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Petition drive against Milwaukee streetcar starts tonight at Serb Hall

Citizens for Responsible Government was approached back in December by various groups and some Milwaukee city leaders to help with a petition drive against the proposed Milwaukee streetcar. This group wants the taxpayers to have a say through a referendum. It's an effort to bring any proposed rail transit spending project more than $20 million - to the voters for approval.

State law requires signatures equal to 15% of the number of city voters in the last gubernatorial election -- that would be roughly 31,000.

Citizens for Responsible Government says Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Common Council sidestepped the voice of the people. Based on Wisconsin statutes - specifically 9.20 - this could force a binding referendum for approval of the construction. It all goes through direct legislation.

\"They can actually force their local town legislature to adopt an ordinance, as written on the petition,\" Chris Kliesmet from Citizens for Responsible Government said. \"The people actually draft it themselves, collect the signatures, and it becomes law. Either immediately, or by virtue of a referendum.\"

This is the draft: 

Prior to the start of any physical construction of any municipally financed (in whole or in part) rail transit system requiring a capital expenditure of $20 million or more in municipal funds or funds guaranteed by or supported by an express or implicit promise of the City, whether or not such promise is legally enforceable, the Common Council shall submit to the electorate a binding referendum for approval of the construction of the system. Failure of the referendum shall preclude the City from proceeding with or otherwise permitting construction of such system or any part thereof using any City funds or revenues. The wording of the referendum shall provide the specific purpose, location, and the total estimated construction costs of the system, including an estimate of the costs to be funded directly or indirectly by the City. Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude the City from exercising its role in the engineering, planning or design of an urban rail transit system.

A big petition kick off is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Serb Hall, located at the corner of South 51st Street and West Oklahoma Avenue.

One local business, the Sherman Perk coffee shop, 4924 W. Roosevelt Drive in Milwaukee, says it will have the petition available for folks to sign beginning Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m.

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