Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Buy The County Grounds And Get A Vac (And Everything Else)

Just when I thought Walker's deal for selling the county grounds couldn't get any worse, it does.

I had repeatedly expressed my concern, and the same concern is shared by anyone who was paying attention, that there was insufficient language in the deal to protect the Monarch Trail, the natural habitat and migration stop for the Monarch Butterflies, as well as many songbirds:
A landscaping plan? What does that even mean? A two foot by two foot plot of grass with a plastic butterfly yard decoration stuck in it? That is a meaningless term. I might have felt better if the language was for a conservation easement or a wildlife easement, which has a legal definition, and could be enforced.
I confirmed this evening that the legal language is indeed lacking and that there is no guarantee that the Monarch Trail will be preserved. Once Walker signs the resolution in yet another one of his grandiose showboating photo-ops, in which he gets to brag about breaking yet another promise, the private developer will be able to do whatever they want to the land with no fear of reprisal.

That's enough to tick off the ecologically-minded, but what about the ones who only care about the money? Well, there's this tidbit from the deal that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel deemed not worthy of mention (emphasis mine):
The county land sale includes the Eschweiler buildings and the Parks Administration building. The county will lease back the Parks building for the next 20 years. The transaction is expected to close during 2010, with construction beginning in the fall of 2010. The County Board also approved a sale price of $13.55 million for the 89 acres.
We are selling our building just so we can sign a 20 year lease to rent it? And just like the St. Michael's fiasco was a bad idea, what happens when the private developer decides to sell off their end of the contract? How badly are we going to get beaten up when that happens?

And for those not familiar with the history of the county grounds, the Parks Administration building is the old county orphanage. The county just got done spending millions of dollars in renovating and upgrading the interior of the building. And now we are just going to sell it at a sweetheart price. Again, Walker fails to look out for the taxpayers.

And today, JSOnline finally does report on even more absurdity from Walker:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker wants to use money from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to help pay for an express bus route to link UWM with downtown and the County Grounds in Wauwatosa.

On Wednesday, Walker will sign the County Board resolution authorizing the sale of 89 acres of County Grounds land to a UWM affiliate for $13.55 million. The university plans to build a graduate engineering school on the site.

Walker is asking the board's Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee to support using $6.5 million of that money as the local share of a $43.1 million express bus route. The remaining $36.6 million would come from the federal government, as the county's share of $91.5 million in transit aid that has sat idle for more than 17 years.

So, let me get this straight. We are selling the county grounds at an absurdly low price, in a no bid deal, only to turn around and pay them rent for a building that we had owned and paid a lot of money to fix up. Then we are going to take some of the money from the sale, and more money that we got from the feds, and using it to buy them a special bus route?

That would be the equivalent of you fixing up your house and then selling it at about a third of its value. Then you take the proceeds from the sale and rent the house from the people you just sold it to. You also take some of the money (if there's any left after paying the rent on the house you just owned until recently) and a large inheritance from your Uncle Sam, and buy them a chauffeured limo. Meanwhile, you have a patch of land (like the Park East corridor) that is only good for building an engineering campus on, but you won't even try to sell that.

Just how the heck does that make any sense or be considered fiscally responsible?

Besides that, I thought the County was facing a huge deficit next year. Something like a $90 million dollar deficit. Wouldn't it make more sense to use the money from the sale to try to help resolve that problem before you go out and buy special toys for other people?

And shouldn't that federal money, which was earmarked for transit, be used to help shore up the nearly dead transit system in a way to help the most amount of people that rely on it to get to work and back? You know, so that people can make a living and keep the economy going?

Or would these ideas make too much sense for Walker to even consider them? Or are there are there other considerations that would make him forsake his responsibilities and duties to the citizens and taxpayers of Milwaukee County?

And these are just some of the things that I found in one evening. Who knows what other dark secrets and other examples of Walker's mismanagement lurk in the deal? No wonder Walker is trying to ram it through so quickly. He wants it done before more people catch onto his underhanded dealings.

No matter how bad Governor Jim Doyle may or may not be handling things on the state level, leave it to Walker to make him look good.

Afterthought: Walker's proposal for the rapid transit bus violates his own rules for taking federal dollars. It requires a copayment from the county, it requires a long term maintenance cost and it requires a long term requirement. Can you say hypocrisy?


  1. The UWM campus needs to be on the county grounds so it can be partnered with the growing bio-tech industry out there.

  2. False (and lame)argument, "john."

    If the campus needed to be near the Medical College and Research Park, UWM was offered acreage literally next door to the Medical College, for a much cheaper price. They refused to even consider it.

    And there is no logical explanation on a how a hotel, restaurant or strip mall would help with the bio-tech industry.

    Thirdly, it would make immeasurably more sense to have built the school near Marquette and MSOE, where most of the work will be done anyway.

    No, "john," this was a pure money grab by some unethical and corrupt politicians, led by Walker.

  3. I seriously have no idea where you are getting this hotel, restaurant, or strip mall. They are not part of the plan.

  4. Oh, and the guy who is donating the money to build it, Michael Cudahy, has said it was not to be built in Milwaukee. There is no place to build it in Milwaukee anyway. Not around the current campus, no room and the neighbors would complain. Not downtown, no land to build it. Not the Park East, that is land to be developed and put on the property tax roles.

    Seriously, your obsession with Walker is clouding your judgment on a good project for the region.

  5. Well, let's see John, let's start with this article:

    The historic Eschweiler buildings, which are on the property, will be renovated for companies — such as restaurants, offices, coffee shops or a bed and breakfast — to serve the campus, said David Gilbert, president of the UWM Real Estate Foundation.

    And for your other lies, UWM is building six new buildings on their main campus, there is the Columbia hospital, St. Michaels Hospital, Park East is in play since no one has even expressed interest in it, and the Pabst area, just off the top of my head. Those have all been suggested and pushed for.

    And the project is nothing but a money grab by a few developers and corrupt poiticians. The citizens of Wauwatosa don't want it. The faculty, staff and students at UWM don't want it there. The ecologically minded don't want it there.

    Those that did want it don't give a damn about anything but their own personal gain.

  6. You wrote: "UWM is building six new buildings on their main campus"

    Really? Who or what is your source for that statement?

  7. My source is this article:

    The university still will consider proposals to tear down the Kunkle Center and the Physics Building and construct six new buildings in their place to create more engineering space, Horowitz said. However, any proposal to bring more students or faculty to the Kenwood campus by building in Milwaukee instead of Wauwatosa will threaten parking, he said.

    Sorry, anonymous. I'm not a Republican County Exec or a right wing radio talk show host. I don't make stuff up.

  8. Did you not read the article? They are not building those buildings. Those proposed buildings for the engineering school are going to go on the county grounds.

    The construction you mention was a worst case scenario if no other site was selected. UWM did not wast to build their, the neighbors did not want them to build there, and the city did not want them to build there.

  9. John,

    Nice try to spin. That is not what the article said.

    In fact:

    William Holahan, chairman of the UW-Milwaukee Economics Department and professor of economics said UW-Milwaukee’s long-range plans show plenty of opportunity to expand the university’s current campus. He said the university should not move ahead with buying the Milwaukee County Grounds land until more research is done.

    “The planning process goes on for another year,” he said, “and it’s amazing we would be making commitments when it might not survive that year of planning.”

    They are saying that it was a stupid thing to go through with the deal. I would rather believe a professor in economics than a college drop out.