Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The VA: a lost opportunity

Mayor Tom Barrett is abandoning what was, for a while, one of his administratinon's signature efforts: redeveloping the Veteran's Administration grounds and saving many of the beautiful, Civil War era buildings there.

Ouch. The vets lose, the city loses, and history loses.

It's hard to figure just where this effort went off the tracks. Team Barrett clearly did not win the hearts and minds of veterans' organizations. The Department of City Development was overly secretive for a long time and then refused to explain its secrecy. By the time it opened up, the vets weren't listening.

It isn't clear, though, whether the veterans' groups would have listened if DCD had kept them informed from the beginning. Barrett stepped into the VA issue because of the Bush administration's policy of opening VA centers up for development. The mayor was looking for a way to meet the fiscal requirements of the Veteran's Administration while preserving those terrific old buildings. The vets want the VA to be for veterans -- understandable, but not in the Bush game plan. Some vets did not want non-veterans to be able to live in housing proposed for the site, even if no veterans wanted to live there. The vets also want land at the VA to be made available for expansion of the cemetery. Barrett said his plan would have accommodated that.

So here we are. Barrett bowed out, the Bush administration still wants to lease out VA property, the historic buildings on the VA grounds will continue to deteriorate, and non-vets won't be able to live on the VA grounds, but there won't be new housing for veterans there, either.

The sequel to this one probably will be pretty ugly.


Dave said...

The vets have stopped plans like this around the country. It's a shame.

Anonymous said...

Since the funds for the land for the first VA in the country, right here, came from the people of Milwaukee in fundraising events by the women of Milwaukee -- the women who cared for the wounded (and war widows and orphans) for years until the feds finally built the hospital and old soldiers' home. . . .

And since the women of Milwaukee turned over the land to the federal government for the purpose of the hospital and home and no other purpose. . . .

It would be interesting to know whether the land records show that the land can be used for no other purpose. Hmmmmmmmmmm.