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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

UW-Milwaukee needs to expand, but where?

Milwaukee alderman battle to win UWM campus


Milwaukee aldermen haven't given up their pitch to put UW-Milwaukee expansions into the Downtown area. UWM has made clear its preference to settle its new engineering school at the County Grounds in Wauwatosa, a rather long commute from its East Side campus, especially since mass transit in the city is becoming woefully inadequate.

Alds. Bob Bauman and Nik Kovac offered a resolution this week directing city lobbyists to lobby the UW System Board of Regents to locate the largest upcoming UWM building project and any new dorms Downtown instead of the 'burbs.

UWM's latest three dorm projects have taken up most of the desirable open space and buildings on the East Side and with vehement neighborhood opposition to the university putting students in the soon-to-be-vacant Columbia Hospital, there aren't too many places to go for dormies.

Bauman said UWM has "by far" the most students per acre in the UW system and has the second most density per acre of any university in the country.

He called the efforts by the university to locate the engineering school on 83 acres in Tosa "very problematic" and the UWM settling in the central business district "poses tremendous opportunity for the rest of the city. ... It seems to me to be a no-brainer."

He added that there is also a 500,000-sq. ft. former Blue Cross building that's been for sale for some time and it could be cheap.

Philanthropist Michael Cudahy said he'll help UWM pick up the real estate tab, which Bauman pointed out in his argument suggests the university's decision is more "donor-driven" than a wise development plan. UWM has not yet committed to buy the land from the county.

Bauman also pointed out the difference in philosophy between the city and the county in terms of land sales. He noted that the "county is interested more in land sales and the city is more interested in development," citing the fact that the county continues to waiver on the price of selling the County Grounds land to UWM. He said, "we'll give the property away" for the right development.

UWM did not send a representative to the meeting but in a message reiterated that the university's new School of Public Health is going to be Downtown as well as a new freshwater sciences department.

Mayor Tom Barrett has asked that money for those projects be included in an economic stimulus request the city will be sending to the White House for an upcoming hand-out.

"The chancellor of UWM is just wrong on this. I don't where he's gone off advocating for UW-W," Ald. Jim Bohl said referring to what he called "UW-Wauwatosa."

On the potential transit impact of having student trekking from the East Side to Tosa, Bohl added, "the Zoo Interchange is an absolute zoo," adding that the interchange reconstruction is scheduled to start within the next decade, right around when UWM's Tosa campus could come on line.

"I think he's missed the boat on this one," he said. "The last time I looked there is not a whole lot going into the Park East."

While aldermen on the committee raised concerns that some university buildings would be off the tax rolls, Kovac pointed out the benefits would also be the economic impact on the Downtown area with having all those students and faculty roaming about looking for goods and services-"spin-off development" or "catalytic development" it's termed.

Ald. Joe Davis was the only member of the committee that expressed doubts that Downtown could handle the university's needs. He said that there wasn't enough room to build campus buildings and include green space "that a college campus needs." He also chided Bauman and Kovac and city officials for not going to UWM with a creative proposal.

The committee passed the resolution 4-1 and it goes to the council on Friday.

It's Sensenbrenner vs. the taxes: Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, the Republican who represents most of the Milwaukee area's northern and western suburbs in the nation's Capitol, sounds a bit like Latrell Sprewell these days.

Sprewell, you may recall, is the Milwaukee native and former NBA star who turned down a contract extension in 2004 from the Minnesota Timberwolves worth between $27 million and $30 million and walked away from $14.6 million that year saying "I got my family to feed." He has since been unemployed, forced to sell his $1.5 million boat, had his River Hills home foreclosed on and had a $74,000 state tax lien from 2007 still over his head.

Sensenbrenner is not likely to have that happen to him -- after all, he is in line to be one of the richest people in Congress and the state, as heir to the Kimberly-Clark paper products fortune. But he certainly makes it sound like what happened to Sprewell could happen to him.

In a recent article that highlights state members of Congress who have donated or turned down recent automatic raises of $4,700 a year, bringing their salary to $174,000, Sensenbrenner said he would take the raise instead of donating it or turning it down, "because he would still have to pay the taxes on his new salary even if he would decline the raise."

The raises are automatic so the pols don't have to be called on the carpet by voters when they choose to pad their wallets.

Poor Jim. He reports his net worth to congressional officials as somewhere between $19,471,684 to $28,460,630 -- 15th among members of the House. In 2007, he reported paying $124,200 in federal taxes and $37,800 in state taxes.

He has a stamp collection worth more than $110,000. In 2007 he cashed in a lottery ticket worth $250,000.

Not content to use his wealth to trot around the globe, he let private interests pick up the tab. In 2005, Sensenbrenner reported that in the last three years he took about $200,000 worth of privately-funded travel-more than any member of Congress.

Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore also grabbed the pay raise but did not offer any reason for keeping the cash. The rest of the delegation either turned down the raise or donated it to charity.

Freeways and Crossing Guards: The state Department of Transportation recognizes that its massive freeway construction projects can inconvenience tons of people and it's offering the city $100,000 to help pay for 10 new crossing guards near 10 schools that it feels will be impacted by the I-94 reconstruction project, which starts this year.

The project will close ramps and lanes on the South Side, creating a major influx of cars on city streets, threatening the health and welfare of school pupils at six public schools and four private schools.

Ald. Terry Witkowski asked police rep LaShawnda Patterson why there was no money in the grant budget that goes toward telling people about safe routes though letters to parents and maps as there was during the Marquette Interchange.

Patterson suggested that maybe aldermen were given the wrong budget.

She also assured the Public Safety Committee that the city would still get the $100,000 grant even if it didn't fill the 10 positions, which are needed beginning April 1. She says the department's done only two interviews so far.


Talkbacks

MilwaukeeD | Jan. 15, 2009 at 10:41 p.m. (report)

Not so Fast...what are you talking about? there are TONS of colleges in urban areas of major cities. - NYU - Columbia - UofI-Chicago - Portland State - MIT - Harvard I could go on and on. Tons of Marquette and MSOE students are able to afford to live downtown, what makes you think UWM students couldn't also?

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perilouspete | Jan. 15, 2009 at 3:48 p.m. (report)

Building up would indeed be the ideal option, if it wouldn't be immediately shot down by every neighbor on the East Side and money wasn't an object. Tearing down Columbia would probably cost millions, but I agree that that would be a fantastic option if it was feasible. There really is enough land for 30,000 students around campus...they just don't utilize the land well enough. When you talk about replacing buildings such as Melloncamp and that nursery right next to the Physics building, building UP, and adding an entire block with Columbia, you have lots of new room. I also don't see why the school doesn't try buying up houses to the south between Oakland and Downer. Imagine the campus expanding from where it is now down to Locust. Now there's a thought.

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UWMilwaukeean | Jan. 15, 2009 at 12:43 p.m. (report)

The idea to build up is dead on. If East Side residents can't stand being next to one of the fastest expanding and growing premier universities in the region they should have thought about that when buying a home next to UWM. I can't believe noone has thought up "building up" before. I think (whoever posted that) needs to speak with Chancellor Santiago and the Board of Regents.

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alba | Jan. 15, 2009 at 11:50 a.m. (report)

Marquette and MSOE (though private) do quite fine in their downtown, urban locations. UWM would work downtown as well. Isn't there some available room inside Grand Ave?

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repoman | Jan. 15, 2009 at 8:52 a.m. (report)

Maybe they should ignore the neighbors and put the school and some more housing at Columbia Hospital. It would seem that if you are expanding a college and there is land available directly across the street that you should expand there.

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