What I Learned About Milwaukee Business Improvement Districts Today

Because I live in the Bay View neighborhood of the City of Milwaukee, I have been watching the drama surrounding the Bay View Business Improvement District for years. This week a petition to have the BID terminated was submitted to the city.

It isn’t a big deal to me one way or the other. It seems the argument is between business owners who no longer see the need for a BID and those who want to expand it…for who knows why. Plus the alderman is big supporter but his stock has fallen in the area recently.

But here’s the interesting tid bit in the article. To be successful, the petition needs to be signed by greater than 50% of the property value in the BID. Not 50% of the business property owners in the BID, but 50% of the property value.

So if my BID were say $100 million in total property value and there were 50 property owners…but I owned $50,000,001 of that property…I can just say flock you to the other 49 property owners in the BID? Seems kinda undemocratic to me.

Editor’s Note July 8, 2018. Adding this portion of the linked article for math clarity!

Wisconsin law says a city will end a business improvement district if a termination petition is filed by the owners of commercial properties with assessed values totaling more than 50 percent of all the district’s assessed value.

Franklin mayor blasts addition of senior housing

Ok, so I am on one of my old man keep off my grass rants again….sort of! [for those keeping score: millennials: I am out of active politics {for now} except for Blogging Blue and I am retired so if you think you got hot programming chops have at it]

This actual story won’t mean much to most of our readers…and it didn’t appear in any of the major media outlets around Milwaukee. I found it in the South NOW community insert in the July 4th 2018 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

But now ageism of a sort rears its head in Franklin Wisconsin…kinda an odd spot considering this is coming from the mayor of Franklin. I have been following the development of Ballpark Commons in Franklin because my baseball team plays on the current facilities there and through my league connections I know the developer a bit.

Here is the short take on the back story. After adding little league and adult league baseball facilities plus bar and concessions areas to the former Crystal Ridge ski area, the developer wants to expand onto surrounding properties. The improvements include a 4,000 seat minor league type ball park. And to make that economically viable adding retail space, apartments, practice golf facilities, beer garden, possibly hotel rooms, etc. The Franklin mayor and common council love the idea and ground was broken recently.

But the developer, Mike Zimmerman, now sees other development opportunities on the properties to enhance his investment and enlarge the development. An expanded golf entertainment area, athlete housing, sports bars, a taco joint, a pizza joint, more retail, etc. Well you get the general idea. And all of this has been moving through approvals in Franklin pretty much unopposed.

Until! The mayor noticed the addition of

a three-story 179,203 square-foot building south of Rawson Avenue with 20,000 square feet of underground parking. It will include 103 senior apartments and 36 memory care units.

This shouldn’t be included because supporting and protecting it will break the city budget. Why?

[Franklin Mayor Steve] Olson did not mince words with his displeasure for New Perspective Senior Living, saying this was the “wrong facility in the wrong part of town for the wrong reason in the wrong development.”

But it was the senior housing that set the mayor off. Olson said it would strain the emergency services department, for which the city might have to go to taxpayers through a referendum in order to properly fund it.

From other articles it looks like any development in Franklin is going to strain their public services and emergency services departments regardless. The city is going to have to handle that issue whether this senior development is approved and built or not. I am not going to say that Mayor Olson is picking on seniors directly. I don’t know the man and haven’t followed city business in Franklin. And yes, granted I imagine the fire department EMTs may have a few more calls to a senior center than to a general apartment building of similar size. But other than that I don’t see it being a bigger burden. But what it seems like is he’d prefer more ‘limited use’ facilities. Like the ballpark which is only open a few days for a few hours during the season. Same for restaurants which are limited hours. Or ditto retail. Essentially businesses that contribute to the property tax base but don’t have permanent residents.

And that appears to be correct: the planning commission approved the senior center by a vote of 4 -1.

Both Olson and Commissioner Adam Burckhardt (who was the sole vote against), cited a concern about lack of adequate fire/EMS service, which is already being strained in the area.

So the optics on this are lousy. Being against a senior center stinks. But politicians don’t care anymore. And this senior center shouldn’t be blamed for bad prior city planning. Obviously city resources are already strained. This is just a canary in the Franklin coal mine.

But for the moment I am going to call this one as I see it. Let the developer build a senior center with memory care facilities. If you don’t now, you will have plenty of potential residents in your own community who will want or need this type of housing. Don’t deny them the right or ability to remain in their home town of Franklin.

And step up to the plate (pun intended) and initiate planning for additional city services of all kinds. You are going to need them in another year or three whether this facility is built at Ballpark Commons or not.

Now it does look like Franklin is thinking about its future: Franklin residents set to be surveyed about interest in spending more, via fall referendum, for emergency services. But it isn’t one senior housing facility that is the tipping point. It is Franklin’s overall success…it needs to be a city now instead of a pastoral suburb.

According to information to be included in the survey, Franklin has seen a 15 percent population growth from 2003 to 2017. Additionally, staffing has increased by 5 percent while calls for service have increased by 63 percent.

Open Letter to MKE Police Chief and Aldermen: Thoughts around “Families Belong Together” rally.

I attended the “Families Belong Together” rally this afternoon in front of the Federal Building on East Wisconsin Ave in Milwaukee. News reports estimate the crowd at 2,000 or so attendees. As the crowd grew they pushed off the sidewalk into what would normally be a parking lane (except there isn’t one in front of the federal building) and eventually into the traffic lanes blocking traffic between Jefferson and Jackson. I didn’t see a single police officer in the area although my companion thought there were two bicycle patrol officers there early in the rally.

But let’s get back to the absence of police officers. As I said I didn’t see any Milwaukee Police Department officers nor any of the officers that normally patrol the federal building. I imagine there was a conscious decision to reduce police visibility to prevent confrontations with the protestors. That isn’t the worst idea in the world and the event was peaceful and from my vantage point completely without incident. I think the authorities did the right thing at this point.

But, right or wrong, the rally closed Wisconsin Ave at that one block. That in itself wasn’t a good thing. And it probably wouldn’t have gone well if the police showed up suddenly and tried to clear the street. But I didn’t see anyone doing any traffic control either. For eastbound traffic, protesters were blocking the street with a large sign and other protesters were directing cars to proceed around the rally on Jefferson St. I didn’t see what was happening at the Jackson and Wisconsin intersection. I’d add a photo here but I don’t want to get in copyright trouble with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel if I borrow one of theirs.

But with a large crowd occupying the street and civilians performing traffic control, we are one counter protester or road rage individual in a car or truck away from multiple injuries or fatalities if someone drove into the crowd. Why wasn’t there law enforcement present to provide traffic control?

The lack of police presence may have influenced the participants in this rally to maintain a peaceful presence but would it have allowed maleficent individuals to cause mayhem just as easily?

What is the city’s take on protests? What is the MPD’s take on crowd control? At what point does safety over tolerance become a thing? Was Summerfest consuming the available police resources for a Saturday afternoon?

This went really well but it could have been a disaster just as easily.