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John Mercure: Mercurey Rising

The $50 Million That Taxpayers Will Have to Come up with for the Milwaukee Streetcar

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   Mayor Tom Barrett and many prominent Democratic politicians have long favored the construction of a Streetcar for a two mile portion of downtown Milwaukee.  What we have never really known is how much it will cost or who will pay for it.  Now we are beginning to learn some of the details.  And they have many shaking their heads.

   I want to focus on the need to move utility lines and who will pay for them.  There is word now that the movement of those lines will cost between $50 and $70 million.  I think the common belief all along has been that all of us that use the utilities would eventually have the costs passed on to us.  Now the Public Service Commission has weighed in.  Cynthia Smith is the general counsel for the PSC.  She believes Milwaukee taxpayers, not utility users, will be on the hook if the utility lines need to be moved. 

   According to Smith, "At this time, it does not appear that the City has identified an "adequate health, safety or public welfare justification" for the Streetcar Project and therefore the utility (and its ratepayers) would not be obligated to pay for it."  She goes on to say that she believes the costs wold be borne by the city.  That's code for taxpayers.

   So let's dive into what the city of Milwaukee could buy with that money it will spend on moving utility lines.  We'll even go with the more conservative estimate of $50 million.

   Here is what $50 million could buy:

-1060 full time Milwaukee Police Officers  ($33,000 annual salary plus benefits)

-1127 full time firefighters ($31,000 annual salary plus benefits)

-20 backpacks loaded with school supplies for EACH Milwaukee Public School student. (There are 87,000 students and you could buy 1.7 million of the $30 backpacks.)

-One Summerfest ticket and $40 cash for EVERY person who attended the World's largest Music Festival last year. (Almost 900,000 attended the festival last year.)

   How would you rather the city spend your money?







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