Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Abele Plan for Bucks Arena Won’t Work

The county has nowhere near $4 million in annual debt for state to collect -- and Abele may lack the power to deliver it.

By - Jun 4th, 2015 10:09 am
Chris Abele

Chris Abele

A key part of the proposed plan to create a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks — certifying “uncollected” debt owed Milwaukee County for state collectors to grab — is unlikely to generate anywhere near the $80 million over 20 years the proposal envisions. It’s also not clear that Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has the power to unilaterally approve such a measure without the county board’s approval.

According to Milwaukee County Budget Director Steven Kreklow, the county is awash in debt, with some $120 million owed it, as he explained to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Don Behm. Kind of makes you wonder why the county doesn’t try a little harder to collect all that debt. We taxpayers would certainly appreciate it.

But it turns out, that $120 million figure is rather suspect. Most of it — some $76 million — is owed to the county courts but the vast majority of that is restitution money that must be repaid over time to victims of crimes, explains Dave Ehlinger, Fiscal Operations Administrator for the courts. In short, the state can’t get its hands on this debt to fund a new NBA arena.

Another big chunk of the $76 million is money the state already collects. (The county largely operates not as an independent government, but as the local administrator of state programs.) And by the way, when the state does collect debt, it finds that about 11 percent of debt is uncollectible, Ehlinger notes, because the party may not pay Wisconsin taxes, has moved out of state, can’t be traced because the Social Security number isn’t correct or for other reasons.

In response to a request from Milwaukee County Comptroller Scott Manske, Ehlinger prepared a huge, 13-page analysis of the courts’ out standing debts (going back 20 years) with colored charts by which he concludes that the amount of uncollected debt the state could likely collect is about $100,000 per year, or less than $2 million over 20 years.

The next biggest category is delinquent property taxpayers, but Kreklow told the JS the county already collects more than 90 percent of this, which leaves less than $2.5 million, which may simply represent the 10 percent (or less) that is uncollectible. Just how much more those tough state bill collectors could grab is open to question.

Beyond these two big categories of debt, we’re left with just $19 million owed for county ambulance and other EMS charges, and other unspecified county service fees. My guess is this debt also goes back many years and a high percentage is owed by indigent people, which, beyond the unsavory spectacle of the state squeezing them for every last dollar to benefit billionaire sports owners, again presents the 11 percent uncollectible debt challenge: how much of this $19 million is also uncollectible?

Manske notes that “it’s really not debt” that’s being discussed for the Bucks plan, but “uncollected receivables.” Will it be easy to collect? “No,” he answers.

All which seems to leave the county far short — probably more than $60 million — of the uncollected debt needed to pay the $80 million for the arena which Abele has agreed to in negotiations. Which means the money would really come from the state reducing its annual aid to the county. And that, in turn, would force the county to further cut back the transit system and the parks, or perhaps emergency ambulance services – all to benefit billionaire owners and millionaire basketball players. I wouldn’t want to run for reelection as county exec on that kind of platform.

Nor is it clear that Abele would have the power to certify these remaining county debts for collection by the state. “It really depends,” says County Corporate Counsel Paul Bargren. “It depends on the details of what the debt is.”

“Some of that (state collection of debt) goes on now,” he notes, referring to the courts. The implication is that some adjustment to let the state collect even more of the court system’s debts could be approved solely by the county exec. But at best, as Ehlinger notes, that wouldn’t yield more than $100,000 a year.

As for whether county board approval is needed to certify any other department’s debts for state collection, Bargren says that depends on how the state bill authorizing funding of the arena is written. “They could change the state statues,” he notes, to simply give the county exec the sole authority to approve this.

In short, the state legislature might need to reduce the county board’s power even further, before there has even been a chance to test how well the current system (under which county supervisors drop to part time salaries and status in Spring 2016) has worked out. Certainly Republican legislators could vote for this with little blowback from their constituents, who live outside Milwaukee County. But what about Abele: is he going to support yet another power grab for the county exec simply to do an end run around the board to bail out the Bucks?

Abele won’t talk to the press so it’s unclear why he volunteered the county to provide this $80 million, which seems far beyond what the city is offering. But he has compounded this giveaway with his proposal to sell 10 acres within downtown’s Park East strip for $1 to the Bucks owners for a variety of developments, from residential to office, bars and restaurants. Yet an appraisal firm hired by the county says the parcels together are valued at $8.8 million, as Journal Sentinel reporter Tom Daykin has reported.

Do we really need to offer yet more giveaways to the three Bucks owners, who are among the wealthiest people on the planet? The Abele administration has justified the giveaway because of the development would “realize… new jobs, workforce training and an expanded tax base,” but that’s true of any development and hardly justifies given the land away for nothing.

