Citizen Action Weekend E Newsletter, Labor Day Weekend 2023
Happy Labor Day Weekend. Attend a Labor Day event near you in Wisconsin!
Learn more about Citizen Action’s Movement Politics Academy. The application for the Movement Politics Academy is DUE this Sunday, September 3rd, midnight.
ReThink Milwaukee Brewers ownership through taxpayer equity.
The Milwaukee Brewers and Major League Baseball (MLB) are threatening to leave Milwaukee unless taxpayers ante up a huge public subsidy. Unlike the Milwaukee Bucks, the Brewers are demanding taxpayer support without the commitment of public or community benefits. The deals that have been floated are even less accountable than corporate subsidies such as the disastrous FoxConn deal, requiring little in return from the millionaire owner of the franchise aside from a short term commitment not to move.
The Brewers owners and MLB do not actually need the subsidy. They are demanding the subsidy because they have the leverage, no matter what the consequences for the cash strapped City of Milwaukee. They are hoping to cash in by manipulating the loyalty of Brewer fans. When leaders weigh the political consequences of losing a beloved sports franchise versus providing massive subsidies, most expect a deal to be eventually worked out that keeps the team in Wisconsin.
This does not need to be an all or nothing proposition if local and state elected officials adopt an alternative approach to economic development which has gained traction in many cities. Wisconsin and Milwaukee should demand something of value in return for the massive layout of public resources other than a short term commitment to remain in MIlwaukee. They should demand an enforceable Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) which guarantees that tangible economic benefits flow to Milwaukee’s working class and marginalized communities.
Equally important, we (our state and local governments) should also demand an equity share of the Milwaukee Brewers, guaranteeing that the public will get a return on their investment when the franchise is sold.
Securing an equity position for our investment would be a step in the direction of the highly successful model established by the Green Bay Packers, the only publicly owned team in American professional sports. Given the rapid rise in the value of MLB teams, this is a win-win proposition. The Brewers get upfront cash to maintain and improve the ballpark, and the public gets a return on its investment above.
SIGN PETITION in support of the public having an equity share of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Background and Context
Less than a month ago, the city and county of Milwaukee were facing an existential fiscal crisis, primarily the result of being starved of resources by the state. Parks, social services, street maintenance, public safety and health, amenities like the domes, and tens of thousands of jobs were at risk despite the state sitting on a $7 billion surplus.
Now that the crisis has been resolved through the implementation of a regressive local sales tax, the Milwaukee Brewers owners, with the support of MLB, are threatening to leave Milwaukee if they are not given a $290 million subsidy (or $378 million with interest it is expected to earn), for repair and maintenance costs. This would be the highest per-year subsidy in major league history and one of the highest in all of professional sports.
This is the second time the taxpayers are being asked to fund professional baseball. The original stadium deal, including 25 years of repairs and maintenance, has cost taxpayers $1.56 billion to date. The deal did not include a community benefits component.
The Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District that oversees Brewers’ stadium commissioned a 2018 study by the Mortenson company of all the maintenance and repair costs for the stadium through 2040 and put aside $71.8 million in sales tax revenue to pay for the long list of stadium features. Those included “a full replacement of all 35,244 seats,” replacing two 800-ton chillers and air-handling equipment, the flat roof portion of the ballpark, the LED ribbon board and LED out-of-town scoreboards, and doing “one more replacement of these boards” 10-15 years later, along with new LED lights and theatrical controls, a “drastically improved” sound system, maintenance and upgrades of 9 elevators and 10 escalators and parking lot and roadway improvements.
The Brewers have insisted the study was incomplete. They have come up with their own study showing the true cost is $448 million. But the team has never clarified or costed out which features were missing from the Mortenson study and what taxpayers will actually be paying for.
In an effort to secure this public subsidy, the Brewers spent $575,000 lobbying the state legislature from January through June 2023 — more than any other organization of lobbyists— and over 143 hours communicating with state lawmakers.
Mark Attanasio, the co-founder of Crescent Capital Group, purchased the Brewers for $223 million (with the agreement in 2004 and the sale going through in 2005); today, Forbes estimates that the Brewers are worth $1.6 billion. Attanasio is worth $700 million.
Reasonable people can disagree on whether public funds should be invested in professional sports. Most economists agree that professional sports do not increase total employment or income but, due to the substitution effect, simply replace spending on other forms of entertainment with sports expenditures. The opportunity costs are real–public dollars spent on professional sports and stadiums are not available for other public purposes such as fixing streets, replacing lead lines, or maintaining parks.
The Milwaukee County Board has voted not to invest its funds in the stadium and five alderpersons issued a similar statement. But politicians generally come to support public funding because they don’t want to be blamed if teams follow through on threats to move.
As a result, progressives have demanded that public funding include community benefits like those attached to the Milwaukee Bucks’ public subsidy.
