He calls the idea "a long shot," but Ald. Donovan suggests referendum on proposed streetcar

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It's a strategy to put a stop to the proposed downtown Milwaukee streetcar. Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan says Milwaukee voters should be the ones deciding whether taxpayer money should be spent on a downtown streetcar. Donovan is calling for a referendum on the proposed rail project -- but even Donovan is calling his idea "a long shot."

Donovan says if he can't stop the proposed streetcar via the Milwaukee Common Council, he wants to get the wheels in motion on a plan to take the proposal to voters.

"That option is indeed a long shot. State stautes allow for a petition drive to force a binding referendum on TIF districts designed to pay for the streetcar," Donovan said.

Donovan is asking volunteers to collect signatures to try to get a referendum on the April 2015 ballot. To do so, he'll need to collect 20,500 signatures in 30 days.

"If the proper number of signatures are collected and there's a referendum, we'll debate the referendum," Alderman Bob Bauman said.

Bauman is a long-time supporter of the proposed streetcar project.

"It basically boils down to this: we're either going to move this city forward, or we're going to move backward," Bauman said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has said the streetcar project is vital to the city's future, and could help to spur economic development.

"There's one word that describes that line of thinking, and that word is ludicrous," Donovan said.

"(Alderman Donovan) is a city hater. He wants this city to go back to the 1950s, the 'Happy Days,' 'Laverne and Shirley' era, and things have changed," Bauman said.

"I think it's political for the Mayor to label anyone who opposes this ridiculous boondogle as being opposed to progress," Donovan said.

The total cost for the project is now estimated at $123.9 million.

The original plan called for $54.9 million in federal money and $9.7 million from an existing tax incremental financing district.

Last week, Mayor Barrett unveiled plans to expand the route to the Lakefront -- seeking more federal aid and two more TIF districts.

"If there is any institution that can give the people something they don't want for double the price, it would most assuredly be the government," Donovan said.

The Common Council could vote on Mayor Barrett's new proposal in late January. Assuming it would pass, Donovan would be able to initiate the referendum process soon after.

Alderman Joe Davis Sr. has joined Alderman Donovan in pushing for a referendum on the streetcar project.

Alderman Joe Davis Sr. statement on streetcar

CLICK HERE for further coverage of the proposed streetcar project via FOX6Now.com.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the streetcar project.