Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Milwaukee streetcar approval delayed

The Milwaukee Common Council, with opponents using a one-time parliamentary maneuver, delayed for a month consideration of the long-stalled Milwaukee streetcar approval.

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The handful of opponents include Council conservatives, like Ald. and mayoral candidate Bob Donovan, and, inexplicably, near southside and Bayview Ald. Tony Zielinski, whose constituents are transit-oriented.

In fact, Zielinski's newsletter praises the development and transit connections for a functional and artistic bus stop he promoted in his district at an intersection where there is a growing concentration of restaurants, shops and other popular, pedestrian-friendly businesses near apartments and other residences:
At the intersections of S. Kinnickinnic, S. Howell and E. Lincoln Avenues, the ArtStop is the product of a unique partnership between the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and Business Improvement District #44. 
With its unique artistic design, the ArtStop shelter will strengthen the already distinctive and bustling business district, and it will also be a significant aesthetic improvement over a somewhat dilapidated bus shelter that has been at the location for years.
Alderman Tony Zielinski said that he felt the triangle at the three-way intersection needed a functional public art bus shelter, which has been dubbed the ArtStop, to maximize the economic and aesthetic potential of that business district.
Exactly as streetcar stops would work along the route.

The streetcar line would be built using available federal transportation project funds and revenue from a routine financing mechanism called Tax Incremental Financing, (TIF), which uses a portion of property taxes from new developments planned along the streetcar route.

It is possible that Republicans in the legislature that are tied to the road-builders' lobby, who like to use Milwaukee as a partisan punching bag and no longer give even lip service to "local control" might use their one-party, state power authority and amend state law just to bar TIF contributions to transportation projects - - though TIF gives municipalities wide latitude to spur development - - and kill the streetcar plan.

For example, TIF was used to insert $24 million into the exurban development at Pabst Farms in Western Waukesha County so that streets and other transportation-related services could be added to the residential and commercial projects being built on converted farmland.

Similarly, Brookfield is getting ready to convert another farm into a retail development and use public financing to lure an upscale development to the project - - much as the Milwaukee TIF could nail down important development from the downtown to the lakefront - -  so the double-standards that have kept Milwaukee land-locked and economically-stunted continue.

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