African-American News and Commentary For Metro Milwaukee
Family I am telling you I am neither against streetcars nor urban development. However I am against development for the city that is void any meaningful, deep exchange and void all representatives of the city at the table (not including aldermen as the single Black voice, we are not the Borg, we don’t all look and think alike). I understand there were “stake holders” at the streetcar meetings, but yet no one has named as of this blog, one Black business person or Black organization that attended or were welcomed at ongoing discussions regarding the streetcar. However I find it peculiar that off the top of their head Alderman Kovac and his legion had 150 emails of support which included area business leaders and groups that were not invested into the entire city of Milwaukee. Some of these supporters bragged about their countless hours of meetings. So to be blunt the inner city was absent in these discussions unless you include the alder people, who may or may not have been given a bone. Just mere speculation.
Addendum to Streetcar Named Debt
What we did not know last week regarding debt is that ATT & WE Energies will either find a way for the city to pick up their expenses, including consultant fees and the ripping up of streets and removal and restoring their lines elsewhere. Those utilities have said they could pass on those costs to the customers, you and I. The city is looking into tax hikes and other solutions to finance this piece of the project which is not included into some of the figures we have seen from the city.
Instead of spending money on the streetcars this pothole ridden city should first repair streets and help neighborhood business districts.
The city is spending a lot of money to benefit very few people, white people. This proposal does not pass one Black business or person unless you ride the train frequently and live in the downtown district. My apologies to all 5 of you brothers and sisters!!
Ongoing Operating Costs
Big capital spending has to make sense for the long term!
Unforeseen costs and higher project rates for ongoing and implementation expenditures could mean a loss of city services or tax increases to residents of the city. Loss of services could include fire and police, city services, road maintenance, tax hikes, MPS support. Those of us who were outraged at Walker should take note of these operating costs if we are serious about the need to improve MPS. You will be deciding if MPS or streetcars are more important.
What about all the money we just spent in the same proposed area for bike paths, costing millions? We are going to rip those up to lay tracks? The paint isn’t even good and dry on those fancy bike paths.
Due to our weather, street bulking and other maintenance cost could be astronomical. We already have severe pothole damage, imagine a streetcar and the mess from the tracks.
MCTS VS. Streetcars
Busses can go around traffic delays, streetcars must wait behind street obstructions further slowing their travel times.
Speed and reliability are eternal values; going forth, people will still choose a faster service over a slower one. The “on-the-go” business person will not be patient; they will opt for the faster more reliable product. If we need proof, we need only look at Amtrak and how pretty and empty it is. It has not seen a profit, nor will it, but it does see subsidies, you and I picking up the tab. Looking in to my crystal ball I am not certain people will choose an electric vehicle on rails over a bus of the same size and shape, with many of the same characteristics, running on tires. MCTS and the county have worked hard to make our busses look sleek, run smooth, be green compliant, and you can even watch TV onboard. They have bike racks and kneel easily for the disabled.
But operations in mixed traffic in the slow lane are only going to get slower and less reliable as traffic increases with development. The cost of ongoing maintenance and upkeep or development of the streetcars will also play in the aforementioned loss of services or tax hikes. MCTS is the heart of urban city life. Already the feds and state will be cutting aid and if the city follows suit than we will see higher costs in fares and possibly a competition between the two which would pit the bus rider against a small number of streetcar riders that are only going in a few places for the next few years to a decade until expansion is created or the streetcar fails.
Studies can be found supporting coexistence of both, or support for one over the other. It depends on which you prefer to side with. However I am going to use the debate from the past weeks as my premise for Milwaukee’s streetcar debate. Based on the somewhat loosely racist comments, I am choosing not to support the streetcar of debt and segregation. After I got past the financial components, I started to really listen to the mostly white audience and their message was pretty clear! We want to get away from you negros not help you get closer to us. There were a few who were generally streetcar enthusiasts, but a bit naive.
The only green in this proposal will be the green coming out of your pockets.
In my opinion the current streetcar proposal seeks to bring “wanted” visitors to Milwaukee’s downtown business district. To make this streetcar “user friendly” they must eradicate the “unwanted.” As possible riders theoretically move in, we will be moved out.
Remember what happened at Northridge? Well the same arguments are being made here. This small starter rail some are now calling “white rail” is the catalyst to making downtown and surrounding areas more attractive to potential streetcar riders. These areas would fill up with businesses dedicated to those riders and not so much to MCTS riders. We see MLK is already aligned with condos and some unaffordable living spaces. We can then speculate the blight will be replaced with even more white sprawl and businesses. The last thing the city would want is ghettos in their cherished business district that would “scare off” potential home/condo owners and consumers.
