Sheehy Defends MMAC
He takes issues with latest column in Murphy's Law.
I have no qualms with the title of your story “MMAC plays Hardball on the Bucks Arena”. Democracy is a contact sport, and the Association’s mission is to advocate on behalf of its members.
MMAC’s advocacy is underpinned by our vision for a region that is “globally competitive, providing high-value high-wage jobs, that sustain a vibrant quality of life” What I do take issue with is the assertion that we play fast and loose with facts and that our polling methods are not ethical.
Your story attempts to discredit a poll that we sponsored using comments from “polling experts”, and then makes the claim that our contention is “laughable” that the BMOBC would face a funding shortfall of $100M over the next decade without the Bucks as a tenant. Let me respond briefly to each claim:
Marquette has a fine reputation for their polling and we do not dispute that reputation. But context is also important in looking at the results you quote about “79% of state voters oppose funding for an arena” from that poll. The question in Marquette’s poll about support for borrowing “$150M for a new arena for the Bucks” came right after asking about cutting $127M for public schools, borrowing $1.3B for roads, and cutting $300M for the UW System as part of the state budget. Quite a different context, and one that elicited a strong opinion. But this context in our view was short other information that voters should consider.
The polling firm MMAC engaged, the Terrance Group has a national reputation for its work, you may not like the answers to the questions, but we did not make up the results (when given full context 69% supported funding for a new arena). Both the questions, their sequence and the results were shared publically. As our polling firm responded “the criticisms are not so much methodological then as personal disagreement with the proposal as described. MMAC made the decision to release the poll in its entirety, including all introductions. There is nothing wrong with wording questions as such, so long as we are clear in releasing them.”
“What would have been wrong would be if the wording was not released. The AAPOR (American Association of Public Opinion Research) makes clear in its disclosure statement that it is essential that all wording be released, including that of any questions prior to those released. MMAC went beyond that by releasing the poll in its entirety, the goal of the research was to produce a poll for MMAC and its members that revealed public opinion of the arena proposal in its working complete form.”
Which brings me to your second point, that the claims we made in the questions were “laughable”. I note you did not take issue with our claim regarding the $700M loss in revenue (calculated by the Department of Revenue), so I assume that you are referring to the $100M in short fall for the BMOBC over the next 10 years if the Buck’s leave. The detail of this “claim” is as follows:
- $25M in ongoing capital expenses and major maintenance
- $30M in deferred major capital repairs and maintenance
- $20M debt service
- $25M in lost sponsorship revenue
- $10M in net loss revenue associated with Bucks
- $10M in lost revenue without substantial renovation
The point here is, if the Bucks leave, yes there will be some costs that go away, but bottom line “net results” indicate the state will own a depreciating asset, with no major tenant, and significantly reduced revenue sources. (My opinion, the BMOBC board has stretched and extended the life of the original capital assets, many facing their 30 year life, that’s prudent Milwaukee stewardship, but if you have a beef, take it up with the BMOBC board, not ours). This State owned facility will be responsible for ongoing maintenance, capital repairs, and a diminished ability to compete for other events (major concerts) without additional capital upgrades over and above this list provided. In addition, the centers workforce would decline by about 330-440 jobs.
MMAC’s basic point is this, there is a calculated risk to moving forward with public investment in a new arena, but one that could attract upwards of $750M in private investment and development. Development that is generational and transformative for Milwaukee. There is also a risk to saying no to this development. Lost state and local tax revenue, a less attractive downtown, 30 vacant acres, and no alternate plan to counter this lost opportunity. We think voters need to understand this full picture.
MMAC will be continue to be at the center of thoughtful dialogue on the region’s economic future, and we will remain committed to putting facts behind our advocacy.
Thanks for the opportunity to respond.