Mayoral Candidates on Park East Freeway Development

What role should the city take in developing the Park East Corridor? Do you support the Community Benefits Agreement? Tom Barrett The redevelopment of the Park East Corridor presents a wonderful opportunity to grow Milwaukee, and a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) should be part of this effort. That agreement should focus on creating more skilled apprenticeships and more jobs for city residents. Within the “Good Jobs” category, I support prevailing wage goals for construction-phase jobs as well as DBE and MBE goals. I have been a past supporter of prevailing wage legislation when significant government dollars were utilized, and I’ve supported increased opportunities for emerging and disadvantaged businesses. Under Local Hiring and Training, I enthusiastically support enhancement of apprenticeship programs. I want the local Building Trades’ BIG STEP Program to be actively involved in the Park East, Marquette Interchange and other local projects. Expanding the numbers of minorities and women in the trades is critically important. I’m concerned about using linkage fees to create a new entity to coordinate hiring. We have a well-funded Private Industry Council (PIC) that should be involved in the CBA and fully engaged in meeting community employment needs. I will encourage hiring city residents in the Park East Corridor and other projects benefiting from public investment. Under Affordable Housing, I have concerns about attaching significant linkage fees to housing and commercial developments. The goals are laudable, but with large mixed-use developments underway in Glendale, Brookfield and Oconomowoc, I do not want to put Milwaukee at a competitive disadvantage. A Los Angeles agreement — which local groups used as a model — called for developers to build or finance 100 to 160 affordable housing units within a three-mile radius of the Staples Center. Recently, the City, WHEDA and a private developer announced that 120 units of affordable housing would be built in the Majestic Building, less than a half-mile from the Park East. This type of partnership is a more attractive option than significant linkage fees. Any green space incorporated into the redevelopment plan must be accessible to the public. Vince Bobot (in an interview) Let’s answer the question with some questions: • Where was the redevelopment contract before the wrecking ball swung? • Was the community consulted? Now that the freeway is down, Milwaukee must take the lead role in attracting investors to the Park East Corridor. Creating and marketing an atmosphere conducive to business gives investors the necessary incentive to locate in Milwaukee. My economic plan for Park East Corridor outlines what Milwaukee can do to create jobs and expand the tax base. • Aggressively market the Park East Corridor to the business community. • Reduce property taxes to lower the cost of doing business in Milwaukee. • Streamline the slow and frustrating procedure of opening a business in Milwaukee. • Create programs that provide business opportunities for low-income residents. The goals put forth by the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition are admirable, but putting excessive restrictions on investors will cause them to look elsewhere. We can achieve social goals through open and honest discussion rather than preconditioned set-asides and mandates. The community benefit agreement should be an agreement, not a demand. As a working model, the agreement forms the basis for open and honest cooperation between the public and private sectors, and between developers and residents. It functions as a model for neighborhood revitalization. I stand for open and honest cooperation. In the Bobot administration, Milwaukee citizens will take an active role in shaping their community and their future. David Clarke I strongly think the developers of the Park East area should ensure that this process, regardless of the outcome, is done with efficiency, openness to the public in terms of counsel and debate, and devoid of bureaucracy. Whether you support what was decided or not, where we go from here is what is important. Increasing opportunity and ability to allow this area to prosper should be the thrust of this particular debate. People want jobs, people want prosperity, and people want our city to be safe. The Park East project is a great chance for new leadership in Milwaukee to make a difference, and tackle this project in an approach that leads to the greatest outcome for the city. The underlying goals of Community Benefits Agreements are commendable and coincide with my vision for Milwaukee. However, a fifty percent unemployment rate for central city residents is unacceptable and intolerable, especially for a David Clarke administration. No city is able to prosper when 27% of its residents fall below the poverty line. Considering 70% of all new jobs are created by small businesses, we must also encourage local entrepreneurs and then get out of the way. Regulation, restrictions, and limitations imposed by the government stifle creativity, progress, and ultimately true freedom. The need to elect a mayor devoted to creation of opportunity for meaningful employment for everyone able and willing to work is paramount and will surely ignite energy, success, and a better Milwaukee. Once again, all decisions made for this area should be driven by job creation, input from our citizens, and prosperity for our