A New School For Our Children

We have a solution to the space crunch in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Allow the kids to use the newly proposed Brewer Stadium on Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., September to June.

Since the powers that be have two inflexible concerns these days — they MUST have a new stadium, and they REFUSE to spend more money to build schools — it’s a solution that will solve both concerns.

Think of our proposal’s benefits for MPS: ample parking, good bus transportation, built-in security, a new roof that doesn’t leak, the best in technological innovations, and luxury boxes that would make perfect early childhood centers. And hey, gym class would be a snap!

Okay, okay, it’s not a realistic proposal. But that doesn’t mean we’re not outraged by the blathering support from city, state and county officials for the Brewers’ latest plan to build a stadium with a retractable roof, upping the cost to the $190 million range. The announcement and immediate support for public officials comes less than a year after widespread whining that there wasn’t enough public money to support the $366 million MPS building referendum.

Other Projects

The stadium proposal follows other big-ticket building projects that have received strong support from city and county officials. A new $173.8 million MECCA convention complex is planned for downtown, for example. And, of course, there’s the $781 million light rail and regional transportation plan for the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

Interestingly, these projects will all but surely proceed without voter approval through a referendum. While MPS must have the voters’ okay before borrowing for capital projects, the same is not true for the city or county. A proposal that any new county taxes for the MECCA complex be subject to referendum was defeated in the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. Rep. Shirley Krug (D-Milwaukee) said that putting the issue to a referendum would kill the project. “There’s no question in my mind that if we adopt this referendum we won’t have the money to build a convention center,” she said.

The press conference announcing the latest Brewer plan — which calls for the world’s first retractable dome — was attended by Gov. Tommy Thompson, who announced plans for a public-private commission to make the stadium a reality. The commission’s membership will be a Who’s Who of the city’s most powerful, including Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, Milwaukee County Executive Thomas Ament, and Waukesha County Executive Daniel Finley. Robert Kahlor, chairman of Journal Communications, publishers of The Milwaukee Journal and The Milwaukee Sentinel will head the commission. (Don’t be surprised if the city’s media fall over themselves crowing their support for the new stadium.)

Kahlor echoed the commission’s slant when he said, “Our community and state simply cannot afford to lose major-league baseball.”

The Brewers have said they will put up an unspecified amount of money for the stadium. They have also made it clear they will need more public money beyond the $67 million in tax dollars already committed to reroute the freeway and the $35 million loan from the state.

But getting additional public dollars won’t be a problem. As Thompson said at the press conference: “I’m here to tell you that if it requires public financing, the state will put in as well as the city and the county. We want the Brewers to stay here.”

Too bad children are less of a priority than baseball. But then, who cares if the children of Milwaukee get a decent education? You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to sell hot dogs and beer at baseball games.