Super Bowl Ad We All Need To Think About:

This was posted on Policy.mic today, an ad from the National Congress of American Indians:

For years, America has been debating the use of the term “Redskin” by Washington’s NFL team, the Washington Redskins. Though the NFL says they’re listening, nothing has been done. But with this ad, the NCAI has put a human face on the story and shows exactly why the term “Redskin” is so problematic, in compressing an entire people’s rich and varied identity into one stereotype.

Even though the term “Native American” has its own issues of blanket categorization, it’s at least used cautiously and with the knowledge, if even tacit, that this group of people can be somewhat identified by their long-standing relationship to the continent. Redskin, however, is simply a terrible slur. It reduces these groups to the color of their skin (in a very racist way) and lumps everyone together with no thought to their heritage or history.

Despite almost constant pressure, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has repeatedly said he has no plans to change the team’s name. In a letter to fans, Snyder wrote that the team name “was, and continues to be, a badge of honor. … I’ve listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name. But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too.”

I don’t think I need to say anything else.

So about that Bucks arena vote…

Earlier today the State Assembly passed the $250 million bill providing taxpayer funding for half the cost of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Assembly vote was 52-34, with bipartisan support (and bipartisan opposition) to the bill.

Here’s a breakdown of how Milwaukee’s Democratic Assembly delegation voted on the Bucks arena bill:

Voted Against
David Bowen
Jonathan Brostoff

Voted For
Mandela Barnes
Evan Goyke
Christine Sinicki
Josh Zepnick
Jocasta Zamarripa
Leon Young
LaTonya Johnson
Fred Kessler

Didn’t Vote
Daniel Riemer

As a point of clarification, Daniel Riemer did not vote because he’s on vacation.

So here’s your chance to share your opinion. Is this a good deal for Wisconsin’s taxpayers, or do you think it’s a bum deal?

Chris Larson votes to cut $4 million in state aid from Milwaukee County to help fund shiny new Bucks arena

Earlier today the Republican-controlled State Senate approved using taxpayer dollars to fund a shiny new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. The vote to approve the financing was 21 in favor of the scheme and 10 opposed, with former Democratic Minority Leader Chris Larson and five other Democrats joining Republicans in approving the scheme. In a Facebook post explaining his support for the scheme, Sen. Larson wrote he’d vote for the scheme if “the County’s heartless debt collection portion is pulled from the deal,” and he also acknowledged the scheme was not perfect. However, what Sen. Larson did not mention is the fact that the scheme Sen. Larson voted in favor of will actually see state aid to Milwaukee County cut by $4 million per year (emphasis added).

Before approving the measure, senators adopted a 12-page amendment to the proposal that:

Dropped a requirement that Milwaukee County turn over its debt collection program to the state, which has more power to recover unpaid property taxes and court fines. Instead, the county would see its state aid reduced by $4 million a year to cover its portion of the arena.

It’s worth noting that according to the Journal Sentinel’s report, the $4 million per year cut in state aid to Milwaukee County was demanded by Sen. Larson, who said that provision was “necessary to secure his vote for the arena.”

Along with Sen. Larson, five other Democrats voted to cut state aid to Milwaukee County by $4 million per year to help make the dream of a new arena for the billionaire owners of the Bucks a reality:

  • Jon Erpenbach
  • Lena Taylor
  • Nikiya Harris Dodd
  • Jennifer Shilling
  • Janis Ringhand

While I certainly appreciate the assortment of reasons why many folk from both sides of the political spectrum want to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee, what I can’t appreciate is keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee at the expense of Milwaukee County’s residents, because there’s no doubt in my mind County Executive Chris Abele will close that gap in funding by finding something to cut from the budget. That’s a travesty, and I can’t believe three state senators representing Milwaukee voted to allow the state to cut aid to the County.

That’s real money, and that cut’s going to hurt at a time when the County is already facing a myriad of problems that won’t be solved by the construction of a new arena for the Bucks.

In closing, I’m just gonna leave this here as a reminder of what a scam taxpayer funding for sports arenas/stadiums is.

Why a fancy new entertainment district around the Milwaukee Bucks’ taxpayer-funded stadium may fail

Earlier this week I highlighted comedian John Oliver’s takedown of the racket that is publicly financed sports stadiums, and yesterday Bruce Murphy of Urban Milwaukee outlined why a fancy entertainment district around the new Bucks arena may end up failing.

