Whither MKE County: Tearing Down the Domes

I am not going to weigh in on tearing down the Domes in this blog…or whether to move the Milwaukee Public Museum out of downtown…I have opinions but that is not what I am going to rant about in this post.

The MPM and Mitchell Park Domes org put together a task force to review and recommend a best path for these two august and well respected institutions. You can read more about it here and here.

But here’s the gist of the situation:

The future of the aging domes has been in question for years. The iconic buildings just west of downtown Milwaukee have approximately $30 million in deferred maintenance and the cash-strapped Milwaukee County is unable to fund their repair.

Unable to repair. Not unwilling to repair…unable to repair. Because: Deferred Maintenance.

This is the result of Madison not allowing the County to implement a local sales tax to fund transit and parks and culture that the voters approved in a referendum. This is the result of Madison turning its back on the needs in Milwaukee County…for a number of petty reasons. This is the result of Madison limiting the County’s ability to raise tax revenues from other means…primarily property taxes.

So the county like so many other government agencies around the state (and this isn’t just a Milwaukee County issue anymore) have to make tough decisions about what to fund and where to spend their increasingly limited resources. Parks or roads? Schools or health care? Sewers or bridges? Buses or pensions? The list is endless…quite literally.

So the question about replacing the Domes isn’t an isolated issue. It might be the Giant Canary in the Coal Mine because it is so visible and popular with the general public…but it is just the first high profile loss to decades of deferred maintenance and short shortsightedness across the state…and the nation. And unless voters demand that their elected officials pay attention to Wisconsin’s infrastructure, Wisconsin can start kissing its cultural icons good bye…if they can still get to them via Wisconsin’s roads, bridges, and buses.


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