MILWAUKEE — The argument for and against the Milwaukee streetcar continues. The $65 million project was approved one year ago by a 10-5 vote of Milwaukee’s Common Council. Tuesday, May 22nd, Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan held a news conference to discuss putting the project to a referendum.
Donovan has asked Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to put the streetcar project on hold. Donovan was one of the five aldermen who voted against the project.
Flanked by supporters at a southside bar, Donovan said Tuesday they are taking to the streets with petitions in hand to try to stop the streetcar project. They are asking Mayor Barrett and the Milwaukee Common Council to put the project to a referendum.
“I have no doubt in my mind the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Milwaukee do not support this,” Donovan said.
During a press conference on May 15th, Donovan got into a shouting match with Alderman Bob Bauman over the issue.
Bauman has been a supporter of the project — and defended the project. See the raw video of the news conference shouting match just below.
Tuesday, Alderman Nic Kovac, who sponsored the streetcar proposal when it passed the Common Council last year, was the one who was heated.
“I know what will happen if we listen to Donovan and listen to his mischaracterizations. We will lose jobs. We will lose economic investment, and it will be bad for public transit,” Kovac said.
Kovac says more than $50 million in federal funds for the streetcar would fuel downtown development. Donovan wants the money for other projects, something Kovac says is not possible.
“Guess what? If we don’t take this federal money, that money is going to Illinois. It’s going to St. Louis. It ain’t staying here, and for him to imply otherwise is an insult to the citizens and the taxpayers of this city,” Kovac said.
“Congress can change their mind. Now admittedly, it takes leadership, guts, determination to get that done,” Donovan said.
“True freedom is not being stuck in traffic if you don’t want to be. True freedom is not having to look for a parking spot if you don’t want to,” Kovac said.
Donovan says he wants Mayor Barret to say if he is elected governor, he would put state funds into the streetcar project if he supports it so much. Donovan says the reason he’s raising the issue now is because the mayor is running for governor, and he was busy with his own reelection campaign last year.
Mayor Barrett and Alderman Bauman were not available for comment Tuesday.
According to the Milwaukee Streetcar website, construction on the streetcar project is set to begin in fall of 2012. Delivery of the streetcars themselves is expected to happen in summer 2013. Construction of the streetcar line would be complete and streetcar operations would begin in fall of 2014.
CLICK HERE for more information on the Milwaukee streetcar project.