For years, I have written about the county grounds located in Wauwatosa. It was the last area in Milwaukee County that was still pristine in its naturalness. It was also the home of the historic Eschweiler Buildings and the unique gem of the Monarch Trail, one of the few naturally occurring gathering points for the migrating Monarch butterflies.
Even though Scott Walker promised to never allow this land to be developed, he betrayed the people of Milwaukee County when he sold the land for a song, so that some private land developers could come in and build an engineering school that no one - neither students, professors nor citizens - wanted there.
What they also wanted to do is build other things, like factories, a hotel, a restaurant and other profit making ventures which they ironically called Innovation Park.
Unsurprisingly, some of the members of this group of wealthy land developers including Walker's friends among the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the same group that now wants to take control of Milwaukee County so that they can shut down the government and make it a true plutocracy.
After Walker gave away this precious land, the battle to preserve it moved to Wauwatosa's City Hall. The Wauwatosa Common Council heard arguments from the developers "experts," trained salesmen whose soul job was to push and pull whatever strings and make whatever promises needed to get the Council to go along with this plan. The Council also heard from the citizens who criticized the plan, the environmentalists who pleaded for the land and others who pointed out what a bad decision this would be, including experts from UW-Milwaukee.
In the end, then Mayor Jill Didier and the false promise of wealth won the day and Wauwatosa not only gave the developers everything they wanted, they also threw away $12 million of taxpayer money in the form of a TIF to support the developers, who barely had enough money to buy the land, and that was only after many delays.
Current Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele eventually rewarded Didier for helping out his buddies with a cushy job in the county, for which she was not qualified. Sound familiar?
For more than a year, the grounds sat while the developers pushed for more of the land and more of the taxpayers' money.
The developers sold off the Eschweiler Buildings to yet more developers on the pretense that they would restore the buildings to their former grandeur. Instead, they came out saying that they want to raze all but one of the buildings and want the taxpayers to pay for their profit taking too.
And despite the developers' promises of all sorts of jobs being created, it has created none. There was a moment of hope when ABB Inc. said that they wanted to build on the land and create 350 jobs. But as it turns out, they will only be moving jobs from one of their other sites and to do this - you guessed it - they wanted a share of the taxpayers money as well.
And the battle to preserve the few acres the developers had magnanimously granted for the natural habitat is still waging.
Recently, the developers had tried to make a move to eliminate all public input from any further proceedings. It was only because of the pressure put on by the presence of many angry citizens and the courage of one councilman, Jason Wilke, that the habitat was preserved.
Or so we hope.
It was brought to my attention that this past weekend, the work started in earnest at the county grounds. But instead of building anything, they started by cutting down century old trees which weren't anywhere near the proposed construction site, as shown in these before and after pictures a friend sent me:
Eddee Daniel has more photos of the senseless devastation along with a very moving account as he witnessed this horror as it happened.
I cried when I saw these pictures and Daniel's article.
I cried for Izzy and her mother who had sought refuge at the grounds from the stress of her illness.
I cried for my friends Barb, Lulu and Eddee who have put so much of themselves in the effort to preserve the land.
I cried for the senseless destruction of nature and the more destruction yet to come.
Most of all, though, I cried because I knew this is what will become of the rest of the county as a result of consolidating power in the hands of one person who doesn't listen to the people but only to the same wealthy people that caused this to happen.
Shame on Milwaukee County. Shame on Scott Walker and Chris Abele. Shame on the Wauwatosa Common Council.
This should never have been.
I see no innovation here. I only see the same old profiteering and exploitation that has been plaguing our county and our state for way too long.