His detractors are already pointing to the fact that Abele has first-row, center-court season tickets for the Bucks and now owns a condo in the Moderne, whose value could rise due to proximity to a new arena, sports and entertainment district, not to mention that the land he is willing to give away will create development right next to the Moderne. These attacks might be unfair, but that doesn’t mean an opponent won’t raise them when Abele next runs for office. As former state senator George Petak learned, when he was recalled from office by his Racine-area constituents for favoring the Miller Park subsidy, voters can get angry about sweetheart deals for pro sports owners.

Update 8:30 a.m. June 5: Yesterday’s press conference with an update of arena financing offered no additional details on the county’s portion of the subsidy. We’ll report back if and when the county Comptroller provides more information.

Arena Renderings

73 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Abele Plan for Bucks Arena Won’t Work”

  1. Matti says:

    “His detractors are already pointing to the fact that Abele has first-row, center-court season tickets for the Bucks and now owns a condo in the Moderne”

    Now of course you’re detractors are going to point out that your journalism is bullshit. “Detractors” is obviously vague. It is a 20th century journalism trick to mean “The author right here, who couldn’t find a single person to go on the record to support this nonsense.”

    SInce your sourcing is bullshit of course that means we have to look at the author’s motives. Hmm? Bruce Murphy, kind of against the stadium. Obviously the agenda of a “disreputable” journalist using potentially imaginary detractors is subject to much speculation. Some might suggest that it is stupid to suspect the motivation of Mr. Murphy, who has built up a career based on credibility. Of course, some might suggest it is stupid to suggest that Chris Abele wants the Bucks to stay in town because he has front row seats and a future condominium.

    If you have found someone stupid enough to make the suggestion make them put their chickenshit name on their own allegations. As it stands now, the real conjecture is better aimed at the motivations of Mr. Murphy.

  2. Observer says:

    Hey Matt, did you know that Abele has first-row, center-court season tickets for the Bucks and now owns a condo in the Moderne…….”? I guess Bruce isn’t alone. I will grant that it did sound a bit like the Fox broadcasts that start, “Some say that …………” when pushing their POV.

  3. Matt says:

    @Matti – this still doesn’t change the fact that the county does not have the money to give the bucks $80 million. When one does not have facts on their side it is better to attack the person writing the story because there is no other way to refute the reporting.

  4. Will says:

    “the state legislature might need to reduce the county board’s power even further”

    Anything that reduces/eliminates the county boards power of anything is a step in the right direction. They’ve messed up Milwaukee long enough.

  5. Will says:

    “His detractors are already pointing to the fact that Abele . . .owns a condo in the Moderne, whose value could rise due to proximity to a new arena”

    What an embarrassing and telling paragraph. So Bruce is implying that Abele, already a millionaire, is doing all of this in hopes that the Modernes potential increase in property value will increase his unit by what, $100k? Who needs “FAUX news” amirite?

  6. JW says:

    You made your point Matti. It wasn’t necessary to point out Abele has detractors which apparently shall remain anonymous. But your post smacks of “shooting the messenger” and doesn’t address the substance of Bruce’s article, which are the financial smoke and mirrors in play here. I would like to see this arena built so I’m looking for holes to poke in what Bruce is reporting.

    I haven’t found any. Have you?

  7. Will says:

    ” The Abele administration has justified the giveaway because of the development would “realize… new jobs, workforce training and an expanded tax base,” but that’s true of any development and hardly justifies given the land away for nothing.”

    But this isn’t “any development.” You are right that a lemonade stand also creates new jobs but not quite the same thing is it? A project of this scale and the jobs/revenue it will create does in fact justify giving away 9 million in land. Not to mention that developing this land is costly because of repairs which are needed to build on it.

  8. Matt says:

    Will – we have to assume the appriaser took these additional costs into account when doing his or her job to value the land. For example for a lot with a house. Is it appraised the same if with the house or without the house? I don’t think so, that is what an appraisal is designed to do, value the land as it sits. Now are appraisals always accurate, no, but to assume is is worth $0 is quite a stretch.

    We can debate whether the $9 million gift is appropriate or not all we want the problem it is not the only thing being given so we need to add everything up. Giving $9 million to the bucks for the arena, if that is all is something I can live with.

  9. bruce murphy says:

    Will, the $8.8 million estimated value of the land is based on comparison to nearby land that also needs repairs, which again raises questions about selling it for $1.

  10. Adam says:

    Plenty of questions can be raised about this whole deal. At the end of the day, this is how the professional sports arena financing game is played in the USA, and Milwaukee and WI need to play along. We can’t lose the Bucks or the redevelopment of the Park East west of the river. If the Bucks leave, the Bradley Center sits and slowly deteriorates until its eventual bulldozing, and the Park East land north of it sits fallow for another decade or better. This will be the large development surge that finally stitches downtown back together with its neighborhoods to the north and builds on the national buzz Milwaukee is beginning to create. Benefits- tangible and otherwise can not be overstated.
    So yes Bruce, our political system built to serve billionaires reeks through and through. But Milwaukee’s economy and national status is far to fragile to send this NBA team packing. A new one won’t be coming back for a long time, if ever.

