This one is going to be about what's right.
Not what's possible. Not what's unlikely. Not what's a maybe.
This is about what's right.
But first, we have to accept some facts.
We have to accept the fact that the Bradley Center is one of the oldest arenas in the National Basketball Association. We have to accept the fact that the Milwaukee Bucks need to find a way, other than higher ticket prices, to raise revenue so they can compete.
We have to accept the fact that nobody wants to pay more taxes. We have to accept the fact that there isn't a politician walking the earth in Wisconsin who wants to increase taxes for a new arena, or any other reason for that matter.
Now, are we all on the same page here? Do we all agree on those facts?
If so, and it would be hard not to agree, then we ought to begin to have a discussion not about what we can or can't do. We should have a discussion about what we SHOULD do.
Let's talk about the new Milwaukee civic philosophy.
It is critical to the success of Milwaukee that we retain the Bucks. The Packers don't belong to us. The Brewers do. And, for now, so do the Bucks. With them we are a major league city. Without them we are Des Moines, or one of the famous Quad Cities.
The Bucks have an owner who says he'd never sell the team to anyone who might move it. But he's not going to be in the Senate forever and who knows whom he might sell to once he's done running for office.
What we ought to do is build a new arena for the Bucks. We ought to spend tax dollars to do it, either through extending the life of the tax that paid for Miller Park or through a brand new type of tax. But we've got to realize that this is an investment in our future.
We spend tax dollars on lots of stuff that is lower on my totem pole than a professional basketball team.
We spend money on departments that develop rules and regulations that make our lives more difficult. We spend tax dollars on some social programs that are great, and others that never face any scrutiny as to whether they actually work. We're spending $70 million to renovate City Hall. We pay for some department and some clerk to license bicycles, and when was the last time you heard of any good reason to have a license on your bike?
If you want to run a dance studio or sell used tires, some department and some clerk will have to give you a license before you can open, and we pay for that. I can guarantee the revenue from dance studio licenses does not come close to paying the salary for the clerk who issues them.
The point of this is, if you think about it enough, and work at it enough, you can find hundreds, maybe thousands, of things we spend money on that are less vital than a professional basketball team.
Here's what we don't want:
We don't want a discussion about Herb Kohl being a rich guy so why doesn't he build it himself.
We don't want a discussion about all those millionaires in shorts running up and down the court so why don't they chip in.
We don't want a discussion that takes us to the brink of seeing the Bucks move only to have to create some last-minute deal that we could have done two years earlier if we'd just have faced the facts.
We don't want to even consider $70 million or $80 million or $100 million to renovate the Bradley Center. We still won't get what we want and it will totally disrupt the Bucks, Marquette and the Milwaukee Admirals.
In short, we don't want to stumble to the brink of disaster, peer over the edge, and wonder what the hell we do now.
What we do want, and it may be too much to ask, is some civic leadership that points out we need to keep the Bucks and in order to do so we need to raise taxes a little bit to build them a new arena. Right now we have civic leaders screaming "no new taxes, for anything" and others talking about larger development plans and still others talking about how much we could raise selling naming rights.
Let's just admit that we want this team, that we need this team, and suck it up and build them one hell of an arena. Let's make the basketball arena as nice and wonderful as we made the baseball stadium. Maybe better. Let's put restaurants in there that are open 365 days a year. Let's put retail shops in there. Let's put comfortable seats in there, for God's sake, and lots of luxury boxes.
Let's do it right.
Let's do it because it's right.