The bad news is that all of this development is likely to be cookie-cutter creations based on what generates profits in other cities. If these nine square blocks got developed more slowly and serendipitously as happened on Water Street, there would be 72 different businesses operating and competing with each other rather than one corporate master who has a lock on all the land, and there would be constant change, with different businesses rising and falling, remodeling and tinkering.

The irony of all this is that the city (and county and state) will provide a huge subsidy to the Bucks to create a tinny echo of the most generic parts of other downtowns. Meanwhile little or no subsidy is going to all the hard working, imaginative, ever-changing entrepreneurs of Bay View, Brady Street, Milwaukee Street, the Third Ward, Jefferson Street, Walker’s Point, Center Street and Old World Third Street, all of whom are transforming Milwaukee into an ever-cooler city.

And if any of these entrepreneurs fail, there will be no rescue from the city, but rather a rush by some other business person to fill the gap. Yet, if the huge plan by the Bucks fails or if the arena needs expansion, as inevitably occurs, the team’s billionaire owners will be back to the city, county and state asking for more money, to assure that the same show goes on and on and on.

Milwaukee Bucks owner Wes Edens buys his third company in a week, still wants government handout to build Bucks arena

But remember, Milwaukee Bucks owner Wes Edens needs a government handout in order to build a fancy new arena to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee.

Wes Edens wants to be the newest subprime scion.

Edens — founder of Fortress Investment Group and owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks — made his third debt-related acquisition in about a week on Tuesday when his lending company announced it was buying Citigroup’s OneMain for $4.3 billion.

The all-cash purchase by Springleaf Financial is expected to close in the third quarter of this year, and would make it the largest consumer-finance company — and subprime lender — in the country, with nearly $14 billion in receivables and almost 2,000 branches throughout the US.

The purchase comes just eight days after two other Edens companies made separate acquisitions of holdings formerly owned by Bill Erbey, the ex-chairman of mortgage servicing company Ocwen, who was recently forced to step down from his position after a two-year investigation.

The fact that a good number of Wisconsin’s elected officials from both parties are bending over backwards to hand over taxpayer dollars to Wes Edens so he can squeeze a greater profit out of the Milwaukee Bucks is absolutely galling, and I say if Wes Edens wants a shiny new basketball arena, he should pay for it himself.

VIDEO: HBO’s John Oliver highlights the messed up state of stadium funding with public dollars

Last week John Oliver, the host of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on HBO, did a 19-minute segment on the topic of the funding of American sports stadiums using taxpayer dollars, often at the expense of governments being able to then provide core services to residents.

(WARNING: there is some adult language in the clip)

John Oliver articulated many of the reasons I’m opposed to the idea of taxpayer dollars being diverted to help billionaire owners of profitable sports teams build fancy new stadiums, but key among my reasons for being opposed is the fact that stadium deals don’t produce the economic results they’re often predicted to provide, leaving governments to foot the bill.

It’s time for elected officials to stop allowing themselves to be bullied by the billionaire owners of sports teams and their threats of moving, and it’s time for citizens to start caring about the fact that tax dollars that could be better spent providing services are being squandered on sports teams that many of those same citizens can’t even afford to go watch.

Kiss The Milwaukee Admirals Good Bye!

Today this headline seems a tad over the top but when I started thinking about this post on Friday…it seemed very very appropriate. After two weeks of reading arena finance articles and trying to put together a relevant post, I realized that nothing was ever being said about the Milwaukee Admirals.

This despite current Bucks arena plans call for the demolition of the BMO Bradley Center…the current home of the Milwaukee Admirals (in addition to the Bucks and Marquette basketball)…an arena designed specifically for hockey first (in an effort to acquire an NHL team) and basketball second.

So to me it seemed like Milwaukee and Wisconsin were uninterested in accommodating our professional hockey team in favor of the carpetbagger Bucks owners. And that would be truly a sad state of affairs.

But before I could get my rant off…the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel scooped me…and it’s only my fault for being a professional procrastinator. Oh well…they have more resources than I and can actually talk to Admirals management. So here are a few prime highlights from today’s feature:

But the new arena might lack one of the defining features of the BMO Harris Bradley Center: ice. And that means the Milwaukee Admirals are beginning to search for a new place to play.

“We do not believe we will be part of the new arena,” said Harris Turer, chief executive officer of the minor league hockey team.

The Bucks’ owners said a decision hasn’t yet been made about whether the future arena would include the ability to host the Admirals.

But Turer already has started what he calls “very preliminary discussions” with Wisconsin Center District officials about a possible lease at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, where the Admirals would share dates with the UWM men’s basketball team and other tenants.