  11. David says:

    It’s hard to subjectively analyze the Buck’s situation without looking at other redevelopment efforts. NML, Manpower, Kohls, The Corners, Amazon, ULine, Mercury Marine….. and on and on…. all come to mind. Without question, all of these companies / developers are in positions to move forward with their projects without a dime of assistance from the state or local municipalities yet we see public / private developments as a valuable tool / necessity for the ultimate growth and development of our economy.

    First, The Park East is and absolute disaster and I believe it will not develop for another generation without some a public / private investment such as the arena. Many of you may argue that point, but it’s been 15 years. Secondly, planned correctly, this development could be a game changer for the Westown neighborhood and neighborhoods to the east and north, not to mention The Brewery project. It’s true, the arena and the practice facility will be tax exempt, but ancillary developments will be taxable.

    I believe this is more about politics and rich carpetbaggers from NYC than corporate welfare. If anything, the 50 / 50 public / private split gives power to the city and county to make sure the development is done correctly and btw, it’s a better deal than most other communities have struck. Let’s debate corporate welfare after we get the arena done. Why are we suddenly concerned now?

  12. Matt says:

    Is that what we should tell our kids, when they say well so and so’s parents let little Johnny do it. According to that logic we must do it as well. Lets all join everyone in a race to the bottom.

    Study after study says this build it and they will come mentality never works. The extra development could happen without a new stadium. I would much rather invest $1 million in 250 businesses to start up and grow than this in an arena that may or likely not bring new additional development.

    How about we build a complex for startups to have free rent for a period of 6 months while their company’s start, anything would be better than an arena. Significant jobs will not be created. The bucks employee maybe 300 people, the richest of which only pay state income taxes on the days they work in Wisconsin (does everyone realize that?) So what maybe 1/3 at most of their income is taxed. So after we build this we are going to add 100 jobs to man these new restaurants in the plaza ect, those are not high paying, not to mention they will probably come from water street and old world third bars when they see a decrese in traffic. It is all a shell game and you are falling for it. Call it for what it is a hand out to the bucks to maybe stay (we don’t know if they will actually leave), if you are ok with that fine (I am not) but don’t delude yourself into thinking it is anything other than that.

    I for one want to call their bluff, offer $50 million and see if they take it (they likely will). That is what these guys do ask for the moon and we are giving it to them. Or trying to.

  13. David says:

    I agree….. let’s have the corporate welfare argument after we get the Buck’s deal done. I have a great idea….. let’s have the debate when that huge, rich multi-national corporation Johnson Controls asks for millions in tif for their new tower. Wait… I think that ship has sailed. Didn’t The Corners, Mercury Marine, ULine, Amazon, NML, Manpower, Kohl’s…… and on and on and on all get funding? Hmmmmm……. I think this is all about politic and rich carpetbaggers from NYC.

  14. Dave Reid says:

    @David I do agree that whatever development happens in this part of the Park East there likely will be government subsidy involved (freeway piers [ooops Norquist], brownfield, and MMSD situation). Even across the river there was in fact a bit of a subsidy for the MSOE project.

  15. Dee says:

    Well done county employee Ehlinger for putting the information together for the public to understand what’s going on before this thing passed.

  16. David says:

    Dave….. there have been national developers that have passed on the Park East because of the soil conditions (loose and silty), buried tanks, contamination and freeway piers. I am in a related industry and I’m privy to some of the national and local interest. The issues are pretty onerous especially in a hot market where money could just as easily flow to KC, Chi, Mpls, Cin, etc. And I agree, why did we leave the freeway piers in place?!?

  17. David says:

    Matt…. the Buck’s currently generate $10M annually in income tax revenue for the state. That goes away if they do. Also, that number is projected in increase significantly. Also, we do invest in incubator programs for start ups. Reed Street Yards is a great example. Also, one is in the works for the 30th Industrial Corridor among others. We invest in small businesses and disadvantaged businesses as well. The Bucks alone pay as much income tax as 2,500 $30,000 / year jobs. That would be hard to replace. And no, if one kid jumps off a bridge, I would encourage my child not to.

  18. Mike Bark says:

    In large part Politics is about optics. That’s why we see the legislature doing everything they can to paint this package as anything but a give away and will always talk about things like deferred maintenance or revenue leaving. There’s a reason why they won’t discuss doing just a straight up tax increase.

    So the fact that Abele owns property right next to the place that he wants to give the Bucks and the fact that he’s sitting court side at the Bucks games will make a powerful commercial for anyone who’d like to run against him.

  19. AG says:

    After seeing the cost totals that Bruce came up with for the arena that were exaggerated, pumped up, or an absolute worst case scenario based on missing information that also failed to take into account opportunity costs, lost revenues, etc… I now find it hard to swallow the numbers here. I don’t have time to look into the factual nature of the accusations in this article, but color me skeptic due to other numbers posted about the arena previously.

