Donovan Lies About Streetcar Suit
City loses challenge to state law making it pay for utilities, Donovan lies about impact.
According to mayoral candidate Bob Donovan, the cost of the Milwaukee Streetcar just went up by $25 million. Donovan made the claim on Facebook following a ruling by Milwaukee County Circuit Court William Sosnay that the city must pay to relocate utilities for the streetcar project. Donovan’s Facebook post notes that the $128 million project “[has risen] to nearly $150 million with the City’s added responsibility to cover utility relocation costs.” Is he correct?
Despite the ruling from Sosnay, the cost of the Milwaukee Streetcar didn’t go up. The approved budget for the project already included the utility relocation being paid for by the city. The reality for the Milwaukee Streetcar project is business as usual. Groundbreaking is still scheduled for this spring and the project budget for the first two phases plus lakefront spur is still $128.1 million.
It should come as no surprise that Donovan would seize on this information less than 48 hours before a primary election. The south side alderman has been a long-time opponent of the Milwaukee Streetcar and its champion Mayor Tom Barrett and has attempted for years to use the project as a wedge issue in his campaign for mayor. Donovan was a vocal supporter of a failed attempt to require a referendum to approve the project. Will he succeed at the ballot box? We’ll find out tomorrow when election results are announced.
The lawsuit was originally filed in November 2014 by the City of Milwaukee. The case dealt with legal authority issues between local governments and utilities, and the city’s ability to use what are known as “police powers” to regulate the utilities. The lawsuit also dealt with a 2013 state law, passed as part of the budget, that requires cities to pay for utility relocation costs specifically for streetcar projects. For other transportation and street projects, utilities must pay relocation costs.
Assistant city attorney Thomas D. Miller noted that the city is reviewing their options for any future legal action. Jodie Tabak, spokesperson for mayor’s office, told Mary Spicuzza of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “the decision is not a surprise. We have been working collaboratively with We Energies to decrease the cost as much as possible. The project is on budget, and this decision will not have any impact on property taxes.”
The Public Service Commission praised the ruling. “We applaud the circuit court in upholding the PSC’s decision and stand by the fact that Wisconsin’s utilities should not be required to bear the cost of relocating or modifying their infrastructure for the streetcar project,” PSC spokeswoman Elise Nelson said in a statement.
City officials and project consultants continue to work with We Energies and other affected utilities to reduce the need for utility relocations. These changes have included relocating the planned tracks from E. Wells St. to E. Kilbourn Ave. and consolidating the line to N. Jackson St., instead of being splitting over N. Jackson St. and N. Van Buren St.
Adjustments are normal for large public works projects. The Marquette Interchange, an $800 million-plus, project saw an estimated utility relocation fee of $120 million reduced to $23 million by design changes. As the ruling confirms, the streetcar project is unique in that it requires the city to pay for the relocations, not the utilities. Streetcar projects across the country have faced similar challenges, with Atlanta winning their case against AT&T over who should pay for relocation.
The streetcar project was originally approved by the Milwaukee Common Council on February 10th, 2015. At the time the project had a budget of $123.9 million, including an estimated $10 million federal grant for the lakefront spur. In October of last year the city received a $14.2 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, which increased the project budget to $128.1 million. The added costs will go towards double-tracking a segment of track to the maintenance facility, as well as other improvements.
- Maintenance facility: $7.5 million
- 4 Vehicles: $17.6 million
- Phase 1 route: $73.8 million
- Phase 2 route (Lakefront extension): $29.2 million
- Federal ISTEA funding : $54.9 million
- Federal TIGER grant: $14.2 million
- Cathedral Place #49 TIF: $9.7 million
- Erie/Jefferson Riverwalk TIF #56: $18.3 million
- East Michigan St. TIF #82: $31.0 million
A federal congestion mitigation and air quality grant will pay for 80 percent of the operating costs for the first 18 months, with a possible 18-month extension. Operating costs will be covered by farebox revenue, advertising, corporate sponsors and the parking fund. Operating costs are estimated at $2.65 million annually. Service on the first phase of the system is on-track to begin in early 2018.
