Monday, January 28, 2013

Abele Refuses To Commit To Taxpayers

I pointed out last week that the GMC members who formed a land development group called UWM Foundation had reneged on their promises to protect the natural habitat of the county grounds as they set it up for profiteering, er, I mean development.  Instead of preserving anything, they hired a company from Illinois to come up and cut down dozens of century old trees.

Eschweiler Buildings
If you want a full accounting of the saga of how the people of Wauwatosa and Milwaukee County have been repeatedly ignored and betrayed by Scott Walker, then Wauwatosa Mayor Jill Didier and the part time Wauwatosa Common Council, the Riverkeepers have an excellent summary.

In a nut shell, what happened is that the protests of the people were ignored in favor of the false promises of prosperity and the lure of big money and the grounds were sold for a song.  Then as things progressed through "vetting" from the Wauwatosa Common Council, more and more land was ceded to the developers.  To make things worse, the Tosa Common Council gave the developers $12 million in the form of a TIF.  And that was on top of the more than $5 million given to the developers by the federal government.

As soon as the deal was done, the developers started to change things.  Instead of restoring the Eschweiler Buildings as promised, the developers, claiming poverty, started the process to sell that land to yet another developer that wanted to tear these nationally recognized historic buildings down.  After catching too much flack, they decided they might be able to save one of the buildings - for a price.

Not they're trying to drive that price even higher, by sticking the county taxpayers with the bill for their profit taking:
Milwaukee County may be asked to take a haircut on the $13.55 million agreed-upon price for selling a large chunk of the County Grounds in Wauwatosa for a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee development in order to pay for preservation of the historic Eschweiler buildings, county supervisors were told Monday.

Wauwatosa City Administrator Jim Archambo said the city was grappling with how to meet a shortfall of $2.5 million to $6.55 million to restore five historic buildings on the site designed by noted architect Alexander Eschweiler. The century-old structures were originally used for the Milwaukee County School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy, and efforts to save the buildings were a key part of the sale negotiations some four years ago.

The county sold the buildings and an 89-acre parcel to a UWM Foundation affiliate in 2009 and has collected $5 million toward the purchase price so far. A second $5 million payment is due in 2014, with four additional annual payments of $887,500 made from 2015 through '18.
The evil County Board of Supervisors, who the GMC wants to destroy, are pointing out that the developers knew what they were getting into before they made the deal and that they made a deal with the taxpayers and ought to be expected to keep their end of the bargain.

Chris Abele, who is personal friends with the developers, who could pay for the land out of their own money if they wanted to, wasn't as ready to stand up for the taxpayers:
Brendan Conway, a spokesman for County Executive Chris Abele, said it was too early to speculate on whether the county might agree to take less money for the property.
How the heck is it to soon to expect that the developers keep their end of the bargain?

Abele is third from left, happy to
destroy the county grounds
for his rich friends.
 Well, for Abele, he is hoping that this can wait until the county board gets hamstrung so that he can give a break to his buddies for their support in his power grab.  With a greatly weakened board, he figures he can get anything he wants passed.

Furthermore, some of the developers, like Michael Cudahy, have already said that they want other parts of county property, such as the lakefront, for development as well, so they can really clean up at the taxpayers' expense.

I don't understand how anyone would want to get rid of the group of people looking out for their best interest in favor of consolidating power in the hands of one person who is only looking out for the special interests.  But then again, the only people I see really supporting this power grab are the ones beholden to Abele and the GMC.

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