communities. Frank Cumberbatch The City’s role in the development of the Park East is to demonstrate to the private sector that it will do everything in its power to compliment the development of the Park East, while emphasizing that job and wealth creation are the primary objectives. Our community will benefit from entrepreneurs setting up shop and hiring local residents, after we show the world that Milwaukee is business friendly. Our community will benefit when the permitting and regulatory process is streamlined to help developers break ground as early as possible, while protecting the public’s interests. I support the jobs portion of the Community Benefits Agreement. The level of unemployment in the heart of Milwaukee is outrageous. The access to living wage jobs close to those who are unemployed is restrictive and the availability of living wage jobs for unemployed central city workers is minimal. The development of the Park East can make significant improvements in access and availability of quality jobs for those who need them the most thereby reducing central city unemployment and returning some confidence to the portion of the community that needs it most. I do not agree that affordable housing should be a part of this agreement. What is built in the Park East should be a combination of what the market will bear and the strategic growth of the city. If that includes affordable housing then that’s great, but affordable housing should not be forced on developers and investors. Sandy Folaron The mayor must advocate for development that best serves its residents. The final plan should be complimentary to the overall vision for the downtown and balance design with revenue generating development. The city has already hosted listening sessions and designated a portion of this land a TIF District. I oppose the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) plan in its current state as does the MMAC. At a Nov. 8 forum sponsored by the AFL-CIO no other candidate took a strong stance on this issue and presented a specific and clearly defined position. I believe that tying linkage fees to this development is wrong. The free market works best when unencumbered. This is an opportunity for Milwaukee to build its tax base and provide the development that will generate those tax dollars for long-term benefits. Linkage fees and other restrictions of the CBA will discourage a projected quarter billion dollars worth of development in this section of downtown. A development with robust property values will generate tax dollars for housing, schools, parks, and safe neighborhoods. We cannot be shortsighted when looking at our city’s future. The current City Policies cover most of the issues presented in the CBA. The biggest issue seems to be the availability of low and moderate-income housing. The fact is there are plenty of affordable homes and rental properties in Milwaukee. We need to make sure those homes are safe and healthy places to live. 86% of the rental units and 94% of single-family units in the city are affordable. There are over 2800 subsidized housing units in the city within one mile of the Park East. The Park East redevelopment is prime real estate that provides an opportunity to expand our tax base. We need development there that will benefit the city every year for decades to come. Arthur Jones (phone interview) I support the Community Benefits Agreement. City Government has a definite role as it relates to this type of proposed development, a vital role to ensure that there is a benefit to the community and that people are not priced out of the housing. What used to be called the Park East corridor – the area that has been vacated – is the most valuable tract of land in Milwaukee County and probably in southeast Wisconsin as it relates to development. I believe that there’s a free market and the market is going to respond to the vacant land. However, the city government has a role to insure that there’s a balance that takes place with that land as it relates to residential and business development. Businesses are going to be upscale, just because of the location. To have availability for everyone in Milwaukee to take part – all ethnic groups – in this development, they have to be assisted by City Government. The residential [part of the development] is more than likely going to be middle income, but we have to make it available to everyone in the city – and try not to make it all high end condominiums, which seems to be what’s happening in the downtown area. As far as the commercial aspects – I believe that small businesses are the backbone of industry in America. We have to encourage a commercial mix, and by this I mean small businesses, perhaps even light industrial. As Mayor, I will create opportunities for all residents to make a living wage. I will work to ensure that city-based contractors are given first consideration on work projects. I will insist that companies make sincere efforts to provide jobs and skill training to city residents. Both economic development and jobs create a healthy economy that benefits both the downtown and residential areas throughout the city. However, one cannot benefit at the expense of the other. We must find a balance between the two and encourage growth in both areas. Martin Matson First, the current plans for the Park East should be scrapped. Then, a design competition should take place so that our vision is widened on the possibilities of what can happen to that space. Additionally, there