Milwaukee Street Car Fight Heads To The Southside:

Just before last Wednesday’s Common Council vote on the fate of the starter loop for the Milwaukee street car, we experienced dueling press conferences in the city hall rotunda on Tuesday January 20th. And it got very interesting to see who was involved.

First up were Alderman Terry Witkowski (13th Aldermanic District) and Alderman Jose Perez (12th Aldermanic District) with a 10 AM press conference. They were accompanied by County Supervisor Jason Haas (14th Supervisory District). These three supporters of the street car were there to advocate the next phase of the street car…running from downtown to the airport via 6th street. A rather odd outside route until you realize that puts it right through Ald. Witkowski’s and Ald Perez’s aldermanic districts. They clearly see the potential development around a street car. And of course it traverses Sup. Haas’ district which includes the airport.

Not to be out done, Alderman Tony Zielinski (14th Aldermanic District), Alderman Robert Donovan (8th Aldermanic District) and Alderman Joe Davis Sr. (2nd Aldermanic District) held their own press conference that same afternoon to oppose the street car.

Now here is where it gets rather interesting. If it weren’t for Ald. Zielinski’s 14 Aldermanic district, the 12th and 13th Aldermanic districts would be lakefront property…they essentially wrap around the 14th…so they have many of the same concerns. As a matter of fact, the 14th district is largely comprised of the Bay View neighborhood…rabid with new urbanists, young professionals, bike enthusiasts, artists and artisans, and hipsters of every persuasion. One of the brighter spots in Milwaukee that has seen growth in it’s business district even through out the recession. Just the people you would expect to be bona fide street car enthusiasts. Yet Ald. Zielinski claims that his contacts in the neighborhood are overwhelmingly opposed.

And one very logical route from the Intermodal station to the airport would be Water Street to First Street to Kinnickinnic Ave to Howell Ave to the airport…right through the heart of Bay View, right through the heart of the restaurant district, and right down Howell which is just starting to catch on as KK becomes saturated. Yet Ald. Zielinski remains opposed to the street car…and maybe that means it actually will run down 6th street…and I bet those eastsiders would love riding it to La Perla or Botanas and avoid the parking hassle…but I am just thinking out loud.

But the big vote came Wednesday morning and the streetcar was approved in the Common Council and all was right in the world…except for Ald. Zielinski…he voted for the proposal…so he could be the bag man for the opposition and through an arcane parliamentary move, get the vote delayed once again to the February 10th Common Council meeting…when we get to do it all over again.

full disclosure: I have lived in Bay View since December 1980. I own a home there. Supervisor Haas is my county supervisor and Ald. Zielinski is my alderman. And I want a street car…if I still worked downtown I would want it even more.


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