  20. Matt says:

    @ David – $10 million annually, where does that number even come from? Can we please stop believing the lies everyone tells us. In order to generate 10 million annually in income taxes at the highest Wisconsin bracket of 7.65% that would mean the bucks payroll is over $130 million. Last year it was less than half of that at $63 million. The does not take into account the fact that the players do not pay taxes on days they do not work in the state. Lets be generous and say it is half the time and add in the opposing players revenue and call the taxable income 45 million. That generates about $4 million a year in taxes. This also does take into account the fact that most athletes create an LLC that all their income and expenses go into that so their “taxable” income is typically a lot less than their reported salary.

    Again, I am not entirely opposed to giving something to the bucks to stay we are just going way over the top. Take a % of the payroll taxes they have to pay in or give them a 50% credit on their property taxes for x number of years. But wait…they don’t pay property taxes like other businesses and as I have pointed out above they don’t pay enough in payroll taxes.

    If you are for the arena be for the arena, but don’t try to justify that the tax payers will see a “return” on this investment through other stuff that may or may not happen and may have happened with or without the bucks anyway.

  21. David says:

    Matt…. opposing players also pay WI income tax for the 41 days they play here. I am for the arena and I believe on balance the Bucks are great for the city and region. My point is that we utilize public / private partnerships all the time. I also know that the state will be out $10+ million in annual income tax revenue a year if they do leave. That is not a lie and is not in dispute. That is why the state does not want them to go.

  22. David says:

    And to believe that Abele wants and new arena so his condo will appreciate is ridiculous.

  23. Matt says:

    @ David – did you read what I wrote – I included the opposing players in my calculation. How do you get to $10+ million, if you are so sure lets see the numbers?

  24. Kyle says:

    I really wish everyone would get Google already. Bickering over number that are easily found just kills discussion.

  25. David says:

    Sorry guys….. so it’s $10.7M with all events at the BMO and also includes other workers from the Buck’s organization. At least according to Kyle’s source.

  26. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Only those that believe that there is pot of gold at end of the rainbow will buy this crappy deal. The NY guys know that Midwesterners are prey.

  27. PMD says:

    Who needs Google when we’ve got Kyle?

  28. Observer says:

    This is a most interesting discussion. I can see if someone is not in the least bit interested in the NBA in general and/or the Bucks in particular, you’d have a certain point of view that would never be swayed. This doesn’t appear to be the case here. I love the Bucks but paying $$$$$ to folks where millions to them are like tens of thousands to us seems insane. Will Milco Taxpayers Arena be viable in 2035? Won’t interior arena business cash go the owners or do we get some of that? And don’t forget Franklyn M. Gimbel isn’t satisfied with giving us the expensive white elephant formerly know as the Auditorium, he has his hand out for more Milwaukee $$$$$. Has anyone divided those costs (include the “Midwest” Center please) with cash intake and see what the taxpayer per year damage is? The Bradley Center bills are absent from this discussion. Bucks staying or leaving, there will be BC bills to pay.

  29. Observer says:

    Oh Lord, we need to be able to edit our posts. My praise in having a reasonable and thoughtful discussion was premature.

  30. Frank Galvan says:

    Q: does the County Executive even have a college degree?
    A: you must be thinking of the last County Executive.
    Q: are you sure?
    A: actually, you’re right, neither he nor his predecessor earned a college degree.
    Q: what is his predecessor doing now?
    A: he is being paid to govern the State of Wisconsin while he runs for Presudent.
    Q: shouldn’t he be doing the job that he is getting paid to do?
    A: actually, he was a very bad Governor who ruined the State’s economy so most people are happy to pay him to stay away.
    Q: how can he run for President on a record like that?
    A: the party whose nomination he is seeking is run by a lunatic fringe who like that sort of thing.
    Q: I don’t understand.
    A: they don’t aspire to a better life for themselves or their children but want every body else to be stuck with a life as bad as their own.
    Q: well, the current County Executive is a wealthy man, he must have made something out of himself after dropping out of college.
    A: no, he inherited his wealth.
    Q: so Milwaukee County has been governed by a college drop out for how many years now?
    A: I think almost twenty.
    Q: I don’t understand.

  31. Matt says:

    This whole thing is hilarious….it is cheaper than if they leave, yeah maybe for the state tax rolls but certainly not for the city and county on this one because they currently don’t pay any property taxes. Y don’t we just offer them the $80 million from the state and see if that is enough to keep them around? Call there bluff. And enough with the $419 million if they leave number that is made up with unrealistic revenue growth numbers. If that is the logic why is the state not paying for most of the subsidy. As Bruce mentioned earlier this is a huge shift to the city/county of milwaukee and should not be tolerated.

  32. Observer says:

    @Frank. You made my day!

  33. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    The debate seems to be about the specifics of the deal, not whether it should be done at all??? Why would we put any money for this deal when Milwaukee has allocated its resources for this instead of cops and reading instructors for the kids. Are we nuts? Look at Pittsburgh, they rebuilt the neighborhoods to rebuild the city, Detroit built downtown to keep the white, male, liberal racists that run the city and their toys.
    Basketball team ahead of kids, safety??? NUTS!!!