needs to be green space and public access to the river. That being said, I believe a balance between the needs of the community and the needs of the private sector has to occur. Specific tracts within the Park East corridor should be required to fulfill a Community Benefits Program, but other tracts should not. We are talking about an urban environment that is best suited for mixed-use. This mixed use includes affordable housing. I don’t believe Milwaukee needs any more high-end condominiums downtown. But I would not specifically preclude them. Tom Nardelli I support the vision advanced by the city, which features a high-end mix of residential, retail, entertainment and dining, with riverfront access and a plaza adding to its public appeal. To achieve its vision, the city has certain responsibilities. First, Milwaukee must provide adequate and attractive access to the Corridor to handle increased traffic. Second, Milwaukee must encourage highest and best use of this prime property for the highest return, an estimated quarter of a billion dollars to our tax base. Finally, Milwaukee must ensure that development will have an uplifting impact on the near north side in general. Regarding the Community Benefits Agreement: We must put Milwaukee on a solid financial footing, while avoiding further increases in our property taxes. Until then, the city won’t have adequate resources for addressing the many socio-economic needs of our neighborhoods. Whenever city funds are involved in the Park East development, the city has a responsibility to require hiring preferences for minority and disadvantaged contractors. Likewise, residential development receiving city funds must meet community benefit goals for providing affordable housing. If community benefits demands are too onerous for private developers, however, they become an obstacle to successful development of the property. The community does not benefit if 26 acres of prime downtown land languish while we hunt for a developer willing to accept all terms of a community benefits agreement and still achieve the city’s vision. Let’s balance immediate interests with the city’s long-term needs for a healthier tax base and more attractive new business environment. John Pitta The Mayor and the City of Milwaukee should make the Park East Corridor development a major priority. The leaders of Milwaukee blew a golden opportunity when we had a chance to build Miller Park downtown. That would have helped revitalize downtown Milwaukee. The Park East Corridor is going to impact generations to come. We need to proceed cautiously and develop a fantastic plan! I advocate for generating ideas and proposals nationally. We need to improve the national image of Milwaukee. This is one of the best parcels of land for downtown development in a long, long time. Visionary leadership and planning could help attract new business and technology. My plan includes creating a technology corridor that would attract talented young professionals to live, work, and play in Milwaukee. We have the ability to attract major national organizations to begin investing in Milwaukee and the Park East Corridor is one of our greatest assets in order to gain commitments for investment. This would increase the tax base, create jobs and improve quality of life for residents. I have endorsed the Community Benefits Agreement on my website. We have a 50% minority population in Milwaukee and I advocate for more minority participation in conducting city business and the decision making process. We need to create jobs for city residents during construction and after completion. We need a clean environment. As mayor I would promote and educate young people on the need for physical activity. Exercise can help improve our children’s health and reduce the national crisis on healthcare costs. Marvin Pratt No Response. Leon Todd One of the key answers to the current employment crisis in Southeastern Wisconsin is relieving the severe traffic congestion along expressway routes leading to and around the Marquette Interchange. Modern industry will not and can not locate within urban areas that can not move critical goods, services and workers into and out of high paying manufacturing facilities that operate in a just in time economy for profitability and financial health. In addition, moving trucking, not just automobiles into, out of, around or through intermediate urban areas is critical to a state’s economy. Transportation itself is nearly one third of the American economy. Inefficient transportation routing is costly to any urban economy in terms of accidents, downtime and idle fuel consumption and additionally sucks disposable income and time out of the economy that could be spent on other goods and services that would truly enhance an economy. Enlarging the footprint of all routes leading to the Marquette Interchange, mockingly called Milwaukee’s largest parking lot, is rightly challenged by groups looking to create and maintain quality of life livable green spaces and in reality only postpones inevitable future congestion and prolongs diseconomies of scale. It is the ultimate roadblock to any meaningful and sustainable Community Benefits Agreement. There is an indisputable consensus that our present freeway system in a few short years will become a giant parking lot clogged with through-Milwaukee traffic making the Marquette Interchange the state’s largest bottle neck. Leon Todd for Mayor has a plan to eliminate this roadblock to employment.