The Streetcar, Public Safety and Our Budget Crisis An Honest Assessment of Milwaukee’s Status Quo
Statement from Alderman Bob Donovan - October 4, 2017
Last week a resident asked me “Bob, how do we right Milwaukee’s ship?” Quite frankly, all I could do was shake my head. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Between the streetcar debacle, the latest crime story or the Mayor’s proposed budget, which includes cutting cops, firefighters, closing firehouses and raising our taxes, there’s a lot to shake your head about.
Let’s take a look at the status quo in Milwaukee. First, let’s take a look at the positives. From Summerfest to our unique ethnic festivals, our great Universities, beautiful park system, major league sports teams and venues, the arts and our amazing downtown renaissance which includes the Couture, the new Bucks arena, and the new Northwestern Mutual building, just to name a few, Milwaukee has a lot to offer both residents and visitors.
Much of this downtown development has occurred under Mayor Barrett’s watch, and he deserves credit for that. But let’s not forget that most of these developments have required major public financing in one form or another and the average citizen of Milwaukee won’t realize a dividend from these developments for perhaps decades to come.
Now, let’s take a look at public safety. The best word I can find to describe public safety in Milwaukee is “abysmal.” There is no other way to describe it. Milwaukee’s current murder rate is almost twice what it was during the first 2 years of Chief Flynn’s tenure. By the way, that was also during a time when the MPD had approximately 300 more officers than we have today.
Well, suck it up folks, because it only promises to get worse. Shots fired, non-fatal shootings, car jackings, stolen vehicles, mobile drug houses, street drug dealing, prostitution, human trafficking, a broken juvenile justice system, speeding, reckless driving, running red lights, pedestrian fatalities at record highs and nothing, and I mean nothing, being offered by the Mayor or the Chief to turn any of this around. Apparently this is the new norm and residents will just have to get used to it.
Let’s take a look at the streetcar. From the beginning I had believed that the streetcar was a solution in desperate pursuit of a problem. It never enjoyed popular support, the Mayor fought against a referendum knowing what the results would be. The Mayor claims that there are no property tax dollars currently being spent on the streetcar. That may be accurate now during construction, but what about next year or the year after that? Or five or 10 years from now?
If the Mayor thinks fares and advertising are going to cover the operating and maintenance costs, he’s deceiving himself. In addition, tapping into the parking fund would only divert that money from more pressing budget needs.
In my opinion, for the Mayor of the City of Milwaukee to saddle this community with unnecessary and frivolous obligations such as the streetcar, at a time when we are cutting police, cutting firefighters and closing fire houses is quite frankly the epitome of irresponsibility.
This brings me to the Mayor’s proposed budget. Let’s take a closer look at that, and we will cut right to the chase. The Mayor is proposing cutting 33 more police officers. Let’s not forget folks that this is in addition to the hundred that have already been eliminated since 2008. He is also proposing eliminating 75 fire fighters and closing 6 fire houses.
None of Milwaukee’s fiscal problems just fell on the City in 2017. They have been festering for years (all the more reason to point out the absurdity of taking on new obligations such as the streetcar when the City is facing a fiscal crisis). This again I say is the epitome of irresponsibility.
The Mayor’s desperate 11th hour attempt to secure a sales tax, and believe me, it was desperate since he asked for my help, only succeeded in pointing out his inability to get anything out of Madison and work in partnership with the Governor and the Legislature.
The Mayor loves to blame the Republicans in Madison and, by the way, they blame him. This partisan bickering may play well with some, but it’s not solving Milwaukee’s problems. It would seem to me we need a few more adults in the room.
Where is his plan for Milwaukee’s future? How does he plan on diversifying Milwaukee’s revenue sources? After all, he even admits that a ½ cent local sales tax is only a stop gap measure. After 3 or 4 years that money would all be eaten up and we would be back to square one. What kind of a city will we be leaving to our children and grandchildren?
Recently someone told me that as an Alderman, I am too negative. Well, I try to call ‘em like I see ‘em, and as an Alderman, I see and hear more than the average citizen.
If the Mayor were to say tomorrow he is going to stop even discussing the possibility of a streetcar expansion until we are able to get our fiscal house in order, I would be more optimistic. If the Mayor offered a solid plan in partnership with the Governor and the State Legislature to diversify Milwaukee’s revenue sources and reduce property taxes, control spending and set Milwaukee on solid financial footing for decades to come, I’d have reason to be optimistic.
And finally, if the Mayor would keep his promise from a year ago and in conjunction with the Police Chief, offer a public safety plan that will restore order and stability to the beleaguered streets of Milwaukee, then I would have reason to be optimistic.
Sadly, none of these things have occurred, and I see no evidence that they will occur. For the sake of Milwaukee, the City I love and the City I grew up in, I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.
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
Mentioned in This Press Release
Recent Press Releases by Ald. Bob Donovan
I am pleased that Mayor Barrett rescinded the policy, because whether in writing or not it is a culture that has existed for years in city government.
The sheer hypocrisy concerns me and should concern every citizen in Milwaukee.