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Milwaukee Lawmakers Approve Streetcar, But Procedural Move Delays Final Decision


The Milwaukee Common Council on Wednesday voted in favor of building downtown streetcar line. But then several aldermen used a procedural move to delay the determining vote until February 10. Streetcar opponents plan to use the interim weeks circulating petitions.

Milwaukee Common Council president Michael Murphy was among those who voted in favor of the streetcar. But he also agreed to hold-off final consideration until next month. Murphy says opponents deserve more time to collect signatures of residents, who want voters to decide whether the city builds a streetcar loop.

“Citizens of good will are willing to go out in the middle of the winter, where it’s 20 below zero in some cases, to ascertain and go out and meet citizens and go and collect signatures to determine whether or not they support this to be direct legislation referendum. We should not cavalierly or carelessly disregard the wishes of those citizens,” Murphy says.

One person who helped kick-off the petition drive a few weeks ago, is Alderman Bob Donovan. He says he hopes people act.

“Get involved. Get up off the bench and step off the sidelines and get in the game. Here’s the opportunity for citizens to do that,” Donovan says.

“The signatures are out there. That’s an almost indisputable fact," Chris Kliesmet says. He's executive administrator of the group Citizens for Responsible Government. It’s fighting the streetcar. He admits opponents face an uphill battle in collecting 31,000 signatures.

“The difficult part is the logistics of letting people know the petition is there to be signed, how to sign it, where to sign it and how to get those back to us,” Kliesmet says.

Several media reports have suggested that groups associated with the conservative, billionaire Koch brothers are funding the streetcar opposition. Kliesmet calls those claims, ridiculous.

“If I had access to any appreciable funding, certainly, you’d have seen a print or a radio ad. Those are quite expensive. You’ve seen neither of those. You don’t see this army of paid circulators out there,” he says.

Kliesmet says the only contributions he’s gotten are from people dropping off $20 checks here and there, but he would gladly accept more. His group and other opponents of the streetcar have given themselves until February 8 to collect signatures. The city would then have to validate them. But opponents cannot again use a procedural move, to delay a Common Council vote on February 10th.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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