The Milwaukee city council held its first public committee hearing on the Milwaukee Bucks arena plan yesterday, and as at the council’s previous public town hall meetings, there was lots of unhappiness at the already-approved-by-the-state-but-not-yet-the-city deal:
“Buck owners Mark Lasry, Wesley Edens and Jamie Dinan are New York billionaire hedge-fund owners who have the resources to build this arena themselves,” Jennifer O’Hear, speaking for Common Ground, told members of the Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee.
“They do not need our public money,” she said. “Our children and our neighborhoods need our public money.”
Okay, that’s Common Ground, which has been harping on this whole “schoolkids need more money than billionaires” thing for a while now. (Come on, what do schoolkids have to spend money on? It’s not like they could even drive a yacht if they had one!) What about the hoi polloi, the average Joe, the person on the street?
One speaker after another panned the idea.
“It’s trickle-down economics,” Mary Watkins said. “We are hurting. We cannot afford to put millions of dollars in a project billionaires can build on their own.”
Several speakers said they were opposed to the entertainment district, which they thought would cannibalize existing bars and taverns.
“I have long accepted that the ship has sailed and the arena will be built,” Pat Small testified.
“Downtown has no shortage of bars and restaurants,” he said. There is “no need to subsidize the entertainment district.”
Peter Rickman, of Wisconsin Jobs Now, told council members: “Milwaukee has a good jobs problem.”
He urged council members to hold the Bucks accountable for living wages and for workers’ rights, both during the construction of the arena and its facilities, and once those facilities were built and staffed with waiters, janitors and housekeepers.
On the other hand, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “business and labor leaders” said the arena would be a “catalytic project,” presumably by means of something like this. The full council is expected to vote on the plan on September 22, at which point we’ll find out whose opinions they listen to.