 50,000 signatures? What gives? Are you a liar?

  19. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    we are way to smart for that, we have been lied to too much by the GOP and the Left. never fool with Mother Nature.

  20. Dave says:

    “WISN radio just announced that the money from FEDS does not have to go the trolley, but can be used for buses, if Barrett would go after it.”

    Actually, congress would have to reappropriate the funds. Good luck convincing 435 congressmen and women that they should keep the 55 million in Milwaukee who thumbed their nose at it instead of in their own districts.

  21. Dave says:

    I will say, though, WCD’s support for our bus system is admirable. It’s not disingenuous at all.

  22. PMD says:

    @Dave Oh definitely he rides the bus daily for the senior discount.

  23. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Kooyenga took those figures right from the Milwaukee prospectus on the trolley. That is money form the TIF district that will go to the schools, county and copshop over the next ten years. Kooyenga believess that that number is low.
    Since there has not been any development from the trolley, yet, there is not any new money just pirated money from other needy functions. Scandalous. Dave has not the ability to figure anything just bluster and bloviate.
    Dave and the other white liberal racists on this page care little about kids getting killed or women assaulted in the inner city or kids learning to read. would rather have a Yuppie mobile.

  24. Dave says:

    Beep, beep. Bus is here to take you to bingo, old man.

  25. Dave says:

    By the way, Robert Dohnal, that’s quite the CCAP record you’ve got there. Maybe paying a little more attention to your own business instead of concerning yourself with killing anything the City of Milwaukee wants to do or thinks is beneficial would do you some good. You can pass that along to Orville Seymer next time you see him too…that’s good advice for both of you clowns.

  26. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Now I know that we have you on the run, you have no logic or arguments so you worry about me and my business.

  27. PMD says:

    WCD, would you agree that a city the size of Milwaukee needs robust public transportation to thrive? Or because, as you like to point out, Milwaukee has other problems (MPS, crime), is a robust public transportation system not a necessity? You always mention crime and education, as if a city is not capable of focusing on more than two issues at a time. But doesn’t Milwaukee need strong public transportation in addition to better schools and reduced violent crime? And why are buses the answer? For years routes have been cut and I don’t recall any concern about that from conservatives, but suddenly they all seem to be huge advocates for them.

  28. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I definetely agree that we need a great system and if we spread money over two losers we have big problems. it is well documented that at various times Scott tried to get the city to use money for bus system and that was refused. We need buses to get kids to work, Blacks and Hispanics and this not only will not do that but actually cut into money available for the present system cause of the TIF money taking from other govt. bodies. When I ran for the state senate in 1972 I advocated for the county taking over the bus system cause it was going to be shut down by the private systems and have worked all the time for better systems. My kids rode it to college and my wife to work. When I was working at pharmacies our customers needed that service.

  29. PMD says:

    If Walker has touted expanding and improving the bus system, he’s done it pretty quietly. What exactly has he advocated for? And what exactly does a great bus system look like? What routes need to be added? What should be dropped? I have yet to hear specifics about what a great bus system in Milwaukee looks like? You refer to it as a loser, so tell me how it becomes a winner.

  30. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Do not recall ever saying bus system was loser, have said inadequate. Bruce has reported on the bus system at length

  31. PMD says:

    You said “if we spread money over two losers.” Isn’t that referring to the streetcar and the bus system? I don’t care what Bruce has reported about the bus system. I want you to tell me what you think a great bus system in Milwaukee looks like. You say we need to get people of color in the city to jobs. Where exactly do we need to get them? What routes already exist that do that and what should be added? Do we need more or less express buses? More or less stops on routes? Is there a city with a great bus system you’d point to as an example? You say a great bus system is what Milwaukee needs. Fine. Give me some details. I’m genuinely interested.

  32. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    The transportation system must take people from their homes to their jobs and schools. The system has to change from time to time to do that while the trolley cannot do that. I do not have the time or routes or the research to put that all up here.
    I am just as am interested int he welfare of these kids cause many of my techs, single women had kids that they were very worried about their schooling. In 1974 did lots of work on the system for Dyke and recommended that they bust it up to help these kids. it has gotten worse.
    If Orv and I were not interested ion Milwaukee we just would nto bother to work on it.

  33. PMD says:

    I don’t need an entire proposal, but what are a few examples of effective existing routes and routes that are needed? To get people from the central city to jobs, what routes are needed that don’t currently exist? I used to ride the bus in Milwaukee a ton, but it’s been more than 10 years. I don’t know much about the current system, its route shortcomings, and what it needs. I assume you know more than I do.

