Citizen Action Weekend E Newsletter, October 6th – 8th
Assembly Committee Stages Anti-Democratic Hearing to Whitewash Corrupt Brewers Deal
By Robert Kraig, Executive Director
Public opinion polls and constituent calls to State Legislators show strong public opposition to the one-sided $600 million dollar public giveaway to the ultrarich owner of the Milwaukee Brewers Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is pushing, especially in Milwaukee where the discriminatory funding formula of the proposal will force more deep cuts to core public services. Citizen Action’s Deputy Director Matt Brusky was one of those to speak out this week at a well attended public town hall meeting conducted by Senator Chris Larson, as was reported by WTMJ TV 4, where the average citizens were strongly opposed to the deal.
But you would never have known it from watching the first 4 hours of public testimony at the marathon public hearing on the bill Thursday by the Assembly State Affairs Committee. That’s because representatives of the Brewers, Major League Baseball, and corporate lobbyists filibustered tediously for over 4 hours before average citizens were allowed to speak. By that time most of the news media and the audience had left, the exhausted legislatures and what remained of the audience struggled to maintain attention.
Personally I wasted most of a workday, arriving to register 45 minutes ahead of the 11 AM start ( I was one of the first to arrive) but not being permitted to speak until just before 4 PM. I was not the only one, most of the witnesses who were called had already left the hearing, including State Senator Tim Carpenter, whose district includes American Family Field, who waited patiently for many hours.
I waited because Citizen Action has a long history of opposing unaccountable corporate giveaways, which includes much of our economic developing spending, which is draining hundreds of millions in resources that should be used for public benefits, and I wanted to get our opposition on the record.
The time I had to wait personally was not a record, I had to wait over 6 hours to testify against the disastrous Foxconn deal. When I was finally allowed to speak I told the Committee that this deal might be an even worse boondoggle than the infamous Foxconn giveaway. In fact, the people of Wisconsin were lied to by some of the very same corporate leaders who shilled for the Brewers deal at the hearing.
The fact is that Major League Baseball is a legalized monopoly, it has a rare antitrust exemption granted by Congress, and is operating as a cartel of hundred millionaires and billionaires shaking down states like Wisconsin and poor racially unequal cities like Milwaukee. This is legalized theft, pure and simple, draining precious resources from public education, child care, public transit, human services, public parks, and other pressing public needs which are the core functions of good government.
There were a myriad of misleading claims made during the hearing, but I will only focus here on the biggest and most important. Most outrageous, representatives of the Brewers, Major League Baseball, and the corporate lobbyists badly mislead the public about the economic benefits of the massive subsidy.
Major League Baseball Chief Financial Officer Bob Starkey cynically touted the economic benefits of the subsidy with embarrassing anecdotal evidence, telling the committee that he did not believe economists on the issue. In point of fact, Mr. Starkey’s testimony had as much credibility as those still peddling climate change denial. Mr. Starkey knows better, his dissembling shows that Major League baseball sees Wisconsin as a fly over country, a group or rubes that will buy any snake oils they wish to sell us.
A peer reviewed academic analysis of 130 studies over 30 years of public subsidies for sports stadiums found: “little to no tangible impacts of sports teams and facilities on local economic activity, and the level of venue subsidies typically provided far exceeds any observed economic benefits. In total, the deep agreement in research findings demonstrates that sports venues are not an appropriate channel for local economic development policy. Further, economic research also destroys the argument that Milwaukee should pay more because it benefits more. The analysis of 130 studies concludes: “No evidence supporting broad metropolitan-level effects exists.”
I have to ask, if Major League Baseball, the Brewers, and corporate leaders would lie this outrageously about the economic facts, why should we believe them on any other elements of this deal?
Citizen Action’s position is not that there can be no deal on a Brewers stadium, but that it must be a fair deal for the public, offering equal public benefits in return. I told the Legislators that no well run business would ever make a deal as one-sided as this, and that they will be failing their public responsibility if they stick the public with this boondoggle.
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.
They should 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.
We urge you to call your State Senator and State Representative and urge them to slow down this process, and negotiate a fair deal that benefits the people of Wisconsin.
Citizen Action Northwest Co-op stands in solidarity with UAW in Hudson
Over a dozen different unions from Wisconsin and Minnesota were represented at a Sept. 29th UAW Solidarity Rally in Hudson, at a striking General Motors parts distribution center, and speakers included Citizen Action members and area state legislators Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) and State Senator Jeff Smith (D-Town of Brunswick), pictured with Northwestern Citizen Action Co-op Organizer Jeremy Gragert. Northwest Co-op member and former State Senator Patty Schachtner, from Somerset, is pictured next to Rep. Emerson and a gathering of union leaders. The strike enters its third week today.
Join Us for Care Over Costs Day of Action, Wednesday, Oct. 11th, 9:30am.
The Day of Action will focus on toxifying private insurance companies and showing how they put their profits interest over our healthcare.
For more information about the Day of Action or getting involved in our Healthcare 4 All organizing contact: [email protected]
PowWow, Organized by the Central Wisconsin Indigenous Peoples’ DayCommittee, Scheduled for this Weekend in Marathon County!
This Saturday and Sunday, the Annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day PowWow will be taking place in Rothschild, in the North Central region of the State.
It is the only such event in Marathon County, and the planning for this event began in 2019. Not only is this event important in terms of sharing the culture, art and history of the Indigenous People of Wisconsin and the US, but it is important for us to recognize that the poor treatment of the Indigenous People in this country continues to this day. It’s not just something that happened throughout the formation of this country.
We hope to see Citizen Action North Central Organizing Co-op at this event.
All are welcome!
For more information about this event or the North Central Organizing Cooperative contact: [email protected]
Take Action opposing We Energies’ rate increase, 15% over two years.
Attend public hearings next Monday, October 9th and sign letter!
Citizen Action in the News
Citizen Action’s Deputy Director Matt Brusky’s impassioned statement at a town hall meeting on the corrupt Brewers stadium subsidy was covered by WTMJ TV 4. What made it so powerful was Matt’s impassioned lifelong fandom for the Brewers.
Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage of the Brewers’ Subsidy hearing (see headline story) pushing for a better deal. Read the Journal Sentinel coverage of the hearing here.
Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was on the Earl Ingram Show for the full hour to discuss yet another historical event in the crisis of democracy, the first ever removal of a House Speaker in the middle of their term. Listen here.
Listen to “House in Chaos” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast
We dive into how the Speaker McCarthy crash and burn this week was part of a 50 year road built by corporate America and the Republican Party. We also turn our attention to Wisconsin and the public hearing on the shameful Assembly Brewer Stadium financing plan that leaves the public footing the bill. We review the continuing threat to democracy surrounding the Legislative Republican’s effort to impeach the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s administrator Megan Wolfe and not confirming Evers’ appointee Joseph Czarneski to the commission. Robert educates us and encourages turnout to an important We Energies public hearing in Milwaukee next week to tackle the unfair energy burden many Wisconsin residents face. Priscilla reviews the news from California that the late U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein will be replaced by Laphonza Butler. We put the appointment in historical context and discuss its implications.
Social media post of the week