The Milwaukee Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development (ZND) Committeee this morning voted to recommend that Department of City Development (DCD) commissioner Richard “Rocky” Marcoux be reappointed to another term. The ZND Committee voted 4-1 to support Marcoux’s reappointment. Alderman Robert Bauman, who represents the downtown area, cast the only “no” vote.
The reappointment of Marcoux will be subject to a vote by the full Common Council. Previously, aldermen sent the matter of Marcoux’s reappointment back to the ZND Committee for further review.
Some aldermen have opposed Marcoux’s reappointment and some members of the business community have quietly complained about his leadership of the DCD.
Frustration rose after the city’s failed attempt to convince Kohl’s Corp. to build a new corporate headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. Some criticized Marcoux for authorizing a purchase of the Sydney Hih buildings, without notifying the public, in the Park East corridor to help assemble the site for the Kohl’s project. Later the Common Council approved plans to demolish the Sydney Hih complex, despite the objection of some preservationists.
Ald. Nic Kovac raised concerns that DCD funds from the Historic Survey Publication Trust Account were misspent under Marcoux’s watch. Ald. Robert Donovan asked the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office to look into the matter. Assistant District Attorney David Feiss issued an opinion that there was “no evidence to suggest any criminal conduct in connection with the expenditure of funds from the Historic Survey Publication Trust Account.”
Marcoux said he took responsibility for the misuse of the funds and said the practice stopped after DCD was notified by the city comptroller’s office.
“I’m a little bothered by us trying to paint the commissioner as a bad person,” said Ald. Willie Wade. “He doesn’t have integrity issues, as far as from what I’ve seen.”
Kovac, who is not a member of the ZND Committee, said he had concerns about “issues of secrecy, vindictiveness and lack of vision,” with Marcoux.
Kovac raised concerns about DCD negotiations with Mandel Group Inc. over a city loan for the second phase of the North End apartment development along the Milwaukee River in downtown Milwaukee.
Marcoux said he had a disagreement with Mandel Group about the terms of the loan. Ultimately the Common Council approved a $4.6 million city loan for the project.
During the negotiations, Marcoux sought a personal guarantee for the loan from Mandel, similar to a personal guarantee provided by The Moderne developer Rick Barrett for a $9.3 million city loan for that project, a 30-story residential tower downtown.
Kovac criticized the request for the North End personal guarantee saying it appeared to be a “poison pill to block the project.”
Marcoux said has strongly supported the North End project from the beginning and would continue to support future phases.
“It is wholly inaccurate to say I tried to block the project,” he said. “I did everything I woulc to move the project forward. I’m very supportive of the Mandel Group.”
But Bauman said the North End negotiations demonstrate Marcoux’s “myopia” and lack of “understanding the nuances of development.”
“Developers are different,” Bauman said. “They have different track records, different histories. (Negotiations should be done) on a case-by case basis. It depends on the circumstances.”