  34. Mike Bark says:

    The cheaper to keep them argument can be applied to essentially any profitable business. I’ll take the one I am part of for example.

    We currently generate about $50,000 of state income taxes per year. We’re a growing company, but even with no growth over the next 20 years we’ll generate $1,000,000 of income tax revenue. Chances are it will be well more than that.

    We are currently looking for a building to buy to house our operations. Should the State write us a check for $250,000 so we can use that to buy a building? After all, it would be cheaper to do that than have us move to Illinois. Give us $250,000 to go halfsies on a building or lose at least $1,000,000 in tax revenues. In addition to income tax I would imagine we’d be on the hook for the property taxes.

    This is not to say that my business is more important than the Bucks. It’s not and it’s no more important than other businesses out there. I’d love for the Bucks to stay. Our firm is a partial season ticket holder. The problem is the government is always looking to give CERTAIN businesses free tax money and ultimately it makes it just that little bit harder for other businesses to compete as someone has to pay the bill and it gets passed on to small businesses and individual taxpayers alike.

    If the additional development occurs around the new arena especially if it gets a sweetheart deal it will come at the cost of the business owners already down there who have invested in the city.

  35. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    mike, you are right. Where are our priorities. whya re we spending any money much less a billion dollars?

  36. Observer says:

    There’s that “we” again. Are “we” up to date on our taxes these days?

  37. Mike Bark says:

    Yes @Observer, we’re up to date on our taxes. Are you?

  38. Observer says:

    Me too. That makes 2 out of 3.

  39. David says:

    Yeah look at Pittsburgh WCD and their beautiful publicly funded stadiums! Let’s get this done! Just because you want to keep your sports teams doesn’t mean you don’t like poor people. Nice try though.

  40. tim haering says:

    WHat do you get when you throw cold water on smoke and mirrors? 42. Life, the universe, everything.

  41. AG says:

    It is clear that cultural, entertainment, and intangible benefits do not really add anything to this city. Because of this, I propose we pull all subsidies (especially the property tax exemptions!) that we provide to Milwaukee World Festival Inc. After all, the biggest user of the summerfest grounds, Summerfest itself, only serves to benefit the ultra rich for-profit concert promoters, record labels, and bands/singers themselves.

    They have been fleecing the city, county and state for too long!

  42. M says:

    Chris Abele may not be able to execute his part of an arena deal without county board approval after all, according to the grapevine…

    At the very least, the board will have to vote on his plans to give away Park East land A public hearing on the Bucks offer will be held on it Tues, June 9 at 5:30 at the War Memorial.

    Agree with who Kyle that we should try to stick with up-to-date data from the state audit bureau.

    Abele himself got his facts wrong at this press conference, saying Park East has been vacant for almost two decades. The freeway demo was completed in April 2003. Who rounds up by 8 years? (And the Great Recession just ended.)

    Perhaps the biggest drawback of the Bucks big development plan is that we’ll all be looking at vacant lots in Park East for at least 10 more years, per the Bucks announced timetable (only they’ll be surface parking lots). If we’re going to give the land away (with all its reported flaws) the least the county can do is put out an RFP and see if anyone has a plan for building something in the near term. I suspect these very savvy real estate investors (Bucks owners) want to retain the option on the property and then be able drop it if it does not suit their whims. They will also likely get a major cut on any development by others. Why not just cut our the middle men and get something built by someone who’s truly invested in Milwaukee for the long haul, and who will be around if any deals go belly up?

    For any Googlers. there’s interesting stories about Wes Edens and the Olympic Village and a public bailout of Fortress, his company. His other company, Nationstar, owns mortgages on many underwater properties in MKE.

  43. Tony Muhammad says:

    “County Executive Chris Abele offers the billionaire owners of the Bucks 10 acres of prime downtown county land worth an est. $9 million dollars for $1.00.” Based on the billionaires “envisioned” investments of $400 million surrounding development of the new arena over the next 11 years or more.

    Its a win win for these billionaires not the taxpayers!

    Let’s see if I understand this correctly…Billionaires pay $1 for 10 acres of public owned land then they find, or have other developers to pay them (billionaire new owners) upwards of $400 million dollars to build on the previously owned taxpayers land. Somebody please enlighten me if I’m in the parking lot (not the arena) watching this game.

    All my life I have been looking for the secret to turn dirt into gold. Well, I fully understand now, how billionaires become billionaires. Share my visions of turning dirt on county owned land into gold to a wealthy elected politician that does not understand assessed land values against land development future returns.

    The bottom line is Chris Abele is a county stuart over taxpayers county lands and resources but his stewardship loyalty to tax paying county residents are more questionable than admitted republican privatizers of public own lands and resources.

    Bruce Murphy journalism is objectively correct in questioning wealthy Chris Abele motivation to poof 10 acres of county land assessed at $9 million dollars. Inquiring minds have a right to know that’s what journalism is all about.

