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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Issue of the Week: Support a Hard-Won Compromise on the Lakefront

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On Tuesday, Milwaukee County supervisors and the leaders of the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Milwaukee County War Memorial announced their support for a long-term agreement they could all live with. Under the proposed deal, for the next 10 years, the county will provide $1,586,000 annually, to be split between the two organizations, and invest $10 million between 2013 and 2017 for capital improvements. MAM will also raise $15 million for improvements, including those made to the War Memorial.

The agreement is set to go to the Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee on Thursday morning, then to the full board for approval.

Is it perfect? No agreement ever is. But all entities had a say in the outcome, which was brokered by former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske, after Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic urged the organizations to come to an agreement. The museum representatives, veterans and county government all have to contribute something and all of them—and county residents—will reap a return on this investment.

It’s unfortunate that Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele didn’t support the framework of this deal when it was revealed a few weeks ago. He has championed his support of the local arts community but failed to provide any leadership on this issue. And Abele’s inability to understand the veterans’ needs and concerns is very disappointing. We understand that Abele is worried about costs. But we think he’s being disrespectful to the county’s veterans by trying to put a price tag on and squeeze profits out of a memorial to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We argue that the MAM and the War Memorial deserve this rather modest public investment.

Dimitrijevic said on Tuesday that she was hopeful that at least 12 members of the board would support the deal on Thursday, which is the supermajority it needs to override a potential Abele veto. We are urging the board to support this hard-won, long-term investment in these landmarks.