It’s been just over two weeks since the approval of the Greatest Thing In Milwaukee History (not including Channel 12’s “Hello Milwaukee” song): a 2.4-mile downtown streetcar line. Yes, after months of bizarrely heated debate, the bizarrely controversial Milwaukee Streetcar was approved by the Milwaukee Common Council—guaranteed rapes and shootings be damned. For longtime supporters, it was a day of celebration (seriously, how fucked up did the Urban Milwaukee dudes get that night?), a day of moving Milwaukee forward, and a day when public-transportation-loving Millennials began packing their bags for the Brew City, their once-distant dreams of being shuttled from the Cousin’s on Wisconsin and Milwaukee to the Applebee’s in the Grand Avenue Mall now a beautiful reality.
For the anti-streetcar crowd, however, it was a different story. The city was doomed, a soon-to-be-Detroit that would buckle under the hidden costs of a wasteful “boondoggle.” Only latte-sipping Downtown elites would use the ridiculous “trolley,” most likely to or from their jobs at the new 50-story Johnson Controls headquarters the company says it wants to build because of the streetcar. Led by Ald. Bob “This Stall Is Taken, Mr. Donovan” Donovan, the anti-streetcar movement tried its best—holding rallies, collecting signatures, accepting money from Koch-funded groups—but it was too little too late. Barring any 11th-hour shenanigans, the Milwaukee Streetcar will soon become a reality.
Which means it’s time for the streetcar opponents to concede defeat and start pointing fingers at each other in the most over-the-top, bitchy, and vaguely racist way possible! In a rambling post on the independent “STOP the Milwaukee Streetcar” Facebook page, an unidentified moderator predicts failure for a long-shot move to stall the on-rails project by collecting 31,000 petition signatures by March 3. Why? Well, mostly because it’s really cold outside. (“First and foremost a door-to-door campaign is vital to the success of a city-wide drive and cold winter weather does nothing to help that effort.”)
The post then performs a fascinating post-mortem on the ill-fated movement, claiming leading figures and groups—Donovan, Ald. Joe Davis, the Koch-friendly Citizens For Responsible Government—demonstrated a lack of leadership by failing to utilize social media (“CRG came out of the box with what they called a strong ‘United for Milwaukee’ coalition—as of today 5 people ‘Like’ its Facebook page”), and by blowing money on an “ineffectual radio ad campaign on a station geared to a 13-25 year-old hip hop loving audience.” Plus, they never should have gotten mixed up with an “ill-conceived, tasteless Nate Hamilton radio ad.” Oh, and Davis didn’t do enough. (“99% of the effort we’ve witnessed has come from Alderman Donovan.”)
The post also discloses one of the movement’s most embarrassing failures: a party where nobody came.
“CRG had a good crowd at Serb Hall for the launch of the drive back in early January but then a couple of weeks ago—this page hid this fact until now—a rally at the Washington Park Senior Center attracted almost nobody; in fact when our chief moderator was there in attendance it was them, Alderman Donovan, three circulators, two CRG representatives and reporters and camera operators for ALL FOUR television stations…the number of private citizens we saw come and go in a twenty minute span: 2.”
Despite the self-flagellating post, Donovan, ever the wide-eyed optimist, claims “it ain’t over till it’s over.” Cue the Lenny Kravitz, and see you on the rails, Milwaukee! (The full Facebook post is below, in case someone deletes that shit.)
The current petition drive will fail to meet its goal by March 3; that is not the official word yet from CRG, the group which organized this (NOTE: we said “this”) drive, rather it is our opinion based on inside information and sentiment.
Why will it fail? First and foremost a door-to-door campaign is vital to the success of a city-wide drive and cold winter weather does nothing to help that effort.
This drive will also fail because of poor vision, planning and leadership from the organizing group. Our read is CRG believed–based on the huge success of a county-wide petition drive they headed a decade ago–that the streetcar petition effort would be a slam dunk. CRG thought they were sitting down to a game of Checkers when in fact the game to be played was Chess.
CRG came out of the box with what they called a strong “United for Milwaukee” coalition–as of today 5 people “Like” its Facebook page. We were told the petition drive and coalition was the brainchild of a partnership of Aldermens Bob Donovan and Joe Davis, yet 99% of the effort we’ve witnessed has come from Alderman Donovan.
Petition organizers also gave us the ill-conceived, tasteless Nate Hamilton radio ad and wasted thousands of dollars recently on a completely ineffectual radio ad campaign on a station geared to a 13-25 year-old hip hop loving audience.
CRG had a good crowd at Serb Hall for the launch of the drive back in early January but then a couple of weeks ago–this page hid this fact until now–a rally at the Washington Park Senior Center attracted almost nobody; in fact when our chief moderator was there in attendance it was them, Alderman Donovan, three circulators, two CRG representatives and reporters and camera operators for ALL FOUR television stations…the number of private citizens we saw come and go in a twenty minute span: 2.
CRG also woefully understated the importance of social media in their campaign; their own Facebook page has just 345 Likes (we’ve got twelve times that in two months of existence) with its last post way back on January 7. Even more crucial is their own website’s links to the petition form and drop-off sites have been non-operational for the last few days (we have continued to post on our page working links to the form and drop-off locations).
Finally, CRG’s inability and refusal to keep us and others involved in the campaign updated on a day-to-day basis to the total of petition signatures in-hand has handcuffed us and Alderman Donovan in answering your questions, leaving petition circulators and the public clueless as to where we stand in the drive.
(There’s also the matter of CRG’s proposed ordinance’s weak wording–there have been much stronger petitions circulated to the residents of other streetcar cities across the country and we hope that any group coming forward with a future Milwaukee petition will perform the due diligence necessary to avoid holes so wide a semi truck–let alone Alderman Bob Bauman–could drive through.)
Had it not been for “heroes” such as the owners of Sobelman’s, Packing House, Sherman Perk, Wolski’s, McKiernan’s and Sebring’s Garage stepping up very early in the game and beginning a trend of so-called “depots” at which residents could sign and turn in petitions this effort would have been DOA. We continue to applaud those businesses for the risk they assumed in coming out publicly against the streetcar and ask that you support them now and in the future for their stand with you.
This effort has also largely been on the backs of what some call “super circulators” and to them we extend a very sincere thank you. There are about a dozen of these individuals who have been out there day after day in the frigid cold gathering hundreds and in some cases thousands of signatures. We applaud them!
There is one winner in all of this: you, really. The petition drive has put the streetcar issue at the forefront of many Milwaukeeans’ minds…without this effort and your support Mayor Barrett would be enjoying a cakewalk with his streetcar.
Keep the debate going, Milwaukee, the streetcar is far from a reality. Continue to share the truth of the streetcar and the failures of streetcars around the United States. There remains an alarming number of Milwaukee residents who are completely unaware of the looming Milwaukee Streetcar and we must change that by continuing to spread the word and bring about new leadership and vision via the Spring 2016 elections!
In the meantime we promise to keep up the effort to STOP the Milwaukee Streetcar–stay tuned for updates.