Citizen Action Weekend E Newsletter, October 20th – 22nd
Why Citizen Action Opposes the Massive Brewers Stadium Subsidy that Passed the Assembly This Week
By Robert Kraig, executive director
Many of our members have seen the statewide news story this week that Citizen Action is the only progressive group that registered to lobby against the current version of the massive subsidy to benefit the ultrarich owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, or early news coverage on my testimony against the bill.
Our most up to date explanation appears in a letter to Governor Evers and the State Senate sent on Thursday. The letter is signed by 4 major social justice groups and a major union, all of which have substantial credibility and influence in the progressive community. The current signatories, in addition to Citizen Action, are Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC), Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA), Voces de la Frontera, Kids Forward, and WISDOM. More organizations and unions are seeking internal approval to sign on in the coming days. The letter lays out our case against the current version of this deal, and is worth reading for anyone who wants to understand how much of a giveaway to the rich this legislation really is.
I also want to give our members some additional background on how we developed our stance on economic development policy generally. This seems especially appropriate in Citizen Action’s 40th Anniversary year to know our proud history of fighting for economic justice.
Citizen Action has a long background in fighting for accountable economic development policy that benefits average people not only the wealthy and well connected. Decades of national research has shown that most economic development spending is corporate welfare disguised as a public benefit. Starting during the George W. Bush years, we were an active part of community-labor coalitions that won historic breakthroughs on high road economic development projects which actually create family supporting jobs, improving community prosperity.
We stepped up even more during the Scott Walker years, as he sought huge transfers of public money needed for education, health care and other public needs to large corporations and the ultra rich. We led the fight against the scandalous privatized economic development agency he created, WEDC, and broke major scandals on corporations outsourcing more jobs than they were paid to create, and fraudulent claims by the Walker Administration to have created jobs in Milwaukee in the African American community that turned out not to exist. We also led opposition to the infamous $3.2 billion Foxconn boondoggle, where some of the same business leaders touting this Brewers giveaway lied to us about the job creation benefits of the massive subsidy.
During these heady fights, Citizen Action developed specific standards for economic development policies, and encapsulated them in late 2015 in our Economic Opportunity Agenda. At the time, this agenda got substantial attention, in fact I heard from the offices of multiple U.S. Senators who do not represent Wisconsin who were interested in applying these standards federally. Here are a few of the key principles we adopted in 2015, which are tremendously relevant in winning a Brewers stadium deal that actually benefits average Wisconsinites.
- No large corporation or CEO has any rightful claim on public dollars, unless they are in turn expanding real economic opportunity for Wisconsin workers.
- Replace economic development cheer leading with an evidenced-based approach focused on concrete benchmarks and goals, such as dramatically increasing the percentage of jobs in Wisconsin that are family supporting and include benefits, lowering the poverty rate, dramatically reducing racial disparities, and creating opportunity in areas of deep and concentrated poverty.
- Make closing race-based economic opportunity disparities a specific and accountable goal which will be used to measure the effectiveness of state economic programs and policies.
- Demand Full accountability to the public for all economic development investments. This includes careful tracking of benchmarks in real time, compliance with all federal and state laws, and “clawbacks” when firms fail to create promised good jobs.
- Establish job quality standards which hold firms receiving economic development funds accountable for creating family supporting jobs which include health benefits, retirement benefits, and paid leave and other family-friendly policies. Expand programs to include incentives to convert existing poverty wage jobs into family supporting jobs.
- Demand fully transparent operations, where the average Wisconsin citizen can determine on an easily understandable website what each firm has promised in terms of job creation in return for grants, loans, and tax credits, and clearly understandable real time reporting on their progress towards these objectives.
These standards remain highly relevant today, with one addition. In Citizen Action’s climate and economic equity work in Milwaukee and other cities over the past four years, we have added reductions in carbon emissions as a standard for accountable economic development.
Applying this to the Brewers deal, the current version has no specific and quantifiable accountability standards for economic benefits whatsoever. But this has not stopped Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and top officials from Major League Baseball and the Milwaukee Brewers from falsely claiming that this massive public subsidy is economically beneficial to Wisconsin and Milwaukee. In fact, This massive half billion dollar subsidy in its current form looks like WEDC and Foxconn all over again.
