Mayor’s Streetcar Facing Growing Opposition

MILWAUKEE — For Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, January 21 will be a defining moment for his administration. Can the mayor hold off an onslaught of Milwaukee residents growing day by day opposed to his proposed streetcar project for downtown Milwaukee?

On January 21, the mayor will get his answer. The full Common Council is scheduled to vote on the mayor’s streetcar plan on that date, it is only then we will know whether the mayor has a solid block of supporters on the Common Council.

This week, one Common Council vote the mayor was likely depending on changed his mind, leading to speculation that the mayor’s influence on the common council appears to be weakening.

Talk radio has fueled speculation Alderman Robert Puente will not be voting against the streetcar in talk radio this past week. Puente was a supporter.

The news that he is switching his vote was reported on the web site: Stop the Milwaukee Streetcar.

Stop the Milwaukee Streetcar was able to confirm that via phone call to Alderman Robert W. Puente’s office that he  is switching his vote from supporting to opposing the Mayor’s streetcar plan.

According Stop the Milwaukee Streetcar, the assistant to the alderman “changed his position on the streetcar plan because when he listened to his constituents he understood them to be by and large against the plan…”

Meanwhile, ahead of the Common Council’s decision, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is trying to get folks on board with his plan.

The mayor held a public briefing regarding his plan at the Milwaukee Theatre on West Kilbourn Avenue this week.

Mayor Barrett outlined his $123 million project connecting downtown, the lakefront and the East Side. Barrett says the project will be paid for with grant money, an already approved TIF district and $54 million in federal dollars earmarked specifically for a streetcar project. He says it won’t involve a property tax increase.

The mayor said that eventually the streetcar will be extended to other parts of the city — like UW-Milwaukee’s campus and even the airport.

But not everyone is on board.

A group led by Alderman Bob Donovan and Alderman Joe Davis launched a petition drive to try to derail the project. They are looking to gather 31,000 signatures in the next two months to force the issue to a binding referendum.

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