Thursday, May 21, 2009

County Board Fails To Learn From Past Mistakes

The Milwaukee County Board today, in an act of utter insanity, approved the sale of the county grounds, and the home of the Monarch butterflies to a private developer that is supposed to build an engineering campus on part of it.

Before I go any further, I do want to start by saying thank you to Supervisors Dimitrijevic, Larson and Lipscomb for voting to uphold the Counties best interests. I would also like to offer special commendations to Supervisor Weishan who not only saw the peril of this proposal, but also tried valiantly to at least delay, if not prevent, this travesty, by putting reasonable conditions and terms to the proposed land deal. It is nice to see at least four of our elected officials are willing to make the hard choices and put the interests of Milwaukee County first.

I am really stunned that the Board did not have the foresight to take the time to analyze the proposal and make sure everything was on the up and up. They just went through a stark reminder of what happens when they don't follow through on checking, double checking and triple checking what the County Executive's office tells them, especially when it sounds too good to be true. One would have thought the stress and the blow back from the Mercer trial would have awoken a fresh sense of caution and leeriness about anything that even resembled another "great deal" for Milwaukee County.

They should have also come to realize that the Walker administration is even less trustworthy than Ament's administration was. He's lied to them about the cost of moving the mental health complex. He's lied to them about the possibility and consequences of privatizing the airport. He's lied to them about every budget.

I just find it extremely unfortunate that they failed this time to seek and to see the truth. After all, how many times have I pointed out that Walker had promised to not allow the land to be developed. An anyone paying attention to more than the local daily paper and local talk radio already knows that Walker's promises are not to be believed.

Even the wording of the proposal itself shows the writing on the wall, as well as the worthy efforts of Supervisor Weishan. From the Daily Reporter (which is quickly becoming my favorite local news source)(emphasis mine):

The UW-Milwaukee plans to build a new campus housing research programs for the College of Engineering & Applied Science. The property also would provide space for private research companies.

The sale requires the university to build academic buildings totaling 450,000 square feet on the property, but allows up to half of the property to be owned or used by private companies.

County Supervisor John Weishan Jr., one of the four to vote against the sale, unsuccessfully tried to put more limits on what the university can build on the property. His amendment would have prohibited the construction of shops, restaurants, hotels, dormitories or other housing on the site unless the building had multiple uses.

Weishan said the amendment would have prevented the university from developing buildings that do not relate to research and university functions.

“Will UWM sell this land five years from now?” he asked. “Once we sell it to UWM, we have no control over it. It is gone.”

The line that I emphasized shows that this proposal had absolutely nothing to do with the school. The whole Innovation Park malarkey was just the front for a money grab by developers, who know damn well that the land will at least triple in value as the State proceeds with its reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange.

My friends and I will be watching, and when the developers turn their backs on their promises, I will be sure to remind the supervisors who voted for it.

But what really made me confounded is that Board Chairman Lee Holloway and Scott Walker were actually fighting over the credit on who worked harder to get this piece of garbage through.
That would be like Tom DeLay and Rod Blagojevich arguing about who is more corrupt.

But the article does show one other thing. Walker basically admits he doesn't care about what is best for Milwaukee County or its tax payers:
The county executive acknowledged that he had not been pressing hard for top dollar for the County Grounds property UWM is buying. He wanted a fair price, but was most concerned with getting the deal done, Walker said.
It will be interesting to see who has donated or will be donating to his campaign because of this sweetheart deal he gave them. It seems that Walker would be more suited to run for the Governor of Illinois than of Wisconsin.


  1. I was going to say this is sad. But, it's more terrifying.

  2. I'm surprised Supervisor Jursik voted for the land sale.

  3. Yeah and Jursik was really for it. Odd. This whole effort really points out that the County Board is in need of change.

  4. You could not be more wrong about this issue. I am one of the first ones to criticize Walker and hold his feet to the fire, but this had nothing to do with him. UWM wants to merge the campus with the growing biotech industries on the county grounds. In fact, delaying this project would have ended all budget items for the county grounds that Sen. Jim Sullivan has fought for.

    Thank goodness the board realized that.

  5. John,

    That is the biggest bunch of malarkey I've seen in quite a while.

    If, and that is a big if, the UWM part of it was genuine, they wouldn't be buying ten times the space they need. And they surely wouldn't be planning on hotels, restaurants and boutiques.

    If they were serious, they wouldn't have turned down all of the proposals that Weishan offered. If they were serious, they would have accepted the sweetheart land deal to build right next to the Medical College.

    This was a money grab by the developer who contribute big time to Walker. And the Board took the lazy way out and just caved in.

  6. Excuse me, but this had absolutely nothing to do with Walker. If Walker is trying to take credit for this project you should criticize him for that. You can thank Sen. Sullivan for this project, I know I will.

    This project was proposed well over a year ago and is going to be an anchor for the biotech industry on the County Grounds.

  7. This debate has been going on for a lot longer than that.

    If Sullivan was smart, he'd shut up (and have his re-election staffers shut up as well) about any ties to this.

    The citizens of Tosa are not happy about it. They know that there are better places for this too happen. And the cost is just too great.