There is overwhelming research to the contrary. 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.”
We need a better deal! What can you do? The next vote will be in the State Senate, and our information is that there are not enough Democratic and Republican votes to pass it at this time. However, there will be a full court lobbying press by the Brewers and their corporate allies. Please use our letter for talking points, and demand a better deal. Remember, we are not opposed to any deal, but do demand a deal that benefits all Wisconites, not only one ultra rich owner. Improvements can be made in the Senate if they hear from you (800) 362-9472.
Join us making calls to voters in support of BadgerCare Public Option!
Monday, October 23rd, 5pm – 7pm. RSVP.
Too many of us are uninsured because we cannot afford the monthly costs, or do not use our insurance because of a well-founded fear of unaffordable deductibles, co-pays, medications, and surprise medical bills, and claims denials. Moreover, greedy insurance corporations continually inflate prices, squeezing pocketbooks and contributing to skyrocketing medical debt.
Public health coverage plans, like BadgerCare, keep health care costs down because they do not have to pay for windfall insurance industry profits, and costly overhead for claims denial, and most importantly because we the people through our government set a fair price, not insurance companies, hospital conglomerates, and Big Pharma.
Wisconsin can move toward a vision of universal, affordable, equitable, and high quality health coverage by passing the BadgerCare Public Option Bill to expand eligibility for healthcare coverage, making it available to everyone who buys insurance on their own, and to all small employers.
Help us! Make calls next Monday, October 23rd, 5pm.
Sign petition to your state legislators in support of BadgerCare Public Option.
Join us for Healthcare Action Team Meeting, Wednesday, October 25th, 7pm!
Learn more about the exciting new BadgerCare Public Option bill set to be introduced and how you can get involved supporting it. For more information & to RSVP.
Attend media conference in Green Bay in support of new BadgerCare Public Option Bill, with sponsor Representative Kristina Shelton.
Join us for a media conference with Representative Kristina Shelton to hype up and support the BadgerCare Public Option Bill!
Join the Northeast Co-op for a Green Bay Climate Action Discussion!
Next Tuesday, October 24, 2023 7:00 pm attend a virtual climate action discussion to hear more about the climate work being done in Green Bay and across the state, as well as its importance in the upcoming election cycles.
Update on Community Survey in North Central Wisconsin.
This is an update to a previous story from our Weekend publication. A grassroots effort to save the county-owned nursing home, in Merrill, WI (Lincoln County), continues. The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday, October 18th, to further discuss this issue, among other agenda items. They were met with a crowd of people who support the continuation of the nursing home as a County owned facility. You can see coverage about this meeting at WAOW Newsline 9. Some of the grassroots leaders involved in this advocacy effort are also long-time members of the North Central Organizing Co-op.
The Tomahawk Leader and Merrill Foto News publications ran a community survey recently, to see how residents felt about a tax increase to continue funding the Pine Crest nursing home. Over 85% of residents support an increase. You can read about this survey here, which also asked other questions regarding Pine Crest. The nursing home remains for sale, though no buyers have emerged. We hope that the County Board will do the right thing, and reverse their decision to sell, based on the community response. Also, if you are a Lincoln County resident, this might be a good motivator to consider running for office. This board used to have a more balanced slate of members, until the most recent election, when the Board was flipped in the direction of people that do not believe in community supported investments, in the pursuit of lower taxes.
Citizen Action Southeast Co-op members attend Milwaukee County Budget public hearing in support of green transportation.
Citizen Action Southeast Organizing Cooperative members attended the 2024 County Budget Community Town Hall hosted by County Supervisors Sequanna Taylor (District 5), Priscilla Coggs-Jones (District 13), and Willie Johnson, Jr. (District 2).
The discussion topics included an overview of the budget brief, impacts of the County sales tax, and information on future budget schedule plans.
Citizen Action members spoke with County Supervisors on the need for the transition to electric buses by Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) and the need for expanded accessible transportation.