    I personally believe a better deal is to be made in this new arena that will truly benefit all Milwaukee county residents, especially our young adults in the planned 11 years of construction development downtown Milwaukee.

    Example of a better deal than the billionaires promising 20 to 25% construction hours to Milwaukee city and county residents over the propose 11 years of three phases of construction. How about agreeing to 50 to 60% of of work hours given to residents during the three phases.

    Did County Executive Chris Abele and Mayor Tom Barrett overlook in their search to finance a new arena the fact Milwaukee is rated fourth in poverty in the Nation of cities its size? The poor don’t need better basketball courts paid by the NBA in county parks they need money / incomes to live comfortably day to day to enjoy Wisconsin’s outstanding Park and Recreational Systems.

    Where are the public talks from our elected county and city representatives disclosing the racial makeup of the manpower work hours needed to undertake proposed billions of dollars in new development downtown Milwaukee in the next decade?

    Let me stop here…I haven’t forgotten Mayor Tom Barrett dropping the City of Milwaukee minority hiring quotes attached to city development funds almost a decade ago to entice developers to build in the city…Oops, my bag, as we say.

  44. M says:

    Does anyone know if there are standard city policies for being granted permission to open a new major development in the city, such as the planned “entertainment” mall next to the arena?

    By packaging this all together as just the “arena project” and having many lobbyists to push it, have the Bucks been able to thus far bypass usual procedures (unless the Common Council insists otherwise)?

  45. mbradleyc says:

    Murphy and Charlie Sykes, holding hands and picking flowers. Brings a smile to my face.

    Still pretty gross, though. I’ll turn away.

  46. David C says:

    Walker is the ultimate stooge, con-artist, and a good fascist for his corporate masters. In a fair and balanced government, all citizens should share in the cost, and risk of a community asset like a new arena. In the Walker world, where he has stripped public workers of 15% of their wages, stripped working rights, made drastic cuts to public education and the UW system, suppressed voting rights, looted taxes and shoveled money to his benefactors in a pay to play scam through WEDC, limited rights of due process, silence the voice of scientists and experts, spreads fear and toxicity across the state leading to a downward spiral in worst in class in the USA in most leading economic indicators, citizens are likely in no mood to support another of Walker’s scams.

    With all the negatives Walker has brought to Wisconsin, it is insanity to support such a civic project to benefit a corporation, without shared profits for the larger community, just so the wealthy class can reside in private boxes and not have to rub elbows with the rabble (the majority). The circus in the form of the Bucks should not be enough to entertain the masses and make us forget what a corrupt and intolerable government system Walker foists on Wisconsin.

  47. Observer says:

    Dan Shafer in an excellent Milwaukee Magazine article notes: On Wednesday, the day before his “Cheaper To Keep Them” news conference, Gov. Scott Walker sent out a press release celebrating the state receiving Area Development magazine’s “Silver Shovel Award.” Meijer Inc.’s $146 million distribution center in Kenosha County is the top project playing a role in Wisconsin winning the award. Meijer, whose CEO has a reported net worth of $9.6 billion, received $5.25 million in tax credits for this project from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). That $5.25 million is more than the $4 million annually budgeted by the state in the latest plan to pay for the new arena.

    Also receiving WEDC tax credits as of late: Menards, Inc., which is owned by the state’s richest individual, John Menard, Jr. (net worth: $9.1 billion) and Ashley Furniture, owned by the billionaire Wanek family. Ashley Furniture, reportedly is up for sale to the tune of $3 billion – more than five times what was paid to purchase the Milwaukee Bucks franchise from Sen. Herb Kohl.

  48. Tony Muhammad says:

    @ Observer…I don’t understand what you are implying comparing tax incentives with 250 to 300 million taxpayer’s dollars contribute “give away” to hedge fund billionaires to build a new arena.

    If the taxpayer’s give away funds by elected administrators was given by say private citizens, the 250 to 300 million would be an investment with hopeful return gains.

    Northern and Western rural Wisconsinites told their state legislators “hell no” to giving away tax payer’s state funds to build an indoor basketball court.

    By the way you mention other billionaire individual and their companies that received “tax incentives” from the state and possible local municipalities which they are located. Are you sure the local municipalities and state gave away taxpayer’s dollars and land to construct their buildings?

  49. Marie says:

    Regarding WEDC handouts to billionaires, and anarena plan to give $250 million to the Billionaires Boys Club (not counting all the free land etc., it’s simple: “It takes money to make money” (by getting it handed to you from a state government slashing every state budget item to the bone).

  50. Observer says:

    @ Tony, I think the point of the article was that the less you “need” taxpayer money, the more likely it is that you will get it. I forgot to supply the link; here it is:
    I watched a travel show that had an episode on Detroit. They allow entrepreneurs to set up pit BBQ sales on vacant lots. It looked like folks from all over were stopping by to pick up dinner. That, to me, was thinking outside the box and was getting some cash flowing to down on its heels neighborhoods. Davenport Iowa allows artists to display their artwork in closed business windows along with the “For Sale” signs. It brightens the windows up and might help both the artist get some cash and help sell the building. Giving money to folks that have a surplus of it is just crazy.