  34. Casey says:

    The system lacks overall attractiveness. What does that mean? Comfortable and convienent stops with comfortable vehicles. The bus routes in Milwaukee aren’t really all that bad, its the waiting for them that is horrible. Waiting for 20 minutes in the heat/cold/wind/rain with no shelter can seem like an eternity. That just encourages people to get a car asap.
    How will the streetcar help this? IT will make the transit system as a whole more attractive by making it a more comfortable system. Granted it is a small start but we have to start somewhere.
    No before someone says you can do the same with buses let me say you cannot. Anyone who has been in other cities will tell you that they try to take rail transit and avoid buses when possible because no matter what buses are just not comfortable. Even the Badger Bus out to Madison which is a pretty nice ride isn’t what I would call attractive.

  35. PMD says:

    When I lived in Chicago I used a bus and train to get to campus. It was efficient and easy. A bus took me east a couple miles down a main drag starting in Logan Square. A train took me north to campus.

  36. Casey says:

    @PMD exactly! In a robust system buses act as feeders for rail. In real nice systems even the rail has tiers. When I lived in another place we’d take an articulated bus to the tram then to the metro. Bus was ok, tram was better but nothing could beat the metro.

  37. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    why do you want to feed in, just stay on the bus? Buses are far superior to this dopey idea.

  38. Casey says:

    If they’re far superior then why haven’t cities across the GLOBE not implented buses rather then upgrade to modern effecient trams?
    Bob…You’re probably smarter then you come off. Wish you wouldn’t just echo just about every talking point the GOP leaders give their sheep. (same could be said for the left)
    If the left was against the streetcar I’m sure you’d find some interesting points to back it.
    What does Mick Cornett (chair of republic mayors) have to say about OKC’s streetcar?

  39. Sam says:

    WCD, why don’t you work on getting those busses up and running in Waukesha? If you don’t, Milwaukee’s next move will be light rail from Downtown Milwaukee to Downtown Waukesha… we can skip the rest of Waukesha County and link these cities to benefit commuters and businesses.

    Choo Choo!!

  40. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I do not echo the talking points, I write them. George Watts, Blonien, Scherbert, Czaja, Mett and others fought the Light Rail cause we believe it is priorities. First you fix the crime, then the schools, then you have one good system of buses that covers the Metro area. Then you quit this stupid anti business rhetoric like this dopey state Rep gong after businesses etc., so businesses come to Milwaukee instead of Waukesha.a

  41. PMD says:

    A good bus system that you can’t explain or define. If a good bus system is best for Milwaukee, you should at least be able to explain what that is. You don’t need to share every route, but you won’t (or can’t) even answer basic questions about it. You say it needs to take people from the central city to jobs. That’s a great talking point. Where exactly in the central city and to which employers? What routes already do that and what routes are needed? What about express routes: do we need more or less? Does the bus system you envision get people to and from their jobs in a reasonable amount of time? Tell me something WCD, or I’ll just assume you spew talking points but really have no idea what you’re talking about.

    And you say addressing crime is vital, your most important issue, yet your hero governor doesn’t even mention it in his State of the State speech. Why is that?

  42. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Your blathering about routes is silly. The conservatives around here care about Milwaukee and have for years. I have worked the in inner city for decades, owned real estate there, socialize and know many inner city people in various clubs etc. We have seen Milwaukee go down hill, crime is spilling over into Tosa, Last year jean and I came close a person trying to break into our house and garage by a few minutes. He was 6’4″ 240 lbs from Milwaukee. Police captured him up the street. When I had my pharmacy I was burglarized robbed, all by Milwaukee people as Walgreens also had. When the police are down 250 officers and alll I hear is talk about the arena and their trolley I wonder if anyone in Milwaukee is sane. There should be full force effort to teach kids to read and follow standing ideas from around the country to reduce crime instead of having mindless press conferences after each kid is killed.

  43. PMD says:

    Blather. That’s funny. Everyone here knows all about your inner city work and your real estate and your brush with crime. You never shut up about them. So your love of buses and cheerleading for a better bus system is a whole lot of blather, because you can’t even answer simple, reasonable questions about it.

    And you say addressing crime is vital, your most important issue, yet your hero governor doesn’t even mention it in his State of the State speech. Why is that?

  44. Casey says:

    So is republican OKC Mayor off base for Mick Cornett for supporting the streetcar there and also funding improvements to the Peake (where the NBA Thunder play) while at the same time Mexican drug cartels are setting up shop. So based on your arguments above Mayor Cornett must not care about crime, drugs are minorities. Or does that logic only apply when there is a “D” in front of the politician’s name?

