Better City Superior Gaining Some Traction
In a recent visit to the state Capitol in Madison, Better City Superior (BCS) leader Bruce Thompson had the opportunity to meet with several members of the State Assembly and Senate. His mission was to carry the banner of BCS and encourage its inclusion in the state budget due out in July.
Thompson had the opportunity to meet with members of the Joint Finance Committee who could be instrumental in getting the proposed Superior Exposition District into the budget.
Among those he met were Rep. Dale Kooyenga, 14th District (R) rep from Brookfield (pop. 37,920), which is located 12 miles west of Milwaukee. Kooyenga is supportive of the BCS proposal, especially in light of the fact that Superior voters approved it in an advisory referendum last November by over 75%.
Originally from the Chicago area, Kooyenga is an accountant by trade, who is a fiscal conservative but generally supportive of business concerns. His state website indicates that he would prefer to move more power from the State Capitol back to the people in their local communities. This is the kind of thinking that could help the BCS folks achieve their goal of creating the Exposition District.
The Speaker of the State Assembly, Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is also a friend of the Expo District, and as speaker he presides over the Assembly. His district is just 30 miles southwest of Milwaukee.
Additionally, Thompson found support from Rep. Jim Steineke, 5th District (R-Kaukauna) from just west of Green Bay. Steineke is the Majority Leader of the State Assembly and in this role he helps direct the overall legislative agenda. His support of BCS is crucial to its approval.
Senator Tom Tiffany, 12th District (R-Hazelhurst) supported BCS during Superior Days in Madison, and in his role on the Senate Finance Committee he will be most helpful towards getting the BCS Exposition District proposal into the state budget. He represents a district in the Minocqua area of northeastern Wisconsin.
Senator Sheila Harsdorf of Senate District 10 (R-River Falls) has agreed to co-sponsor the BCS proposal with Senator Tom Tiffany. Harsdorf is the Majority Caucus Chair of the Wisconsin Senate, and her support and co-sponsorship is very beneficial to the BCS cause. She serves on the Senate Finance Committee with Sen. Tiffany, and on the Joint Committee on Finance with Rep. Kooyenga. Her district is located about an hour east of Minneapolis.
Overall it is a positive sign that Superior’s proposed Exposition District is receiving support from Republican representatives and senators from all areas of the state.
Rep. Nick Milroy (D-South Range) and Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland), our local representatives, both wholeheartedly support BCS. After the November referendum they issued the following joint statement:
“The idea for the Exposition District grew out of discussions between business leaders, economic development experts, and citizens. As the elected representatives to the State Legislature, we look forward to working with this group and local elected officials to move this grassroots effort forward. We share their commitment to making sure Superior has a bright and prosperous future.”
However, as members of the minority party there is only so much our local representatives can accomplish. Partnership with members on both sides of the aisle is important to this project. At the moment the goal is to work with Governor Walker and their legislative colleagues to allow Superior to use the Exposition District model to redevelop our downtown.
If for some reason they are unsuccessful in getting this project into the next budget, Bewley and Milroy have committed themselves to “reach across the aisle to the leaders of the legislature on separate legislation to make the Better City Superior vision a reality.” They believe that the 75% favorable referendum vote will make that easier.
It should be noted that BCS expects to gain the support of all Democratic representatives and senators on the Joint Finance Committee, including Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), and Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point).
Don’t hold us to this, but with sixteen members on the committee in total, and these four Democrats along with the prospective support of Rep. Kooyenga, and Sens. Tiffany and Harsdorf, it would seem that Thompson and his team are on the right track.
Thompson plans to visit Madison again near the end of April to visit with more assembly members who are generally supportive of BCS.
Featured photo at top of page: Bruce Thompson with Rep. Jim Steineke