Given the state surplus, the simplest and least painful way to subsidize the stadium would be for the state to pay for it as Governor Evers has suggested. But Republican leaders have rejected that and appear to be insisting on a local contribution.
Assuming local elected officials end up supporting a local contribution to the public subsidy, the public should organize to demand that they be given an equity stake in the Milwaukee Brewers for their investment. At a minimum that would ensure that when the Brewers are sold, as they surely will be, that the public will get a return on its investment.
SIGN PETITION in support of the public having an equity share of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Apply to the Citizen Action Movement Politics Academy. Deadline to apply is this Sunday at Midnight.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE to apply to Citizen Action’s 2023 MOVEMENT POLITICS ACADEMY.
Join members like North Side Rising’s Dennis Watson (pictured with North Side Rising organizer, Maletha Jones) who have submitted their application to be a member of the 2023 class.
Citizen Action’s Movement Politics Academy is a space dedicated to giving progressives the opportunity to learn how to run for office and run progressive campaigns, and achieve bold reforms needed to make Wisconsin a more just and equitable place for all.
Read more about the 2023 Movement Politics Academy.
DEADLINE FOR SIGNUP 8/3/2023, 11:59 PM.
Citizen Action Driftless Organizing Co-Op Updates
Big Healthcare Watch Out! Driftless Co-Op Member is Fighting for Better Billing Practices
The Driftless area is proud to welcome new member Lori Toso. She is a Holmen resident and active community member. She’s been an advocate for Fair Maps, Women’s Rights and local Holmen School District issues. Her passion for local progressive issues has inspired all those around her.
Lori became active with Citizen Action of WI Driftless region this last year. She first began helping our Movement Politics efforts canvassing and supporting local candidates. She’s also passionate about healthcare issues affecting Wisconsinites. She has had personal struggles with claim denials and improper coding of healthcare services. Lori has spent countless hours sorting through these issues with her insurance and local healthcare provider. Working with Brandon Willford, CAW Healthcare Organizer and our People’s Action Healthcare team, Lori is helping to bring awareness about these issues and hold healthcare providers accountable.
When we asked Lori why she has dedicated so much time and effort on this she said “Not everyone has the time and persistence (nor should they have to!) to demand the care and benefits that they have been promised by their health care system and health insurance policies. These systems are not working the way they are supposed to! Even when they ARE working, the costs of coverage and care leave people out. Quality, affordable, and accessible care should be a human right. For this, I will dedicate my time and gifts.”
We are grateful to have Lori as a member of the Driftless Region Co-Op and thank her for her hard work and dedication. We know she isn’t alone in her healthcare struggles.
If you have a story about denied claims, improper coding, high medical debt or prescription drug prices, please reach out to Kristie Tweed, Driftless Co-Op Organizer [email protected] / 608-317-1331 or Brandon Willford, Healthcare Co-Op Organizer [email protected]
From Our Climate Allies at Sierra Club
“We’re at a turning point when it comes to fossil fuels and climate change. The science is clear: we cannot keep funding dirty energy for the sake of our communities’ health, safety and planet. Excitingly, President Biden has committed to ending federal subsidies for fossil fuel energy resources, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering $9.7 billion to rural electric coops for their transition to clean energy.
This is great news, but at the same time, the USDA is still considering a subsidized loan worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Dairyland Power Coop to build the proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center (NTEC) fossil gas plant, which would be located in Superior, Wisconsin.
This is a major contradiction in the face of crystal-clear science. Right now, the USDA is going through an environmental review process that will inform whether or not they approve Dairyland’s loan application, and you can weigh in!
Join us in sending a strong message to the USDA that uplifts our opposition to a new gas plant and its negative contributions to climate change, public health, and the local economy.”
Citizen Action in the News
Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was a guest on the Sunday Morning program, For the Record, to respond to erroneous statements about climate change made during the Fox News GOP Presidential Debate in Milwaukee.
The program aired on CBS WISC TV 3 in Madison and other Wisconsin CBS affiliates.
Watch the full interview with Robert here.
Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was on the Earl Ingram Radio Show to discuss the GOP gambit to impeach Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz. The Earl Ingram show airs 8 AM to 10 AM weekdays on the statewide Civic Media network.
Listen to “ReThink Brewers Ownership: A push for public equity” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast.
We welcome economist Dr. Michael Rosen to discuss ReThinking Brewers ownership and demanding public equity in the team in exchange for tax revenue.
Another climate change-induced category 4 hurricane hits Florida and yet another week of tragic shootings on college campuses. We talk about the response from the University of North Carolina student newspaper.
In Wisconsin, Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet writes an excellent letter to Justice Ziegler exposing her scheme to create a media firestorm and overturn another democratic election.
Social media post of the week