Community coalition: We’ll endorse Bucks arena if you give us $150m for school facilities

So I know I’m always harping on the idea that city officials and concerned residents should be demanding something back in exchange for sports subsidies, but this:

Members and organizations aligned with Common Ground, a community organization of churches, small businesses, nonprofits and neighborhood groups, will meet Tuesday to consider a motion to support public funding for a new arena as long as $150 million to $250 million is directed toward better public school athletics facilities, playgrounds and recreational spaces.

If that amount is not set aside, Common Ground says it will oppose public funding for a new arena.

…is just not the right way to do it.

I get where Common Ground is coming from: If you’re going to give tax money to the Milwaukee Bucks, give some to our schoolkids as well. But there are two big problems with this: First off, all the money would be coming out of the same public purse, so Common Ground is basically saying, “If you’re going to throw money at this thing we don’t think is worthwhile, throw some money at something we like, too, and then we’ll support it.” Secondly, money is fungible, so if the county were to build a ton of new high school gyms or what have you, there’d be nothing stopping them from taking the same amount of money away with their other hand — in a future budget after Common Ground has already been brought on board, if necessary.

This is another example of what we might call What’s In It For Me-ism, which started with the introduction of “community benefits agreements” and has headed off in some weird directions ever since. Common Ground looks to have some clout, though, so it looks like the “How do we pay for a Milwaukee Bucks arena?” question may metamorphose into “How do we pay for a Milwaukee Bucks arena and a bunch of school athletic fields?” Which is … better? Worse? Different? One of those.

2 comments on “Community coalition: We’ll endorse Bucks arena if you give us $150m for school facilities

  1. Good news for local Bucks fans is that stadium backers saw this coming. Proposals listed in the paper were for for about 5x the Miller Park sales tax increase (0.5% compared to 0.1%) if I recall correctly. Only problem is there’s only like 20 people in the anti-stadium tax/pro-Common Ground venn diagram.

  2. While they might be making a point, the problem I see is it does not address priorities for school funding. Many school districts already overinvest in athletics and competitive sports faciities for relatively small numbers of student athletes while neglecting physical education programs for all students as well as gifted ed, foreign languages, AP classes, music, arts, and tutors.