Milwaukee Professionals Association

LAKE EXPRESS LACKS DIVERSITY

Over $25 Million dollars of government funding and an unacceptable showing of people of color.
Part I

BY Mary Glass
cfnba@earthlink.net


“I have a personal interest in boats as a hobby. I went down and covered the boat arrival in Milwaukee on my own, gave it front page coverage, sent copies to the corporate office, sent copies to managers by people who work on the boat; until today, we have not received a thank you,” said Victor Huyke, Editor of El Conquistador Newspaper.

Lubar and Company recently re-opened Lake Michigan with the new high-speed ferry vessel called the Lake Express. Previous cross-lake ferry transportation included the Milwaukee Clipper, now berthed in Muskegon, Michigan and the SS City of Milwaukee, now berthed in Manistee, Michigan.

The owners, Sheldon Lubar and David Lubar are well-known on both sides of Lake Michigan for business investments. Lake Express ferry is owned by Lake Express, LLC. One of several companies owned by the wealthy Lubars.

Milwaukee Port Authority, Ken Szallai, Director, and the Harbor Commission have been major supporters of Lake Express. In fact, they gave the idea to the Lubars. Additionally, Szallai’s office has provided ongoing assistance, including re-building the dockside and acquiring funding for the project. The government funding for Lake Express is over $25,000,000 dollars.

Lubar & Company was able to get major government funding to underwrite the new venture. According to our reports, it was in excess of $24,878,000. At press time, we had not obtained the "subsidy amounts" that would increase the total.

The breakdown is:
>>>US Maritime Loan Guarantee - $22,226,000
>>>Milwaukee Economic Development Corp - $ 500,000
>>>WisDOT/2004 - $ 800,000
>>>Muskegon County - $ 1,200,000
>>>WI Department of Tourism - $ 30,000
>>>Taken from City Erie Street Property fund - $ 122,000

Lake Express Maiden Voyage was June 1, 2004.

Lack of Diversity
From the start-up, People of Color have been missing from basically all of the Windows of Opportunity.

The Journal Sentinel had 100% control of the Communication and sought the Muskegon Chronicle as a backup for the Muskegon side. They were part of the press corps that went to and from Muskegon during the Maiden Voyage and therefore given the advantage of “exclusives” and first-hand knowledge for their readership.

The Milwaukee Courier, Milwaukee Times, Milwaukee Journal, The Midwest Business Alliance, Muskegon Tribune, El Conquistador, and The Spanish Journal all papers of color in Milwaukee and Muskegon were not invited to the party. In fact, they are not on the radar.

Case and point, a quote made by Victor Huyke, Editor of El Conquistador during a recent conversation with Mary Glass.

“I have a personal interest in boats as a hobby. I went down and covered the boat arrival in Milwaukee on my own, gave it front page coverage, sent copies to the corporate office, sent copies to managers by people who work on the boat; until today, we have not received a thank you,” said Victor Huyke, Editor of El Conquistador Newspaper.

Secondly, the public relations dollars seem to be housed 100% with Jeff Fleming and his public relations firm.

The marketing handouts and billboards lack “diversity” and is evident of the lack of a Multi-Cultural Campaign.

Thirdly, The Greater Milwaukee Conventions and Tourism, Downtown, Muskegon Chamber and the Muskegon Visitors & Tourism Center were the pseudo-government entities at the table orchestrating the highways and byways of who, what and how things are recommended and supported.

Fourthly, the personnel placement firm was said to be a firm not in the state. Joanne Hatch of Muskegon and Kay Collins of Milwaukee were hired for sales. Joanne Hatch was the administrator for the visitors and tourism center in Muskegon.

Derrick Knox, Gold Seal Transportation, Muskegon Heights, Michigan was the only known business of color to participate in the Maiden Voyage. He provided transportation for the tour of Muskegon.

The launching of Lake Express has been a big, big boom for the wealthy owners of Lubar & Company. They have received great positive press.

Passengers on Lake Express, to and from the Michigan and Wisconsin shores, have been excited by the new travel opportunity, and the passenger list has been close to or at capacity since the start-up.

Ongoing Exclusion
Exclusion seems to be the repeated refrain for involvement of People of Color in the Lake Express project.

The Honorable Rillistine Wilkins, Mayor of Muskegon Heights, Michigan, was overlooked in the invitations to the local mayors.

She was at the last minute invited for the Maiden Voyage after the office of Campaign Neighborhood – CFNBA and BI-Coastal Development Consortium spoke out about the lack of sensitivity and disrespect. By then, family commitments had been made.

Campaign Neighborhood – CFNBA sought a meeting and conversation with the Lubars and their Lake Express staff for well over five weeks to offer recommendations, seek input for a Multi-Cultural Tourism Campaign and note the insensitivity shown to People of Color prior to the Maiden Voyage. Could not locate the Lubars prior to the Maiden Voyage. Since the Maiden Voyage, there seems to be a “denial of the problem” and then “smoke and mirror” approach by David Lubar for inclusion.

