I am sure that many of you have followed the ongoing debate regarding construction of a fixed-rail streetcar in the City of Milwaukee. NAIOP was asked by Mayor Barrett’s office to write a letter of support for the revised, and slightly expanded, plan.
In response to that request, the Public Affairs Committee held two telephone conference calls in the past few weeks. Subsequently, the Board of Directors met in a teleconference on Friday morning, and after considerable discussion decided that NAIOP as an organization would NOT take a position on the streetcar. In my view, both the PA Committee and the Board had thorough and thoughtful discussions of the pros and cons of the streetcar project. In the end there was a wide divergence of views on the issue among both Committee and Board members, as there seems to be on the Common Council.
NAIOP’s policy has always been that we will not take a political position, whether on a candidate endorsement, a specific piece of legislation or a local issue like the streetcar, unless there is a near-unanimous consensus. That was clearly not the case with the Milwaukee streetcar project, so NAIOP as an organization will not be part of the public debate, though many of us as individuals and on behalf of our companies have been and will continue to be actively involved.
That is not to say that NAIOP is not engaged in this issue. Some time ago we created a Transit Subcommittee of the Public Affairs Committee, headed by Stu Wangard. As PA Committee Chair, I am going to ask Stu and others to reengage that Subcommittee on the broad issue of public transit and transportation in metro Milwaukee. Streetcar or no streetcar, this is a vital issue for growth and development in the region. In addition, Chris Korjenek ably represents NAIOP on the Advisory Committee of MetroGO (formerly TransitNOW).
I wanted to let everyone know that NAIOP has not been ignoring this important issue, and that we hope to be more proactive in the future. While we are certainly not of one mind on the streetcar, I can assure you that we were a helluva lot nicer to each other than Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid!! I’m just sayin……… I hope you all have a blessed Holiday season and a happy and prosperous New Year, and I look forward to seeing all of you at the Annual Meeting on January 21st.
Dick Lincoln NAIOP Wisconsin Board Member and Public Affairs Committee Cochair