Milwaukee County's mass transit system has been in downward spiral as public funding sources have not kept up with growth in operating costs. A plan by County Executive Scott Walker to privatize General Mitchell International Airport is designed to solve that.
Under current federal rules the county is not allowed to profit from the airport. His proposal is to lease out the airport to the highest bidder which would generate revenue to be used to cover the mass transit funding woes.
Walker says critics who use the term "selling off" the airport are being misleading. It's a long term lease, the likes of which, he claims are already being done to some extent with restaurant and retail businesses at Mitchell International.
Some fear a change in service with privatization. However, Walker says Federal Aviation Administration guidelines require that airport service remain the same or become greater with a transition to private leasing.
"Legally it's just not possible to cut back on services offered, flights offered in and out of the airport."
He says Midway Airport is the only US airport that's enacted a similar plan. Walker likely faces an uphill battle getting County Supervisors on board.