The Man Behind Bob Donovan
Is Donovan writing all of this himself? It seems unlikely. As I reported last July, Donovan has hired Steve Schumacher to manage his campaign on social media. Schumacher continues to be the highest paid member of Donovan’s campaign staff, making nearly $30,000, about 20 percent of the $124,000 Donovan has raised in campaign funds since January of last year.
“Barrett’s Trolley Folly Steams On!
A judge’s decision last week makes $25 million in utility relocation cost related to Mayor Tom Barrett’s downtown streetcar project the responsibility of City of Milwaukee property taxpayers.
A Barrett administration spokesperson tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “this decision will not have any impact on property taxes.”
The truth is the additional $25 million will come from the streetcar’s TIF (tax incremental financing). TIF money is generated by diverting property tax revenues that would otherwise go to MPS and other governmental agencies and departments.
Mayor Barrett sold his downtown streetcar to nine members of the Common Council (I and fellow mayoral candidate Alderman Joe Davis have long opposed the streetcar) at a cost of $124 million—the price tag rises to nearly $150 million with the City’s added responsibility to cover utility relocation costs.
This nonsense will not continue if I am elected the next Mayor of Milwaukee—I will stop Mayor Barrett’s stupid, wasteful streetcar dead in its tracks!
More about the Milwaukee Streetcar
For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Join Us Tonight For The Third Community Workshop For The Moving Milwaukee Forward Study - City of Milwaukee - Jan 31st, 2018
- Bastille Days announces new footprint for 2018 festival - East Town Association - Jan 25th, 2018
- Op Ed: Don’t Make Streetcar Rides Free - Jay Bullock - Jan 2nd, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $65 Million Spent on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 18th, 2017
- Transit Workers Union Announces Milwaukee Streetcar Labor Peace Agreement - Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 - Dec 1st, 2017
- Plenty of Horne: How Will Streetcar Stops Be Designed? - Michael Horne - Nov 27th, 2017
- City of Milwaukee Issues RFP For Milwaukee Streetcar Marketing Services - City of Milwaukee Dept. of Public Works - Nov 21st, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Who Wants To Market The Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 20th, 2017
- Will Streetcar Gentrify Bronzeville? - Elliot Hughes - Nov 8th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Holding Streetcar Planning Meetings Saturday - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 3rd, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: See Streetcar Floors Made Locally - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 26th, 2017
- New poll shows Milwaukee area’s divided feelings on Foxconn, views on other topics as Marquette Law School launches expanded public policy program - Marquette University - Oct 24th, 2017
- Mayor Barrett needs to start listening to the people - Ald. Bob Donovan - Oct 24th, 2017
- Mayor’s Chief of Staff Responds to Ald. Zielinski - Patrick Curley - Oct 24th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Zielinski Again Attacks Mayor, Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 24th, 2017
- Ald. Zielinski: Mayor diverts additional funding for streetcar that could go to more cops - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Oct 23rd, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Potawatomi Gives $10 Million To Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 6th, 2017
- City and Potawatomi strike 12-year, $10 million streetcar presenting sponsorship agreement, includes free rides for the first 12 months - City of Milwaukee - Oct 6th, 2017
- How Streetcar Could Change King Drive - Elizabeth Baker - Oct 5th, 2017
- The Streetcar, Public Safety and Our Budget Crisis An Honest Assessment of Milwaukee’s Status Quo - Ald. Bob Donovan - Oct 4th, 2017
- Alderman Zielinski tells Mayor Barrett: Cut the streetcar, don’t cut protective services - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Sep 27th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Republicans Heap Hate On Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 7th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Chooses Streetcar Operator - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 6th, 2017
- Milwaukee Streetcar Construction on Target to Meet Residential Preference Program, DBE Goals - City of Milwaukee Dept. of Public Works - Jul 21st, 2017
- Friday Photos: Streetcar Tracks Getting Road Tested - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 30th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $30 Million Spent on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - May 19th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Getting Installed - Jeramey Jannene - May 12th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Gets Waiver on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 17th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Rails Being Welded - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 7th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Won’t Delay Streetcar for County - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 28th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Board Okays Bid for Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Steel Has Arrived - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Should County Operate Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 8th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Construction Starts in April - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 17th, 2017
