Ald. Bob Donovan
Press Release

Alderman Donovan will seek petition drive for streetcar referendum

Alderman Bob Donovan to launch a citywide petition drive to trigger a binding referendum on the borrowing for the downtown streetcar project.

By - Nov 24th, 2014 09:18 am

Alderman Bob Donovan will announce plans this afternoon to launch a citywide petition drive to trigger a binding referendum on the borrowing for the downtown streetcar project. The alderman will make the announcement at 1:30 p.m. today (Monday, November 24) in the third floor Council Chamber anteroom at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St.

The announcement comes just days after Mayor Barrett announced proposed tax incremental finance district (TIF) borrowing that could raise nearly $50 million and allow for adding a proposed 2.5 miles to the original 2.1-mile proposed streetcar route. Alderman Donovan said he has learned that state statutes allow a binding referendum to be pursued for any municipal borrowing proposal.

Alderman Donovan said the petition drive cannot start until the Council’s action is final in early 2015, but he would be working in the intervening months to prepare for the drive. “I have said all along that we should give the people the opportunity to have their voices heard, and I intend to do everything I can to allow that to happen,” he said.

“I ask my colleagues and I ask the mayor, ‘What is wrong with giving the people the chance to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the streetcar project?”’ Alderman Donovan said.

The borrowing file would most likely go to the full Council for a vote on January 21, 2015. If approved and if signed by the mayor, the petition drive could officially start at the end of January and would have a 30-day window.

More than 20,500 valid petition signatures would be required to trigger a binding referendum on the borrowing for the streetcar project.

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9 thoughts on “Alderman Donovan will seek petition drive for streetcar referendum”

  1. Kathleen Ver Bunker says:

    Please, please-continue to fight AGAINST the streetcar project! When recently attending some downtown evening events, we easily found parking, had dinner, attended the events and LEFT. People just don’t hang around our downtown area. Milwaukee area residents have cars. We drive where we want to go. We are not Boston, Chicago, New York. And, unfortunately, we don’t have a downtown area and population like them to support a project like this. Milwaukeeans’s attention span is short; we are willing to try new things-restaurants, stores, businesses but most of the people I know (family, friends and coworkers) would not go back and repeatedly ride a streetcar when they have a car. We are busy people. I also wouldn’t want to deal with a bunch of teens or drunk college students hanging out riding the streetcar. The public should be able to VOTE on this issue!. If we have surplus money, lets fix our potholes, water pipes, feed our poor.. Thank you.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Kathleen Actually, Milwaukee easily has the population density to support a downtown streetcar. And some of us live (25,000 residents), work (80,000 workers), and play in downtown Milwaukee everyday, and those like me almost never use a car.

    PS The federal funding can not be used for potholes, water pipes, or feeding the poor, just fixed transit

  3. Y Marti says:

    If we don’t invest in the city with transportation options to help the city grow we will never be a Boston, Chicago, or New York. Unfortunately, there are people that don’t want an economically strong Milwaukee – they would rather see us as poor and devastated, like Detroit. The city needs this type of infrastructure to keep advancing forward.

  4. PMD says:

    Just because you easily found parking on a random night downtown is not evidence that this project is a bad idea. And you do realize that tons of people have cars in Boston, Chicago, and NYC right? Salt Lake City is much smaller than Milwaukee and its new light rail system has been a success.

  5. Kyle says:

    I think it’s clear that Donovan believes the people will say no to the streetcar (provided he can get the question worded correctly). I’m not sure it’s clear what the people would actually say. Given that Milwaukee has voted itself two weeks of sick pay, voted for higher wages, and voted against corporations being people, it’s hard to make the case that they shouldn’t get a say in this. Of course, I also understand why they’d rather not have a vote. This money can’t be used for anything else, so politically there’s nothing to gain by allowing a vote. The constituents would only mess things up.

  6. PMD says:

    Does he believe that? Or does he just like issuing press releases and seeing himself on the news?

  7. Kyle says:

    I have no doubt that he likes hearing himself talk and raising his own profile. It’s how politicians tend to advance their careers. However, it won’t do anything to help him if he pushes for this and then loses. It will only help his opponents. Perhaps he’s just insane and wants to push for something that will put him at a disadvantage, but I doubt it. I think he genuinely believes that a vote would fail. And he probably believes that if a vote fails, the streetcar fails. Then he could advance his career by saying he saved Milwaukee from the streetcar boondoggle. That’s how I see him playing this. But then, I worked with politicians from both parties in a previous life, and watched how they work issues like this (which may have been a contributing factor to my decision to get out of politics).

  8. PMD says:

    You could be right Kyle. It’s just that, between reading his press releases and print interviews, and seeing him on TV, I get the impression that he’s a little nuts, extremely self-serving, and in love with attention. I find him hard to take seriously, and I doubt his sincerity on pretty much everything.

  9. Kyle says:

    I don’t disagree with anything you said. He’s trying to make a career on killing the streetcar when no one else could. If it didn’t affect his career, I have no idea if he’d care one way or another about the streetcar. I’m not trying to say he genuinely believes that killing this project is the best way forward for Milwaukee, just that he believes it’s the best way forward for him. If this petition drive fails, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doubles down and joins with Protect our Parks to prevent the Couture and deny the streetcar a source of funding.

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