  51. Marie says:

    Check out what Common Council members, the mayor & WCD folks all had to say about the whole arena deal at the first public hearing on the issue. Definitely some interesting perspectives…

  52. sgt Apple says:

    Honestly, 5-10 years from now, research and technologies from the School of Fresh Water Science and the research being conducted at the MCW will be far more important to both WI and the nation’s economy then a bunch of overheated adolescents trying to through an inflated piece of rubber through a hole in the air.

    If you like basketball, fine. It’s your life to waste. But please stop the lying about this being the only possible development project for the Park East, or Milwaukee’s last chance. The fact that the Park East lay dormant under the TrolleyMan’s tenure tells you everything about his grasp of economic development.

    In fact, the Park East can revert to a Park or nature for all I care. That would be far preferable than Jay Silver dictating to Milwaukeeans what they must do. That is just repugnant

  53. Dave Reid says:

    @sgt Apple Actually, the vast majority of the land in the former footprint of the Park East is owned by Milwaukee County. And while Scott Walker was County Executive none of the county land in the PE was developed. For years the county didn’t even put up much of the land for sale or have an Economic Development Director. Since he left the Avenir and the MSOE project moved forward, and the county worked with the city to get both of those done. Further, within the PE development boundary the city has helped multiple development projects (For example the North End and The Moderne…) move forward, and all of the city’s Park East land was developed years ago (the Flat Iron).

  54. M says:

    One huge drawback of Abele’s Park East giveaway plan is that the Bucks would not develop the most visible third of it for over a decade. Tonight they said it might be 15 years! Chris Abele is still going to be looking from his Moderne penthouse at a surface parking lot for longer than it’s been vacant already.

    Can someone explain why MSOE, a nonprofit MKE pillar for a century, and Avenir, had to each pay full appraised price and billionaires get land for free. This giveaway is just part of it. The state land is already being given to the Bucks arena project for free. All told, the Bucks owners intend to get 25 acres of prime downtown land for free. The “masters of the universe” want to play “master developer” in Milwaukee, as long as it suits their fancy. Why not offer it to MSOE (or other developers) for a dollar? I’m sure others could come up with a worthy plan.

  55. Tony Muhammad says:

    One thing we can all agree on Abele proposed $1 give away taxpayer’s prime county land (Market value $9,$$$,$$$) is a developer dream come true.

    Ask Grucon Group president Gary Grunau…He presented a dream presentation which included building a “new arena” November 12, 2012, at a Developers Conference. I don’t believe Gary Grunau imagined then, purchasing 10 prime acres of Park East land for $1.00. See link below…

    ***Commenter Disclosure…Not a Sports Fan. Commenter cringes when seeing “stadium tax” on sales receipts.

  56. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    All good Conservative are opposed to all of these giveaways to everyone. Some we have to live with as all states give them out now compared to 60 years ago. But giving these guys from NY that have never produced anything here, the team is a little better, is a little nutty. I know people that really could have done something with that land but the county board has been nuts to deal with. Are they just going to build a bunch of bars, restaurants and some offices there?? Who nows it could sit idle like a bunch of land did in the Men Valley for years while people made empty promises.
    This deal is not set as legislators out state are getting lots of heat from opponents of giving money to the Bucks. They know a bunch of BS when they We are from Wisconsin, show us the money”

  57. PMD says:

    “Are they just going to build a bunch of bars”

    This is Wisconsin. That seems highly likely. Just what we need.

  58. M says:

    PMD: According to the Bucks 3-phase Master Developer plan, the first phase will include the arena itself, the Bucks practice facility & offices, and perhaps a bit of housing and retail/office, disguising the 1220-space replacement garage (which would be needed after demolishing the city’s 4th Street garage).

    But the hoopla is all around the block-long “entertainment destination” on 4th Street which will feature bars, bars, bars! Hey, it’s impossible to have too many bars in Milwaukee or Wisconsin–at least that’s what visiting Bucks owners think. And, if it ends up there are too many, well it’ll just be the survival of the fittest (Darwinian Corporate Socialism). Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet or take over and tear down a $30M city-owned garage to make some billionaires happy (and gobs more $$).

  59. PMD says:

    That’s great news M. Water St. and its one-thousand bars is way too far to walk from the Bradley Center. Hopefully a few years from now there is Water St. Version 2.0 on 4th St.

  60. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    They will do all this for a basketball team but then the most important business in Milwaukee, NML, they will not sell a parking structure. Nutty people, that is why businesses do not come to Milwaukee.

  61. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    i had drug stores in West Allis plus had nursing homes where I worked in all around Metro area. last 20 years I worked in lots of Walgreens in Metro area, inner city plus had apts. in inner city. WE know what is going on from experience not talking points and worthless opinions.

