Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett not giving up on streetcar project

CREATED Jan 13, 2014

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MILWAUKEE – Mayor Tom Barrett will not give up on his controversial desire for a downtown streetcar.

He sat down with TODAY’S TMJ4’S Charles Benson to talk about the project and other challenges within the city.

Currently he’s facing big challenges over the multi-million dollar costs of moving underground utilities.

“Regardless who is paying for the utility costs, I want to minimize these costs,” said Barrett.

Charles Benson: “If you can’t address that issue, do you think it’s DOA?”
Mayor Tom Barrett: “I don’t know what the final result is going to be. I know our engineers have just worked up another proposal if you will.”

Mayor Barrett has realized there’s strong opposition to a $65 million dollar streetcar, but he believes it can be a game changer for Milwaukee.

Charles Benson: “When you look at where you want to put your resources is that still a top five priority?”
Mayor Barrett: “Oh, it’s still very much a priority.”

“Those cities that have implemented something like this; the debate has changed,” said Barrett. “Initially it’s ‘Oh, this is the end of western civilization as we know it.’ And it changes to ‘how do we get this line expanded into our neighborhood?’”

Other priorities for 2014 will include reducing crime and addressing the city’s record levels of poverty. Both problems have contributed to Milwaukee being named one of the ten worst run cities by an online website.

“I understand and accept the challenge that we have too much poverty,” said Barrett. “I totally reject the notion that somehow our finances are not well managed.”

Charles Benson: So do headlines like that hurt you trying to sell the city to get people to move in?
Mayor Barrett: I don't think that many people pay attention to it. I mean, there weren't a lot of people that paid attention when we were named the sexiest city in the country.

Mayor Barrett hopes people have been paying attention to what's happening in the
Menomonee Valley as a way to address some of the city's challenges.

“The Menomonee Valley has been successful beyond many people's wildest dreams,” Barrett said. “In terms of creating jobs and turning an area that was desolate into an area that's now thriving economically.”

As for last year’s spike in crime, Mayor Barrett will be committed to Chief Flynn’s data-driven philosophy to address the problem.