In this piece, former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist reminds people that money ticketed for Milwaukee's streetcar plan originated in a federal grant and was eventually dedicated to Milwaukee transportation projects under a civil rights complaint settlement to which the state agreed.
Norquist is right about that; I was in Milwaukee City Hall as the settlement took shape, and it appears that even Walker knows he shouldn't mess with it"
That deal prohibits the state from blocking the streetcar project, according to a top federal transportation official and an attorney involved in the settlement.
Faced with allegations that it was discriminating against urban minorities by favoring freeways over light rail, the state agreed in November 2000 to cooperate with the Milwaukee Connector study and to incorporate its recommendations into the state's long-term transportation plans. That study eventually spawned the streetcar.
"You don't put something in a plan and then kill it," said Milwaukee Ald. Bob Bauman, one of the attorneys involved in the settlement. "They (state officials) agreed not to interfere."
Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff agreed, writing in an email: "Under the 2000 settlement, the use of the streetcar funds remains a local decision."
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie confirmed the governor was aware of the settlement. He referred further questions to the state Department of Transportation.
Transportation Department spokeswoman Peg Schmitt said the settlement was fulfilled when the federal government designated money for the streetcar in 2009. But she added that her agency "will continue to cooperate and provide technical assistance to local officials as they work to implement it."