Just in time for Earth Day, County Executive Scott Walker decided to strike down a County Board of Supervisors freeway resolution opposing the South East Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s (SEWRPC) $6.25 billion plan to expand freeways in Milwaukee. According to Citizens Allied for Sane Highways (CASH) co-chair Gretchen Schuldt, “He basically told the hundreds of expansion opponents who crowded the Washington Park Senior Center for a public hearing to go suck exhaust.” Apparently Walker, who wasn’t even at a large public hearing attended by County Board members seeking public input, “felt they weren’t thinking” when supervisors voted against expansion in Milwaukee. This was according to Walker aide Darlene Wink, who was quoted in a news article on the Story Hill Neighborhood Association website. Story Hill is one of the neighborhoods that would be most directly effected if the plan is implemented. Supervisor Lynne DeBruin, who represents Story Hill, said Walker’s decision has disenfranchised thousands of Milwaukee residents. The area’s alderman, Michael Murphy, also criticized the decision: “I think clearly Scott Walker has more allegiance to Dan Finley and Waukesha County than to his own constituents.” “With this single veto, he is speaking out in favor of much higher taxes and much more blight while at the same time betraying the democratic process,” said Schuldt. “He is putting non-English speaking populations at risk of having their properties destroyed or ruined because of a plan they never had a chance to understand — SEWRPC didn’t translate anything about it until last month. And Walker chose to do it on a day everyone’s attention was on the war with Iraq. It’s disgusting.” Recently the Marquette County Board joined the Milwaukee County Board, Mayor John Norquist, the Common Council, and many city neighborhood organizations, including the RNA, in opposing the expansion. The Marquette County Board passed a resolution opposing the spending for Milwaukee-area freeway construction 12-5, acknowledging budgets are tight all over and it doesn’t make sense to spend the state’s transportation money for the next couple decades all in one place. Opponents of the freeway expansion have an opportunity to let the SEWRPC freeway advisory committee know what they think: the committee meets Wednesday, April 2, 3:30 p.m. at the Downtown Transit Center, 909 E. Michigan St.
More bad news in time for Earth Day: Budget cuts by Governor Jim Doyle have derailed a local plan to address groundwater and soil contamination at Garden Park at Locust and Bremen Streets. The City and Riverwest had hoped to use a Brownfield to Greenspace grant to address the Wisconsin DNR concerns about contamination beneath the surface of this community garden. But after the state budget passed, there was no money left for this state-wide grant program. The City, working with the neighborhood and a nonprofit , Milwaukee Urban Gardens (MUG), had hoped to get DNR clearance on the land after implementing an approved remediation plan. Ownership and stewardship of the garden would then be passed on to MUG and the Riverwest Community. City officials assure that the goal is still to assist in the maintenance of this land for the community as a garden and farmers’ market.
Speaking of Earth Day, Arbor Day is coming up too. Do you want to do something to improve your block and your neighborhood? Keep an eye out for a free CD-ROM magazine from Greening Milwaukee, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the city’s urban tree canopy. The CD-ROM will tell you what you need to know about the hows, whys, and wheres of planting trees, along with other useful city-related content and printable coupons. We can guarantee it’s going to be good, because we’re helping put the project together in collaboration with Creative Word and Picture, a local company that produces traditional and new media marketing solutions, including print design, website creation, and CD authoring. Look for the CD in a little over a month.
Oh, speaking of budget deficits, exorbitant highway expenditures, and slashing of brownfield remediation funding, here’s another good one: the County has decided to move case workers who sign up clients for food stamps out of W-2 offices, where they are being charged rent that the County believes is too high. Sherrie Tussler, Executive Director of Hunger Task Force, slammed the plans, commenting that “Wisconsin can’t figure out how to get federally funded food stamps to needy families. Moving the county workers to a new site is like playing a shell game with a hungry child’s dinner-it’s inexcusable.” Citing poor management, Tussler added “food stamp workers are moving because there’s no money to pay for space in W-2 agencies. Welfare reform was intended to help people – not hurt them,” she said. “Now many clients will have to take two or three days off of work to apply for food stamps – some will even have to go to a soup kitchen for dinner!” Moving workers means benefit losses to the needy. “Unbelievable. There’s no other way to describe it,” explained Tussler. Wisconsin operates one of the most poorly administered food stamp programs in the nation. As a result, charities are overwhelmed with demand. “Our community can do better,” says Tussler. “Residents deserve better.”
Aldermanic Council to be reduced from 17 to 15: On Friday, March 21, the city’s Judiciary and Legislative Commitee, chaired by Third District Alderman Michael D’Amato, approved (5-0) a motion to reduce the Common Council to 15 members. On Tuesday, March 25 the full council approved the measure, effective in 2004. The measure was brought before the council because of population decline within the city and in the hope of saving several million dollars over eight years through the elimination of salaries and expenses for the two additional seats. The redrawn district lines put most of Riverwest into the Third Aldermanic district. In Riverwest, the new Third District will include all blocks from Holton Street east to the Milwaukee River from North Avenue north to Chambers Street. It will also include all blocks on Pierce north from Chambers to Keefe Avenue and east to the Milwaukee River.
A coalition of community and labor groups known as “Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods” is taking a stance on the development of the area where the Park East Freeway is coming down. The group believes the best development would include: • Requiring all housing developments within the Park East area to set aside 30% of units for affordable housing. Those units would be priced for varying levels of income, including 7.5% for extremely low-income families, 15% for very low-income families and 7.5% for low-income families. • Requiring fees from commercial developments in the Park East area to help subsidize affordable housing construction. • Mandating that at least 75% of jobs created by tenant businesses in the Park East area pay a living wage or market wage, whichever is higher, plus health insurance. • Setting a goal of at least 25% of construction jobs from developments being filled with minorities. • Filling at least 50% of the jobs created by development after the construction phase with people from a targeted area within the central city. The plan is supported by the Milwaukee County Labor Council and the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future. However, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) fears that the plan will choke economic recovery and redevelopment in Park East. MMAC’s vice president of urban affairs asked for a rejection of the proposal. The Common Council will study the proposal for a month before making a decision on it.
Senior Action in a Gay Environment (SAGE) has received a grant of $2,500 from the Cream City Foundation. The money will be used to enhance programs for LGBT seniors. SAGE also has a new website up at www.sagemilwaukee.org. The site lists current events, copies of the newsletter, and helpful resources.
Third District Alderman Mike D’Amato has a new Legislative Assistant, Crystal Graf. They can be reached at City Hall by calling 414/286-2221. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 4 – April 2003