Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Time Is Now?

Are you kidding me?

On the list of priorities for public dollars - where public investment should be steered - building a new basketball stadium shouldn't even make the list.

But Michael Hunt, of the Journal Sentinel, feels the time is now to address a new arena for the Bucks.

The article notes:

"Marotta, a former Marquette basketball player, is getting it started by evoking the name of former Wisconsin state Sen. George Petak, whose vote saved Miller Park.

"Where would we be without a guy like Petak? Here was a guy who cared more about doing the right thing than being re-elected," Marotta said.

"He lost his seat, but if he hadn't taken that vote, we wouldn't have the Brewers here. And Milwaukee would be a significantly diminished town. We do have a lot of challenges. There's no denying that. We have significant economic challenges within the city. We've got public infrastructure needs. We've got libraries that need to be funded.

"The way to continue to do that and grow as a community is to invest in our entertainment, cultural and sports assets. That's what attracts business to come and expand here. It makes it a great place to live and work."

Entertainment, cultural and sports assets sure do make a city more tolerable. But Milwaukee isn't Las Vegas - lets not pretend these are the economic engines of Milwaukee's economy. We may have tourist attractions, but our economy isn't driven by the tourism industries. Manufacturing; trade, transportation, and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; and education and health services all employee more people than our leisure and hospitality industry.

It's fine to look at our stadiums and conventions centers at some point. Preferably, when our economy is on better footing, and taxpayers may be more receptive to such public investment. But, as far as bang-for-the-buck investments are concerned, in helping to get our economy growing again, stadium subsidization has a poor return on investment. 

The time is now for public investment in infrastructure. But it should be in public transportation, energy, water, and education, not sports stadiums.

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