- Streetsblog: 80 Transit Projects in 2017 - Angie Schmitt - Feb 6th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Streetcar is Hiring - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Project Receives Federal Grant - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 12th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Cincinnati Streetcar Opens - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 19th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Okays Streetcar to Bucks Arena - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 6th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $6.5 Million in Streetcar Savings - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 26th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Donovan Lies About Streetcar Suit - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: BID Sells Streetcar-Related Development - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 15th, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: Do Millennials Oppose the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Dec 15th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Pennsylvania Company Wins Streetcar Contract - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 13th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: City Accepts $14 Million Federal Streetcar Grant - Michael Horne - Oct 29th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Dies - Bruce Murphy - Aug 28th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Scott Walker Aids Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Construction Starts in October - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: The Strange Politics of Anti-Streetcar-ites - Bruce Murphy - Jun 18th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Bucks Plan Envisions Arena Streetcar - Michael Horne - Apr 8th, 2015
- A Short History of Milwaukee’s Old Streetcar System - Ken Smith - Mar 31st, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Davis Sets, Cancels Meeting on Streetcar - Michael Horne - Mar 17th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Drive Fails - Bruce Murphy - Mar 5th, 2015
- Friday Photos: Streetcar Signing Is Quite a Celebration - Michael Horne - Feb 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Milwaukee Streetcar Approved - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who is “Lobbying” For the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Feb 5th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Will Streetcar Help The Inner City? - Bruce Thompson - Feb 4th, 2015
- Back in the News: City Attorney Says Streetcar Petitions Might be Moot - Bruce Murphy - Jan 30th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Millennials And The Streetcar - Bruce Thompson - Jan 27th, 2015
- Op-Ed: Why I Support the Streetcar - Russell Rossetto - Jan 26th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Responses Shows Wide Support - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Approved, but Held - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 21st, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Koch-Funded Group Backs Anti-Streetcar Drive - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Backers Say They Have the Votes - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who Is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Op Ed: Why the Streetcar Won’t Work - Samuel Jensen - Jan 14th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Will Anti-Streetcar Referendum Succeed? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 9th, 2015
- The Story Behind the Streetcar Referendum - Michael Horne and Bruce Murphy - Jan 8th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Delays Streetcar Until January - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 16th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 10th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 9th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar - Michael Horne - Dec 2nd, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: How to Sell the Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 28th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Next Stops For The Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 24th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Moving Forward With Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 18th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Who Will Be Streetcar Operator? - Michael Horne - May 8th, 2014
- Back in the News: A Streetcar Named Cooperation? - Dave Reid - Apr 27th, 2014
- Streetsblog: How a Streetcar Spurs Development - Angie Schmitt - Nov 3rd, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Streetcar Social - Michael Horne - Sep 12th, 2013
- Republicans Move to Kill Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - May 9th, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Mayor Says Streetcar is “Trojan Horse” - Michael Horne - Apr 17th, 2013
- Streetcar Meeting on Tuesday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 29th, 2012
- Whoops, We Changed Our Mind - Dave Reid - Sep 27th, 2012
- Donovan’s New Anti-Streetcar Allies - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 16th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference - Jeramey Jannene - May 18th, 2012
- Milwaukee Streetcar Hearing at Frontier Airlines Center - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 15th, 2011
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings this Week - Dave Reid - Nov 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council, Proceeds to Final Engineering - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 26th, 2011
- Alderman Donovan Proposes Delaying the Streetcar Project - Dave Reid - Jul 19th, 2011
- Barrett says Streetcar is an investment in growing Milwaukee - Patti Wenzel - Jul 13th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward - Jeramey Jannene - May 6th, 2010
- Streetcars and Trams Around the World - Dave Reid - Feb 1st, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 5th, 2009
- Downtown Streetcar Open House - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 21st, 2009
- Common Council Creates Streetcar Committee - Dave Reid - Jun 18th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 19th, 2009
- Vote For Your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Map - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 21st, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee - Dave Reid - Mar 14th, 2009
- Palomar or Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2009