Those talks “have been very positive, but not very detailed,” he said.

“It’s very likely we will not be playing” at the Bradley Center by the 2017-’18 American Hockey League season, Turer said. Hockey and basketball seasons both start in October.

A Bucks spokesman said the team’s owners continue to focus on obtaining approval from the Wisconsin Legislature and Milwaukee Common Council for a public financing plan that would cover $250 million of the new arena’s estimated $500 million cost.

The plan has been stalled by bipartisan opposition.

“We honestly haven’t made any decisions” about the Admirals, said Jake Suski, Bucks senior vice president of communications. “There’s a lot still unresolved.”

Mike Fascitelli, a Bucks co-owner, plans to meet soon with Turer to update him on the arena design process, and “continue the conversation,” Suski said.

The Admirals, however, will likely be left out, Turer said. He came to that conclusion because of vague, noncommittal responses he’s received from Bucks President Peter Feigin and co-owner Marc Lasry.

“Everything we’ve heard, or not heard, leads me to believe we will not be a tenant,” Turer said.

That might be a simple economic calculation by the Bucks.

Installing ice-making equipment and other furnishings needed to host hockey games at the new arena would add to its construction costs, and the Admirals would be virtually the only tenant paying rent for hockey dates.

“I’m not sitting here begging to be part of the new arena,” Turer said. “We’re a minor league hockey team, and we have limited revenues.”

I’ve been pretty quiet of late…but I intend to change that…and have a couple of other posts floating around in my head about the arena that I hope to post before they become too obsolete!

Are New Bucks Owners Actually Putting Up Their Own Money

Recently the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article about financing arrangements that are available through the National Basketball Association. And although the Bucks were quoted in the article saying they might use the credit facility to expand business opportunities around the new arena…some of the writing seemed to indicate that the $150 million that they’ve already pledged might be coming from the NBA pot:

A Bucks spokesman confirmed that if the team chooses to tap into the NBA credit facility, it would do so for business related reasons both on and off the court. While a full financing plan for the arena has yet to be determined, the NBA credit facility could play a role in terms of the $150 million the Bucks ownership group, which includes primary owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan, has pledged toward a new arena.

I don’t know…just seems a little edgy…if they have the $150 million to invest why couldn’t the NBA credit line then be used to complete the deal?

On a side note: it seems a little hypocritical of the governor and the pols in Madison to expect the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to invest in the arena with $$$ other than the usual infrastructure when the surrounding counties (their bailiwicks) have already voted against regional participation.

Five Reasons A New Bucks Arena Isn’t Economically Important:

One of the debate points around building a new Bucks arena in downtown Milwaukee is the additional development that will occur in the general vicinity of the new arena. This despite no evidence that there was any significant development around the Bradley Center after it was built. It’s pretty much Major Goolsby’s and that was already there. The restaurant facility in the BC parking structure has turned over a number of times…sometimes leaving the city with unpaid rent if I remember correctly. But this time it’s different…the new owners are ‘planning’ development…but I really don’t think this is a ‘build it and they will come’ scenario.

So here are five reasons that a new Buck’s arena isn’t economically important:

1: The City of Brookfield isn’t vying for it!
2: The Village of Menomonee Falls isn’t vying for it!
3: The City of Oak Creek isn’t vying for it!
4: The City of Wauwatosa isn’t vying for it!
5: The City of Mequon isn’t vying for it!

Common Ground activists call Bucks owner Wesley Edens a “slumlord”

On Thursday leaders of the community organization Common Ground called Milwaukee Bucks’ co-owner Wes Edens a slumlord while demonstrating in front of a foreclosed and distressed house owned by a company under Edens’ control.

Edens’ Fortress Investment Group owns a majority stake in Nationstar Mortgage, a mortgage services company. Edens is chairman of the company.

Common Ground members said Thursday that Nationstar Mortgage is responsible for an estimated 300 properties in the Milwaukee area. O’Hear said Common Ground members surveyed all of the properties.

“Many of them are like this or worse,” she said, motioning toward the home behind her. “This is unacceptable.”

Several dozen Common Ground supporters held signs saying, “Wes couldn’t care less,” or “This property is owned by Bucks owner Wes Edens.”

While I certainly laud the folks from Common Ground for taking action to draw attention to the sheer lunacy of the state of Wisconsin giving hundreds of millions of dollars to help a billionaire build a shiny new basketball palace, they’re dreaming if they think Edens or Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry would deign to meet with anyone who isn’t willing to give them hundreds of millions of dollars in handouts.