Heavy lifting in Wisconsin

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:17 pm

Those sounds you may hear are the moans and groans of people engaged in various acts of heavy lifting. And I’m not talking about snow.

Some folks are taking on major civic challenges voluntarily. Others have had their assigned tasks hoisted upon them. Either way, they won’t be easy.

Let’s start with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term. It quite simply is not going to happen. In fact, it’s not going to be close. The promise has been taken down from his web site, and it is something he will surely have to atone for if he seeks re-election in 2014.

Walker also is setting himself up for second-guessing by making the state’s mining law reforms Job #1 in the legislature this year. I tell you right here and now that it will be years, if ever, that the bill creates a single mining job in Wisconsin.

Michael Wiggins Jr., tribal chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, told the Milwaukee Rotary Club his tribe “will do whatever it takes” as a sovereign nation to stop a proposed iron mine near its tribal lands, including taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Wiggins says his tribe is “washing our hands” of the state of Wisconsin and will contest the laws federally as a sovereign nation. Expect a long, drawn-out court case, the likes of which killed a proposed mine in Crandon a few years ago.

But Walker is not alone on the heavy lifting circuit.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett faces some major hurdles in his effort to move his downtown streetcar project forward. Yes, he has the federal funds to get it done, but the costs of moving utility lines and the issue of who should pay for those costs continue to stall the endeavor. Like the mining jobs, it could be years, if ever, that the trolley is running.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy has voluntarily taken on the burden of being the lead advocate for a replacement arena for the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The building is on the clock, and the Milwaukee Bucks are running out of time to secure a plan to finance a new structure.

I recently attended a meeting of about 20 Milwaukee CEOs. The question was asked at the roundtable: Would you support a 1 percent sales tax to replace Milwaukee’s aging entertainment infrastructure, including the Bradley Center and the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center? The response around the room was deafening. In some cases, vehement opposition was expressed.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who represents Racine County, recently told a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon crowd that he would oppose any type of regional tax for a new building to replace the Bradley Center.

Bottom line: The public and private support for funding are not there.

Across town, Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic has some heavy lifting of her own as the chorus grows for major reforms to the structure of county government. Changes are coming. The only question is which model will win out.

Finally, a nod goes out to maybe the most difficult heavy lifting of all. That is being done by Fran McLaughlin, spokeswoman for Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Sheriff Clarke has jumped the shark. The job of being his spokesperson would get old in a big hurry.

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.

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Steve Jagler
Steve Jagler, former BizTimes Milwaukee editor.