  45. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    PMD and casey do
    you ever say anything of value? Do not have the slightest idea what you are talking about.

  46. PMD says:

    “Do not have the slightest idea what you are talking about.”

    Not sure why that would be the case. My questions were very simple. Why didn’t Walker mention crime in his State of the State speech? What does a great bus system in Milwaukee look like? You can’t or won’t answer for some reason. Instead, you do what you normally do: spin, dodge, call people names, ramble on about how long you worked in the city, etc. I didn’t ask those questions to annoy you or waste your time. I’m genuinely interested.

  47. David says:

    When there isn’t talk of investing in a streetcar, conservatives bash bus transit. When discussing the streetcar, suddenly conservatives want to invest in buses. In 2000, the county implemented a trolley route (River and Lake Routes). They were rubber tired buses that looked like trollies. The right went ballistic. Talk radio rambled on for weeks about it being a huge waste of money. The county dropped the routes due to the backlash. Bus service has been cut by 25% since 2000, even Milwaukee has one of the highest riderships per capita in the counrty for a bus system.

    There is no dedicated funding for transit and the DOT just proposed eliminating transit funding from the transportation fund, forcing transit to battle for state dollars every year against the parks, public health, etc. We’re in a death spiral. Furthermore, Republicans in the legislature outlawed any type of regional transit authority in SE WI. AND we’re supposed to believe what WCD says?

    My advice to WCD…. PLEASE STOP WITH THE LIES!!! Please! No one believes you. Actions speak louder than words. We have a densly populated city, county and metro. We are a transit city and we deserve this investment. just remember, we can build the starter system for the cost of one freeway off ramp.

  48. PMD says:

    “Bus service has been cut by 25% since 2000”

    And have conservatives made a peep about that? I could be wrong as I avoid talk radio and conservative publications, but I don’t recall them decrying bus service cuts.

  49. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    question is both idiotic and the answer at same time.

  50. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Dvid I will go back to basics so that all of you Leftists can understand. Talk radio and others made fun of the trolleys cause no one ever rode them, that is why the businesses stop funding them. I realize that the Left has no interest in the truth, they want to spend the cities money to help their whims and screw the inner city people.. The only time they care about inner city people is when they vote Left.
    Why does anyone think that people want to ride downtown in 10 degree weather then have to get off the bus and transfer to this trolley?
    The problems in Milwaukee are quite simple: crime, worst schools in country, worst poverty, heroin, 57% youth unemployment, human trafficking,corruption, worst county board in history of state, corrupt county exec,high taxes, abandoned houses, and more. Why are the Milwaukee white liberal racists fighting for a new arena and this silly trolley then taking care of the folks that need it. You build a city from the neighborhoods up, not just the downtown yuppies and millionaires. ask Detroit!!!

  51. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    it is interesting to note that the Left is worried about the downtown millionaires and yuppies and the Conservatives are backing the inner city people. This has caused consternation and terror in the City Hall if the Conservatives would take that vote back.
    Remember it was Republicans that freed the slaves, voted for civil rights. They never were in the KKK and filibustered the civil rights laws. since the Left took over care of the inner city they have destroyed the families that live there.

  52. PMD says:

    “Why does anyone think that people want to ride downtown in 10 degree weather then have to get off the bus and transfer to this trolley?”

    This is so insanely dumb, one of the dumbest things you or anyone has ever said. I was one of thousands of people in Chicago who, every day, got on a bus, took it to a train stop, and waited outside for the train to arrive. Every day, all winter long. Did same thing while living out east.

  53. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Simple dummies they woudl want to stay on the bus instead of transferring. My wife went down ther on bus for years.

  54. PMD says:

    Good for her. People will wait outside in winter for a train or streetcar or whatever. In your world why does anyone go to Lambeau Field in January for a game instead of watching in a bar.

  55. YM says:

    Alderman Donovan first proposed the referendum in 2011 according to an MJS article from July 27, 2011. Three and a half years later and where is that referendum? He can’t get a referendum at the polls in almost four years? How much time does he need? He even had support from Americans For Prosperity back then and he still couldn’t get the job done.

  56. Janice says:

    The question should be “Is this a wise project or not?”

    The streetcar is already experiencing a myriad of issues that we are likely to face as well:

  57. PMD says:

    Cripes you naysayers are desperate. That story hardly means the Milwaukee streetcar is a bad idea. Really pathetic Janice.

  58. Tom D says:

    Janice (Jill?), The DC streetcar hasn’t opened yet. People’s opinions on streetcar expansion will change after it opens so today’s opinions don’t mean that much long-term.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us