Anti-Streetcar Petition Drive Fails
Streetcar opponents failed to get enough signatures in 60 days; now say they’ll relaunch drive in May.
Wow, what an anti-climax.
The much-ballyhooed drive to get at least 31,000 signatures from city voters to force a binding referendum for any streetcar project of more than $20 million has failed, as Sean Ryan of the Business Journal has reported.
Chris Kliesmet of the CR Network, which organized the petition drive, had declared that “sentiment in the city is wildly against” the streetcar. And the effort had assistance from the Koch Brothers-Funded Americans for Prosperity, which provided paid staff and volunteers to help it.
Yet the drive fell 6,000 votes short, according to Orville Seymer, longtime co-leader of the CRG. He continued to insist to the Business Journal that there was “overwhelming” opposition to the streetcar, but blamed the cold weather for the drive’s failure.
CRG originally planned to have the signatures in time for the February Common Council vote on the streetcar (which approved it) and then extended the deadline to March 5. Now Kliesmet and company plan to start anew in May. As Kliesmet put it in his email, “Now that artificial deadlines connected to the dates of any particularly vote are moot, there really are no restrictions on a petition.”
CRG and their pro-bono lawyer Rick Esenberg have argued that even if Milwaukee has already started work on the streetcar, the petition drive, should it ever succeed, could still force the city to delay the project until a referendum on it occurs.
By contrast, a legal opinion by City Attorney Grant Langley suggested the council’s vote in July 2011 approving an early version of the streetcar project could make the petition drive moot, even if the signatures had been gotten before the February 2015 vote that gave final approval to the streetcar.
The call for a referendum actually goes back to July 2011, when streetcar opponent and alderman Bob Donovan argued in favor of it. “I from day one have asked for a referendum,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today. Which raises the question why the CRG Network, which says it launched the drive on Donovan’s behalf, waited until January 2015 to do so.
The failure of that drive would seem to add difficulties for Esenberg or any lawyer attempting to argue that a second attempt, should it succeed, has legal validity. By this summer, when the petition would be presented, the city would have already spent considerable money planning the streetcar. Esenberg would presumably have to argue that in cold-weather Milwaukee, any petition drive launched during our rather lengthy winter should get a second chance, even if means taxpayer dollars are wasted as a result. That should make for an interesting day in court.
Update 10 a.m. March 6: CRG Network has released a press release saying the petition drive actually got 30,000 signatures but was 5,000 short of its goal of 35,000 signatures (which would have provided 4,000 extra signatures in case many get invalidated). I emailed Kliesmet regarding this inconsistency with the earlier figure (6,000 short) provided by Seymer and have not received a reply. The CRG press release also notes the impact of the “brutally cold weather” it faced and how much better the drive did on one exceptional winter day with a temperature of 42 degrees. For some reason global climate change was left out of the discussion.
Ald. Bob Donovan also released a press release promising that the war against the streetcar is far from over. “Make no mistake,” Donovan thundered, “this is not a retreat but a strategic withdrawal. We will regroup, and we will live to fight another day.” But preferably on a day with balmy temperatures.
Streetcar Maps and Renderings
Urban Milwaukee Streetcar Coverage
- Streetcar Signing Is Quite a Celebration – Michael Horne – February 13th, 2015
- Milwaukee Streetcar Approved – Jeramey Jannene – February 10th, 2015
- Who’s Lobbying for the Streetcar – Bruce Murphy – February 5th, 2015
- Will Streetcar Help the Inner City? – Bruce Thompson – February 4th, 2015
- City Attorney Says Streetcar Petitions Might be Moot – Bruce Murphy – January 30th, 2015
- Millennials And The Streetcar – Bruce Thompson – January 27th, 2015
- Streetcar Responses Show Wide Support – Jeramey Jannene – January 22nd, 2015
- Streetcar Approved, but Held – Jeramey Jannene – January 21st, 2015
- Koch-Funded Group Backs Anti-Streetcar Drive – Bruce Murphy – January 20th, 2015
- Streetcar Backers Say They Have the Votes – Jeramey Jannene – January 20th, 2015
- Who is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort? – Bruce Murphy – January 20th, 2015
- Will Anti-Streetcar Referendum Succeed? – Bruce Murphy – January 9th, 2015
- The Story Behind the Streetcar Referendum – Michael Horne and Bruce Murphy – January 8th, 2015
- Council Delays Streetcar Until January – Jeramey Jannene – December 16th, 2014
- Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 10th, 2014
- Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 9th, 2014
- RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar – Michael Horne – December 8th, 2014
- How to Sell the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 28th, 2014
- Next Stops for the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 24th, 2014
- Barrett Moving Forward with Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – November 18th, 2014
- Who Will Be Streetcar Operator – Michael Horne – May 8th, 2014
- A Streetcar Named Cooperation? – Dave Reid – April 27th, 2014
- How a Streetcar Spurs Development – Angie Schmitt – November 3rd, 2013
- Streetcar Social – Michael Horne – September 12th, 2013
- Mayor Says Streetcar is a “Trojan Horse” – Michael Horne – April 17th, 2013
- Whoops, We Changed Our Mind – Dave Reid – September 27th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference – Jeramey Jannene – May 18th, 2012
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings This Week – Dave Reid – November 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council – Jeramey Jannene – July 26th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward – Jeramey Jannene – July 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex – Jeramey Jannene – June 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward – Jeramey Jannene – May 6th, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday – Jeramey Jannene – October 5th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett – Jeramey Jannene – September 21st, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up – Jeramey Jannene – April 19th, 2009
- Vote for your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 23rd, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee – Dave Reid – March 14th, 2009
For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- The Hop Returns To Full Service - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 21st, 2022
- Transportation: Streetcar Service Goes From Bad To Worse - Jeramey Jannene - May 3rd, 2022
- Transportation: Should National Avenue Rebuild Include Plans for Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 8th, 2022
- Transportation: Maintenance Issues Reduce The Hop’s Schedule - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 4th, 2022
- Transportation: Congress Extends Streetcar Grant - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2022
- City Needs Act of Congress Because of Couture-Streetcar Delay - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 1st, 2022
- Transportation: Streetcar Study Draws Controversy - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 27th, 2021
- Transportation: Streetcar Returning To Full Schedule - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 26th, 2021
- Transportation: Southside Streetcar Study, Street Improvements Approved - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 20th, 2021
- Transportation: City Proposes Study of Streetcar to Walker’s Point - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 8th, 2021
Read more about Milwaukee Streetcar here