“The decision for Milwaukee County and the state to hand over money to a private entity now unaccountable to the public remains a serious mistake. We were misled.” – Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy
Four bipartisan Milwaukee County Supervisors are raising serious concerns about the new $240 million Milwaukee Public Museum project, the project’s transparency, and the degree of public money involved.
County supervisors told Wisconsin Right Now that they are “absolutely concerned” about the new museum project, questioned the “massive shortfall,” called it a “serious mistake,” and raised concerns about the “lack of transparency” from museum officials.
The concerns from liberal and conservative supervisors alike come after former Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele urged the county to reconsider its investment in the project, saying the county has more critical needs, like parks maintenance and the public safety building.
We reached out to the County Board and County Executive David Crowley about the museum project, which is languishing in fundraising. The museum project has raised more public than private money and remains approximately $92 million short with groundbreaking suggested for December. We also reported that the County never signed a term sheet spelling out conditions for the $45 million in county money for the project. That raises the question if the money could be shifted elsewhere.
See all of our reporting on the museum here.
Here are the responses we have received so far:
Milwaukee County Supervisor Kathleen Vincent
Milwaukee County supervisor Kathleen Vincent told WRN that she is “absolutely’ concerned with MPM’s ability to move forward with a new museum, and would support a resolution to revisit and potentially revoke the agreement with MPM, especially in light of the fact the agreement was never signed and does not believe the museum is being transparent about the current fundraising efforts.
Vincent was not a supervisor when the March of 2022 vote was taken to approve the $45 million in bonding for the new museum, telling us she found it “interesting” that the decision was made right before a new set of supervisors came in through a new term and thinks more questions would be asked by the current set of supervisors.
Vincent initially thought the new museum was a great idea, but then started to hear constituent complaints about the potential loss of certain aspects of the museum. Vincent also raised concerns about the lack of public input for a new museum.
After she took office, Vicent did tour the museum and saw some of the problems but said she thinks solutions exist with the need to build a brand new museum, which would include building an off-site storage to store artifacts.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor
“I wasn’t on the County Board when this $45 million dollar contribution was voted on. Like many, I am disappointed that certain exhibits at the current museum aren’t being relocated to the new museum, specifically The Streets of Old Milwaukee, and this information was only relayed to the Board after the money was allocated. I won’t say the Board was misled but I will say that museum officials weren’t as transparent as they could have been.
The $92 million is a massive shortfall and the Board and residents deserve answers. I also agree with Chris Abele that Milwaukee County does have higher priorities. This is why I have been so vehemently opposed to any local funding for upgrades to AM Fam Field. Revoking is a huge step but I feel that all options should be on the table.”
Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy
“The decision for Milwaukee County and the state to hand over money to a private entity now unaccountable to the public remains a serious mistake. We were misled. We’ll soon be left with a crumbling building, a commitment to fund a private museum’s borrowing of our collection of public artifacts, and a significant amount of debt, without anything of substance in return.”
Milwaukee County Supervisor Patti Logsdon
“As a Milwaukee County Supervisor, I am required to be considerate and conscientious of Milwaukee County taxpayers and financial salience. To the best of my ability, I research possible issues with all projects with the County. The Milwaukee County Museum is a substantial project of which I have concerns over the lack of transparency and available information. It appears that the museum will not meet their requirements of agreements with Milwaukee County so further evaluation of the $45 million Milwaukee County project is necessary.”
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