Milwaukee residents may get the final say on the city’s plans for a streetcar.
Milwaukee Common Council members voted 10-5 Wednesday in favor of a roughly 2-mile downtown streetcar project, but a procedural delay moved the final vote to Feb. 10. The delay will allow time for the collection of signatures in order to potentially put the topic directly before voters in a referendum.
Before the Common Council vote, Aldermen Robert Bauman, Nik Kovac and Terry Witkowski made lengthy statements in favor of the project, while Aldermen Bob Donovan and Joe Davis spoke out against it.
Alderman Michael Murphy, who also is president of the council, signaled his support of the project, despite initially opposing it several years ago.
“What’s changed is the rebirth of downtown,” he said. “Do the benefits outweigh the costs now? Yes. There’s a risk, as with everything in life. As a city, do we not take risks anymore?”
Alderman Tony Zielinski, who opposes the streetcar project, nonetheless voted in favor of it in order to immediately make a procedural motion to delay the final vote until Feb. 10. The motion passed, needing only three votes, but garnered seven in favor, and eight against.
The delay will allow another week and a half for streetcar opponents to attempt to gather 31,000 valid signatures for a referendum by Feb. 1.
The proposed $124 million project would connect the city’s central business district with the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and nearby high-density residential neighborhoods.
The Milwaukee Common Council on Wednesday considered several resolutions related to the streetcar proposal. Those resolutions dealt with tax increment finance districts, which let municipalities borrow money to subsidize developments and pay for utility and street work that serves the project. Communities then use new taxes generated by the projects to pay off the debt.
TIF resolutions before the council Wednesday called for:
- Issuing $16.5 million in promissory notes connected to TIF districts. The resolution passed 10-5, but was postponed until Feb. 10 through a procedural delay.
- Establishing a TIF district along East Michigan Street. The resolution passed 10-5, but was postponed until Feb. 10 through a procedural delay.
- Authorizing the use of revenue from an existing TIF district on Erie and Jefferson streets to partially provide money for the streetcar project. The resolution passed 10-5, but was postponed until Feb. 10 through a procedural delay.
- A vote to reconsider the city’s cooperation agreement with the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee regarding TIF district project plan financing. The resolution failed, meaning the cooperation agreement stands.