The Promise of What’s to Come
The city, Mayor Barrett and Alderman Kovac specifically promise this starter car will create even more development and therefore connect us to jobs and businesses in time. Alderman Kovac says that once the streetcar is built there is intention to keep developing to the inner city, Bronzeville, Walnut Way, Midtown and so forth. How high are we on that priority list? What if Tosa comes in and says they want a piece of the action, than we get pushed back even further. However didn’t the mayor already promise to fix up these neighborhoods from what they are now? Does he not see the sun warped signs promoting Bronzeville, emptiness and blight in Walnut Way, incomplete and failed businesses in Midtown? If we wait longer (probably another decade) masta says we will get something from this streetcar that is worth waiting for. Really? How much longer before we send this mayor packing? The unemployment of Milwaukee is the highest for Black males and the segregation is still the worst in the country. He had years to fix this or even show some action and work toward these goals. He only stops in to check on us at election time or when escorted by his personal body guard Chief Flynn to tell us to be good little negros and not shoot each other up. This mayor is the biggest slum landlord of Milwaukee. At least with Norquist (who also tried to implement segregation) he rode the bus every day, walked amongst us, stood with us. This mayor is unreachable for the most part, unless you are a church pastor or crime fighter.
In their words…
“as someone who sat through the committee testimony for hours, all arguments against the streetcar are totally bogus. You can call it a train to nowhere or a boondoggle, or lament the lack of inner-city focus, this money can’t create jobs in Bronzeville, and you can’t get the votes to get the project there…”
“Many of my friends won’t ride the bus, but I know they will (and Republicans will too) ride that streetcar.”
“This growth in public transportation ridership has proven to be the catalyst that finds people in other neighborhoods demanding streetcar service.”
“I’d say to a large extent what Bronzeville needs is private investment, working with the city and WHEDA.”
“The goal of the past few year’s worth of transportation initiatives has been to link people with jobs – and not just the entry level entertainment-type jobs Bronzeville would attract, but family sustaining jobs at a higher pay scale than McDonald’s.…”
“Furthermore, there are very legitimate reasons to be suspicious that a streetcar will intentionally avoid the ghettos. Cities across the nation and around the world design their public transit to keep people from the ghetto away from wealthy areas and downtown.”
“I used to live in Portland, and have many friends there. I go back and visit regularly. One thing I notice is that as the light rail has developed and the city has gentrified, poor people and people of color have been pushed out of the city into the suburbs. It is a pity that our very segregated city rarely does anything to address these issues and often promotes gentrification and the development that precedes it. I would not be surprised if after the city develops Bronzeville that some years from now the folks living around there get pushed out…”Furthermore, there are very legitimate reasons to be suspicious that a streetcar will intentionally avoid the ghettos. Cities across the nation and around the world design their public transit to keep people from the ghetto away from wealthy areas and downtown. In order to calm this fear, @Nik, please give solid commitments to expand the streetcar into the ghettos after this first stage. You will garner far more support and respect from residents if you do. I would like to see a map of proposed future lines after this first one.Furthermore, there are very legitimate reasons to be suspicious that a streetcar will intentionally avoid the ghettos. Cities across the nation and around the world design their public transit to keep people from the ghetto away from wealthy areas and downtown. In order to calm this fear, @Nik, please give solid commitments to expand the streetcar into the ghettos after this first stage. You will garner far more support and respect from residents if you do. I would like to see a map of proposed future lines after this first one.
Back To Me
In my debates I found people saying things that I deemed borderline racist. I found some of the comments “color coded” and some buzz words and terms that mean for whites only!
This means that the city by any means necessary will get this street car one way or the other unless we take a stand and either demand this streetcar be created linking Amtrak to us first, or by demanding our neighborhood projects come first, the ones we have been waiting to have completed for decades in some cases. This streetcar will be used to grow and expand the business district alone for years without expansion. This streetcar will remove urban blight to the further corners of the city where it will once and for all be out of sight and out of mind.
Why do I think this? If we are trying to develop more jobs and a healthy prospering tax base, why would you not start in the bleakest part of the city? We are desperate for job creation and business development that is not “McDonald’s type businesses,” but real jobs that pay living wages and sustain families and communities. We did not bring this upon ourselves so the thought of doing it on our own with a city that seems to accept segregation and racism, is working just as hard against us as we are trying to build us up. However I am not easily fooled so I know the only way out of this mess is for us to come together. Waiting on the mayor and most elected officials is a futile exercise. Whenever we decide to get our act together and be the people this mayor must answer to, only then will we get all the finances other parts of the city enjoy. No vote for you until we get our 40 acres and a mule!
So I say to you, please do take a minute longer to read this long blog and then make a call or email to your alderperson and tell them just say no. It is not feasible in this economy, Milwaukee shows clear lack of ability to create and sustain far too many projects, and the community most in need should be the community where emphasis and development is focused first, not the areas that have the least population per capita.
That is the way I see it and I don’t see any welcome mats in Mr. Rogers neighborhood laid out for us.