Common Ground to oppose public funds for new Bucks stadium unless funds also allocated to improve parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields

According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the citizens, churches, small businesses, nonprofits and neighborhood groups who comprise the Common Ground organization are contemplating action to oppose public tax dollars being spent to build a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks unless $150 million to $250 million of any such allocation of tax dollars is directed toward better public school athletics facilities, playgrounds and recreational spaces.

One year ago, Common Ground members launched a Fair Play campaign, arguing that kids in Milwaukee deserved better facilities just as much as the Bucks. In June 2013, the group released a study of 268 sites in the county, in which 65% of the athletic and recreational spaces were rated terrible, poor or fair.

Since that time, Common Ground has organized, lobbied and pressured civic, school, business and elected officials to back Fair Play. Keisha Krumm, Common Ground’s lead organizer, is a member of the Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force, which is studying the challenges facing all of the region’s major cultural and entertainment institutions, including the Bradley Center.

In a briefing paper in advance of Common Ground’s Tuesday meeting at Milwaukee Hamilton High School, leaders say the task force “on which we serve is not the ‘power table’ where decisions will be made on the financing mechanism for a new Bucks arena.”

“In order to move Common Ground closer to the ‘power table’ we need to show our commitment to leveraging $150-$250 million for Milwaukee County children to the people who will make the decision about what projects will be included in the potential nonpartisan tax increase.”

As I’ve written before, while I support keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee, I don’t know that I could support the allocation of what’s likely to be hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to prop up the team’s efforts to build a new arena so the team can maximize its profits while our parks system decays, our infrastructure crumbles, and our transit system faces uncertainty.

If there are hundreds of millions of tax dollars that can be allocated to pay for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, then why can’t that money be spent on far more worthwhile projects that will benefit far more residents of Milwaukee County than an NBA arena that most residents of the county probably couldn’t afford tickets to attend a game.

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