An example of EXCLUSION of elected officials on the Milwaukee side was the office of County Supervisor James White. He was not invited to the Maiden Voyage OR to participate in the Lake Express project. Newly elected Supervisor Dimitrijevic, tried in vain to contact the powers to be at Lake Express. Both are members of Milwaukee County Transportation Committee. The Port Authority of Milwaukee is in Supervisor Dimitrijevic district and Supervisor White is the Chair of Transportation.

Equally, our contact with elected officials and business owners on the Muskegon side; revealed they too had been completely excluded or had little involvement and did not know what was going on until it was reported in the Muskegon Chronicle or word of mouth. They too, were insulted by the “lack of inclusion” of their constituents. They were shocked by the lack of People of Color on the Maiden Voyage from Milwaukee. This was echoed by Muskegon County Commissioner Nancy Walters comment, “Where are the Blacks?” The African American population was represented by two on-duty African American Milwaukee Police with Mayor Tom Barrett.

Who Dropped the Ball?
The entrepreneurial and employment opportunities are glaringly lacking for People of Color, as well as moderate, low and no income individuals on both sides of Lake Michigan.

How can this wealthy private company get $25,000,000 from government coffers to guarantee this project and People of Color, as well as low, moderate and no income citizens are not targeted for entrepreneurial and workforce development?

How could the Lubars, David Lubar, managing partner and Sheldon Lubar, chairman, do little to nothing to advance the government coffers that had earmarked some $25,000,000 for their project?

Sheldon Lubar, the father, served in both President Richard Nixon – Housing and Urban Development and President Jimmie Carter’s administration – Small Business, was a member of the Wisconsin Board of Regents-UW/Education and now President of the Milwaukee Art Museum Board of Trustees.

How can there be a “dragging of their feet” for INCLUSION at this time OR the appearance of arrogance at this time?

How did Ken Szallai and the Harbor Commission promote this project so heavily and not ensure that significant returns in entrepreneurial and workforce development for People of Color, low, moderate and no income individuals of Milwaukee, were in WI State Department of Transportation-funded dockside projects ($800,000), Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation funded-Capital Access Program ($500,000), City Erie Street Property fund ($122,000), and, U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration Financial Aid funded-marine work ($22,226,000), as well as, every job created as a result of this project.

Lack of Communication and Accountability
Our research shows that communication for the creation and launching of the Lake Express project was “selective” and not “inclusive”.

The lack of accountability on the parts of elected and government officials is glaringly evident. They are the ones with a responsibility to the public to see that tax dollars are maximized and equally disbursed.

There seem to be a “misconception” on the part of the powers to be that this private company is held at a “lower standard” of compliance; because Lubar & Company is a private company. Perhaps because they are wealthy and private.

Private, wealthy or public, they got $25 million dollars of taxpayers money to guarantee the Lake Express project. Those dollars said, “everyone is to be at the party”. Not a select few.

Ex-Mayor John Norquist and Ex-Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt both signed-off on the project. So they bear blame. But, the direct responsibility falls on the Harbor Commission and the Director of Milwaukee Port Authority. The Director of the Port Authority is Ken Szallai and the Chairman of the Board for much of the time was Daniel J. Steininger. The Common Council representative was Alderwoman Suzanne Breier.

The evidence points to a joint-omission by Lubar and Company, Ken Szallai of the Port Authority and the Harbor Commission. They failed to communicate and seek participation with community partners; as well as, elected and government officials in the greater community on both sides of Lake Michigan.

Certain individuals and groups were “selected” and meetings were held on both sides of Lake Michigan, they included groups such as the Conventions and Tourism, Chamber of Commerce and Downtown.

The City of Milwaukee – Milwaukee Port Authority and Harbor Commission did not ensure that all the citizens were invited and included in this huge project of opportunity. Further, recent contact with the office of Ken Szallai for information was met with ‘hostility’. There seem to be a wall of secrecy.

In addition to the Lack of Communication, there is the Lack of Expectation and Regulatory measures at the local, state and national level for inclusion, for equity, for diversity. For specifics that governed behavior of those who come and get taxpayers dollars.

This was clear with calls to Wisconsin Department of Transportation, WI Department of Tourism, U.S. Maritime Administration and the office of Ken Szallai, Director of the Port Authority.

New Day
It is important that the newly elected Mayor of the City of Milwaukee Tom Barrett, Alderman Bob Bauman (common council representative on the Harbor Commission – replaced Alderwoman Suzanne Breier) and the newly installed common council take the leadership in seeing that the Harbor Commission and Ken Szallai, Director of Milwaukee Port Authority pick up the ball and see that “diversity” - People of Color, low, moderate and no income citizens are included at all levels of the business conducted at the City of Milwaukee Port Authority coordinate and promote harbor related projects that are “inclusive” and non-discriminatory in their practices.