The 2024 Milwaukee County Budget can be viewed here and a Budget Brief Summary from Wisconsin Policy Forum can be viewed here. Information about listening sessions, proposed budget voting timeline, and more at the Milwaukee County Office of Strategy Budget and Performance.
To get involved in the Citizen Action Southeast Organizing Co-op contact organizer, Kat Klawes: [email protected]
Citizen Action North Side Rising: The critical importance of energy efficiency work
The world is on a short deadline to dramatically cut carbon emissions, or face genocidal consequences. We must cut emissions nearly in half by 2030 and even more in subsequent decades to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
Provisions of the Milwaukee Climate and Equity Task Force recommendations include making energy efficiency a high priority. One third of Milwaukee’s carbon emissions are produced by homes and apartment buildings. The plan proposes a large-scale investment in weatherization of homes, an investment which dramatically reduces energy waste. Because there is a shortage of green economy workers, employers will be desperate to hire workers with the training to do these critical jobs. The plan requires all employers for projects funded by the city to meet Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) standards, which will guarantee, along with the transitional jobs program, that Black and Brown Milwaukeans get a fair share of the new green jobs. The plan also requires that new jobs created pay a minimum of $40,000 ($9,000 more than the median household income for African Americans in Milwaukee)
Citizen Action North Side Rising member, Lewis Bounds, demonstrates the basics of energy savings and green jobs. In the photo, Lewis is changing out a hardwired electrical security light for a solar one.
Citizen Action in the News
Citizen Action Organizer Keviea Guiden was quoted in the iconic Black newspaper the Chicago Defender by Sierra Club national director Ben Jealous on the discriminatory prices paid by African Americans for basic utilities. Read the article here.
Robert Kraig was on the Earl Ingram Show for the full hour to discuss the importance of free speech, and the latest efforts by conservatives to grab undemocratic power. The show broadcasts statewide on the growing Civic Media radio network. Robert appears weekly on Wednesdays at 9 AM. Listen here.
Citizen Action was mentioned this week in an Associated Press story (printed in dozens of newspapers and media outlets) on the Assembly passage of a massive and one sided public subsidy for the ultra rich owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. Citizen Action is the only progressive group registered against the bill. That changed this week when 4 major social justice groups and a major union joined our sign on letter (with more to come). Learn more about the situation in the cover story above, and in this week’s Battleground Wisconsin podcast.
Listen to “Power concedes nothing” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast
We unpack the bipartisan Assembly vote to rubber stamp a $565 million giveaway to the ultra-rich owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. Given the unpopularity of the massive private subsidy, what does this say about the state of democracy in Wisconsin. A new statewide poll from Public Policy Polling shows 55% voters oppose the stadium deal. Citizen Action and other major advocacy organizations released a letter to state legislators and Governor Evers in opposition to the current stadium plan. Improvements can be made in the state senate if they hear from you (800) 362-9472.
Next we discuss the imploding impeachment of the WEC’s Meagan Wolfe by Legislative Republicans. While continuing to defame Wolfe, Republicans conceded in legal filings they lack grounds to oust her from her position. Also this week, the Senate Republican leader proposed scrapping Gov. Evers’ child care plan and replacing it with a shocking $2 billion tax cut and child care credit that mostly helps wealthier households.
Priscilla reports on her attendance at the media release of a new report from BLOC chronicling how Wisconsin’s criminal legal system, including over-policing and mass incarceration, is robbing people of their right to participate in democracy.
We close with a preview of the new BadgerCare Public Option bill set to be released in the state legislature, and circulating for co-sponsors. Priscilla tells us about volunteer phone calls to voters in support of the BadgerCare Public Option next Monday, October 23rd, 5-7pm. We need you! Sign up here! Take action and sign a petition urging your state legislators to co-sponsor the BadgerCare Public Option bill. Attend our BadgerCare Public Option media conference, Tuesday, October 31, Greater Green Bay Labor Council, at Noon (more regional events will be announced in the future). And, call your state legislators at (800) 362-9472 and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.
Listen to the show!
Social media post of the week