  62. M says:

    PMD, don’t forget about Old World Third Street, a short block from old and new arenas. Some of those taverns & bars even have back doors with access to 4th St. Third Street is now as busy on weekends as Water. Third St. resident Chris Abele surely knows that.

    I suspect no bar owner wants to publicly buck the Bucks. Better to just hold your nose and hope for the best. They may be confident they can out-compete a mall with 75 percent national chains. Authentic is often more appealing than generic. Bars are not comparable to big-box stores and other retail chains. It’s anybody’s guess how it will play out (but how much will the public subsidize it?).

    Maybe MKE will become the Super-est Sports & Entertainment Destination in all of America and that will solve all the city’s problems.

  63. PMD says:

    Good point M. I’m so rarely on Old World Third Street that I forgot all about it.

  64. Observer says:

    Yes Bob I know about your Kenosha inner city landlord business but I just wanted to make a point that you, who has so much to say about downtown Milwaukee, never had a business in Milwaukee proper.

  65. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    O sure, more bars in a shooting gallery will make us neatest place in country. Quit smoking dandelions.

  66. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Fact is you know nothing about anything which you show all the time. Have had apts in various groups and myself allover Milwaukee lat 50 years.
    Last time I respond to ignorancy.

  67. Moynihan says:

    I preface these comments by saying I am a Bucks and new arena supporter.

    The analysis by Bruce on the debt collection is spot on. I’ve worked with debt collection agencies in the business of collecting government debt and they all agree that the number offered by the County Exec is double what is collectable. Meaning that over the next 20 years the County Exec will UNILATERALLY (if the County Board is cut out, as is likely) commit $ 40 million of future state aid payments to this project. That’s $2 million/year that comes from services that are likely to support the poorest among us.

    More concerning is this $1 land give away. For years the County has been marketing this Park East land for market value and has found few if any takers. Now, Abele wants to convey it to a single source for $1. Whatever happened to the idea of letting the market decide the best value and use of public land? isn’t that the Abele mantra?? “Let the market decide”
    It’s fine to make the land available for $1.In fact, they probably should have done it long ago. But since there is no direct connection between the arena deal and the Park East land why wouldn’t we use an RFP process offering the land for $1 to any and all developers and determine who has the best plan that can be executed fastest and with the highest taxable value? Why in the world would we give a Bucks subsidiary what amounts to a 9 year option for $1 on a piece of land that they will collect all the parking revenue from? Especially when there are developers who, for $1, would develop that land TODAY and begin adding to the tax base immediately. If I recall, the county refused to give the Aloft the opportunity to lease the same land for long-term parking. Why are we making different rules for different parties? Those kinds of decisions are the kind that cause people to begin to question the motives of the elected officials involved.

    At the end of the day it’s just bad government to allow for the use of public funds and the sale of public land to take place without the oversight of another body. regardless of how worthless you think the County Board is, we’re just asking for trouble when we begin to consolidate that much power in the hands of a single official. And it’s even worse government to sole source a public asset without allowing the general public and the marketplace of ideas to determine the highest and best use of a key piece of downtown property.

  68. Observer says:

    We can only hope you’re a man of your word.

  69. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Selling land for $1 is nuts, this whole deal is a nutty deal. No one want to buy the land cause Count Board is nuts to deal with. County board is our biggest embarassment in state.

  70. M says:

    Moynihan: Yes, yes, and yes! If your schedule allows, you may want to attend the County Board’s Economic Development hearing on Monday at 9 AM, to make these points in person.

    The point about Aloft is significant. Another issue that will affect Aloft is that it leases spaces in the city’s 4th Street garage, kitty corner from the hotel. That garage would be torn down as another part of the Bucks’ 25-Acre Master Plan for taking over Westown/Park East. The new garage built for $35M by the city will be much further away, thus leaving Aloft on the hook. Of course, they could rent surface spaces from the Bucks owners, but that may not be as attractive an option.

    The combined arena & development deal hatched by city, county & state pols will essentially give the Bucks 25 free (or virtually free) acres to develop completely for their benefit, and over up to 15 years, in addition to $250 million in outright (borrowed) public money. The land and city parking complex are not even credited in the deal, nor is much of the infrastructure.

    The Bucks have formed an LLC called “Head of the Herd” to do all this, and they seem to hope local sheep will fall in line.

  71. sgt Apple says:

    Why not erect a large statue of John Norquist there, built from all the remediated crap buried in the ground. Mr ‘New Urbanism’ is quite proud of his accomplishment. From a 2011 interview

    What were your proudest accomplishments in terms of promoting sustainable transportation when you were mayor of Milwaukee?

    Well, we tore down eight-tenths of a mile of freeway, the Park East Freeway, and replaced it with a surface avenue. We also converted a lot of the one-way streets to two-way streets, which improved connectivity. Then we also went through several rounds of conflict with the state department of transportation (WisDOT) over bridges that they had jurisdiction over and forced them to put sidewalks on the bridges and narrow the lane widths. Those are three of the things I’m proud of because I don’t think anybody else would have been weird enough to do those things

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