Our legislators must provide the legislation that will guide automatic inclusion of our diverse population.

Equally, it is important to see that accountability is at all levels of local, state, regional and national government. State departments such as WI Department of Tourism ($30,000) and WI Department of Transportation ($800,000) are expected to help ensure the inclusion of all our population when disseminating dollars from the public coffers.

Our unemployment and underemployment rate in the Inner City of Milwaukee and Muskegon County area dictate commitment to “ENTREPRENEURIAL” and “WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT" for the $25,000,000 gotten from the collective government coffers on both sides of Lake Michigan for the Lake Express venture.

There are specific areas "not included" but generate large sums of revenue through Lake Express LLC for the Lake Express project.

David Lubar, Lake Express has a “public trust” obligation to see that entrepreneurial and workforce opportunities in the following areas are “inclusive”:
....Public Relations
....Personnel
....Media
....Sales/Marketing
....Procurement

BI-Coastal Trade Meeting
BCDC/BI-Coastal Development Consortium had its first Trade Meeting in Milwaukee, on Friday, August 6, 2004, 2600 W. North Avenue. The home office of Campaign Neighborhood – CFNBA & BCDC.

The Trade Meeting focused on entrepreneurial and workforce development opportunities in tourism on both sides of Lake Michigan for People of Color.

The Honorable Mayor Rillistine Wilkins, Muskegon Heights, Michigan, led a delegation of seven (7) business and government representatives to the Trade Meeting from the Muskegon area.

David Lubar was invited to the Trade Meeting for a private discuss regarding concerns with Lake Express. He declined.

“Complimentary” tickets/seats were provided by Lake Express for the 7-member Trade Meeting and the 10-member Muskegon Middle School Jazz Ensemble.

BI-Coastal Task Force
A BI-Coastal Development Consortium Task Force lead by Mary Glass has released a report on recent findings, begun dialog with owners of newspapers and radio of People of Color, will make recommendations to national, regional, state and local elected officials; and, will seek a Multi-Cultural Campaign with Lake Express for inclusion.

Report - Recommendations for Inclusion, Growth and Accountability
The Federal Ship Financing Program for a full faith and credit guarantee by the United States government should incorporate the following with the present focus of promoting the growth and modernization of the U.S. merchant marine and U.S. shipyards. They are:
1. Update U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration Financial Aid Programs to include the “automatic” inclusion of workforce development and entrepreneurial opportunities.

2. Incorporate workforce development and entrepreneurial opportunities for low, moderate and no income people as part of the compliance analysis for approval of the application.

3. Update and tie-in federal, state and local guidelines that include entrepreneurial and workforce regulations for training and education attainment in building a vessel and marine careers.

4. Expand the input-inner circle group (chamber of commerce, conventions and tourism, downtown), to include community partners such as, BI-Coastal Development Consortium, El Conquistador Newspaper, African World Festival, African American Media and other groups of Color.

Mary Glass
Chair/CEO, Campaign Neighborhood – CFNBA
Founder, BI-Coastal Development Consortium, A Think Tank

TRADE MEETING PARTICIPANTS

 Mayor Rillistine Wilkins - Muskegon Heights, Michigan
 Muskegon County Comissioner Nancy Waters - Muskegon, Michigan
 Charles Fair, Midwest Business Alliance - Muskegon, Michigan
 Ella Charles, Harambee Enterprises Inc. - Muskegon, Michigan
 Patsy Petty, Yes Muskegon - Muskegon, Michigan
 Ja’Neal Johnson, Young Democrat Party - Muskegon, Michigan
 Algemar Childers, Camera Man - Muskegon, Michigan
 Frank Cumberbatch, Senior Special Assistant to - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mayor Tom Barrett
 John Pitta, Former Mayoral Candidate - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 Gloria Miller, Director – African World Festival - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 Martha Toran, NAACP - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 Brandon Adams, G-Com - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 Margie Bland, ShawCo - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 Mary Glass, Campaign Neighborhood – CFNBA - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Limo Service by:
McNeil’s Limo

Due to the “change in schedule” from Saturday to Friday, the following invitees were not present. They are:
 Christian Barley and Christen Pechman, World Trade Center in Wisconsin – Milwaukee
 Heather Mann, The Urban Space Foundation – Madison, WI

BI-COASTAL DEVELOPMENT CONSORTIUM MULTI-CULTURAL TOURISM TRADE MEETING
FRIDAY, AUGUST 6, 2004
CAMPAIGN NEIGHBORHOOD – CFNBA
2600 W. NORTH AVENUE

Posted by cfnba on 08/17/2004
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