Tom Barrett's Trolley Dream Will Be Milwaukee's Nightmare for 23 years

Jay Weber Show transcript 11/24/20 8:05am

I was starting to believe that the wonderful, magical Couture project wasn’t going to be built in my lifetime.

This is the downtown skyscraper that’s oval shaped and has been in the planning stages forever....despite the fact that both the liberals on both the city and the county governments were all super-helpful in clearing the way for the developer, Rick Barrett, to build the thing.

It was a project they wanted....on a public piece of land they wanted to see developed...and so...the city, county, and even state officials, who can be so very difficult and impossible if they want to stop a project-suddenly all cleared the way for the Couture.

But the developer-Rick Barrett- couldn’t get the funding. And so the project has been stalled out.

Until now. He’s getting the money from the federal government. Thru HUD. And it’s not a grant. He’ll have to pay it back...but it’s a federal loan...

And the few stories I read about this didn’t indicate what sort of new federal housing requirements are coming along with this money but you know there are strings attached.

And i assume some of them are related as part of this Couture space.

What do you want to bet some percentage of those apartments are rent-controlled or low income?

And that’s not a reason to -not-do the project. There are big upsides for the city including great construction jobs for several years...but let’s not pretend that HUD money doesn’t come with all sorts of strings attached.

Barrett couldn’t get private investors or bankers to bite...and so...we went with HUD and government money-

Even government loans- all seem to come with some strings.

But its’ good to see that project moving forward, finally.

Then there’s the trolley-which could not be better example of how federal strings can screw up a project....and have the local and state governments on the hook for massive amounts of future spending.

It was a federal transportation grant that supplied a lot of the money for Tom Barrett’s choo-choo...initially.. But it also took some investment from city taxpayers and, of course, all future expenses fall onto city residents.

The federal seed money only goes so far and only lasts for so long..

And so sure enough, we are nearing the end of the trolley’s federal subsidies. But gee...the strings that came along with that federal money seem to last forever...and will be screwing city taxpayers for generations to come.

The Badger Institute has a great piece on the hop in their most recent magazine....

The Hop: Federal monies create a ‘financial anvil’ for Milwaukee

It talks about how the federal money has created a financial anvil for Milwaukee.

So-that is the shelf life for all of the strings attached to that federal money that Tom Barrett and his rail advocates just ‘had’ to have. The money is spent. A crappy little trolley loop has been built. It goes nowhere and is of little to no value to the community...

But Milwaukee and its taxpayers are on the hook for at least 23 years ...and will have to follow all sorts of rules that came along with accepting that money.

One rule? It can’t shut down. The city-must-keep it operating.

Tom Barrett and his ‘experts’ projected that this street car was going to take two million dollars a year to operate. Two million.

It’s only been running for a few years and already the operating costs are more than double what Barrett said they’d be.

Because democrats who push these rail projects always, always always...lie about the numbers.

Tom Barrett lied to get his trolley. Flat out.

And so now just a few years in...It takes 4.5-million to operate a trolley that the feds say they need to keep running

You thought I was kidding when i said the feds are -forcing the city-to keep the trolley running.

I was not.

The badger institute’s report concludes:

Of course. Because the scam is always the same: get a small route going....that no one rides...and then say, well well well of course no one’s riding it. It doesn’t go anywhere. We need to expand it...and will have riders...

This is how this light rail scam has worked on communities for 25 years. And either Barrett was dumb enough to fall for it or he’s in on the scam himself. Knows it’s a scam and doesn’t care.

He has already applied for more federal money to expand it..

But...if the age of covid-19 derails local projects for the near future and if Tom Barrett- never- gets his planned expansion...please realize that these operating and maintenance costs are only going to go up and up and up and up...over the next 23 years.....ballooning each year until 2023...

Which will be the first time that city leaders will be out from under federal mandates...and will be the first chance that they really have to kill off this white elephant.

What. A debacle.

photo and story credit: Badgers Institute

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