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1347, 09 Aug 19

Summerfest Runs up Security Bill

It sounds like the taxpayers are getting the raw end of a bad deal.

MILWAUKEE — Summerfest 2019 ended on a sour note for taxpayers, as security costs for the Big Gig exceeded the budget by more than $500,000. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said this wasn’t the first year this has happened; it was actually the fourth year in a row. City leaders said it’s time for a change.

On Thursday morning, Aug. 8, Milwaukee police briefed landlords of Maier Festival Park on just how much the department expected the final total to be: $800,000.


Leaders said in 2009, Summerfest officials agreed to compensate the city for police and fire services when the festival extended its lease through 2030. The negotiated payment this year was $134,00 — only a small fraction of projected costs.

Or are they? It sounds kind of like the costs are being inflated:

Barrett said the cost increase was due to a variety of factors, but not necessarily because more officers were being used to patrol the grounds.

“The costs include the overtime, the fixed costs that they have, and the pension costs that are embedded in this,” Barrett said.

In other words, “the budget is tight, so lets throw as many “costs” into the Summerfest gig so that we can charge them for it.” If the Milwaukee Police aren’t providing any more officers to patrol for Summerfest, then how did costs balloon from $134k to $800k in four years?


1347, 09 August 2019


  1. steveegg

    Sounds like Barrett wants to bill Summerfest overtime rates for every minute worked by every officer assigned to Summerfest and for the entire year’s contribution to the pensions of every officer assigned to Summerfest.

    On the flip side, Summerfest management wants to fully renege on their 2009 agreement to cover police costs separately from their rent.

    They can both jump in the lake.

  2. Merlin

    This only tangentially has anything to do with Summerfest. Barrett knows the Dems are going to stiff Milwaukee with 2020 convention costs the city can’t cover. Everyone knows it. Everyone. Barrett is going to strong arm anybody he thinks he has the least bit of leverage with in the coming months. Begging will follow later. By April or so he won’t be able to make a phone call that doesn’t go straight to voicemail. Then watch for the crocodile tears of wealthy party Democrats pleading poverty and looking for a taxpayer bailout. OPM at all times and in all ways.

  3. MjM

    Frankly, I’d have no problem with Summerfest telling Barrett to go jump in the lake if he tries to recoup the excessive cop costs, be it from taxpayers or Summerfest.

    If the two sides contracted at $134k for cop work then that is all Summerfest owes and in no way should they be liable for a 600% increase.

    Barrett decries “an unfairness here”. Well, who was it that signed the contracts with Summerfest? The fault lies squarely, as normal, on the (Democrat) city officials who can never admit their stupidity.

  4. Mark Hoefert

    The response from Summerfest. Not sure about the amount of economic impact, but without Summerfest having been in Milwaukee for about the past 40 some years, Milwaukee would now be known as “Detroit II”.

    “Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. (MWF) pays the City of Milwaukee an average of $1.8 million in rent for the use of Henry Maier Festival Park.  The City of Milwaukee determines how MWF’s annual rent payment is allocated. Milwaukee Police Department costs associated with safely operating Summerfest should be covered by MWF’s annual rent payment.  Given an average $1.8 million annual payment, MWF has more than covered MPD’s annual expenses for Summerfest.”

    Receiving no direct public support, MWF maintains, improves and develops a community asset that is enjoyed by over one million visitors a year. Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. and Summerfest have a profound economic and cultural impact on Milwaukee generating an average of $186 million in economic impact per year and helping to define our community’s identity as The City of Festivals.”

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