Milwaukee politicians are starting to take sides in the Bucks arena debate, at least if standing with one foot firmly on each side counts as taking sides. See, for example Mary Burke, the bicycle corporation heir and former Wisconsin secretary of commerce who is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, and who told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday that she’s firmly in favor of knowing what her options are:
“First and foremost, I think we’d get people at the table to figure out what all the options are,” Burke said during an hourlong interview with editors and reporters of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel…
“Certainly having $200 million [from the Bucks’ current and former owners] is a really good start,” Burke said. “But are there other ways of bringing private investment into this, private financing that could over time be paid off? I think all of those should be investigated and supported and pushed. And that public funding of it should be one of the last options that’s looked at.”
That’s all eminently reasonable, if completely noncommittal: Treating public funding as a “last option” could mean that she’s going to hold a hard line on demanding private funding, or it could mean “Nobody else willing to pay for this? Okay, guess it’s on us, then.” It also treats the need for a new arena as a fait accompli, with the only question being how to pay for it — somehow it’s only the private side in these matters that is allowed to walk away from deals if they’re too rich for their blood.
If we want someone who’s really taking sides, fortunately, we have Milwaukee alderman Nic Kovac, who didn’t mince words in a Thursday interview with BizTimes:
“The NBA has been printing free money for 20 years. I’m not asking them not to make money. I’m just asking them to cover the capital investment that allows them to make money. I’m an old-fashioned guy; I still like capitalism,” said Kovac, who represents Milwaukee Third District. “I don’t believe in Vladimir Putin-style corporate socialism, which is what the NBA believes in. And you can quote me on that.”
Kovac added, “The talk of contribution to me should be off the table – any public contribution that does not involve a direct return on investment. I will loan them money, I will bond them money, but in my opinion, we shouldn’t be giving them a dime. It’s a private business.”
And then we have the Journal Sentinel editorial board, which continues its series of “Just build something already!” editorials on the Bucks situation. In the latest, the board argues that “the community shouldn’t lose sight of the need to find a sustainable funding source for all of its cultural amenities,” not just an arena, then goes on to argue that playgrounds and roads are “a different conversation” that could “mean the effort collapses under its own weight.” Call this the Editorial Corollary to the Hunt Doctrine: Additional projects that add support to an arena campaign are good, but those that could lose support for it are bad. American journalism, people.