Ald. Nik Kovac, City Budget Director, to Discuss City Finances April 6

Ald. Nik Kovac and City Budget Director Mark Nicolini will discuss the City of Milwaukee budget and how decisions are made to allocate funds to specific areas, at our 7 p.m. Wednesday April 6, 2016, meeting.


Ald. Nik Kovac

Kovac serves as chairman of the Common Council’s Finance and Budget Committee. which leads legislative analysis and action on the mayor’s annual city budget. He represents Milwaukee’s East Side (including the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood), Riverwest and Brady Street neighborhoods.

As part of their talk, Kovac and Nicolini will discuss how the city chooses the amount to spend on various services, such as public safety, streets and sidewalks, sewer and water pipes, economic development, libraries and public health. Kovac and Nicolini will also take questions from attendees.

The talk will be part of HWTN’s monthly meeting and is free and open to the public. It takes place in the Marcia Coles Community Room of the Lake Park Pavilion, beneath Lake Park Bistro. Cookies and coffee, courtesy of Lake Park Bistro, will be available starting at 6:45 p.m.

Ald. Kovac has been alderman for Milwaukee’s 3rd District, which includes the East Side, Riverwest and North Downtown neighborhoods, since April 2008. He serves as chair of the Common Council’s Finance & Personnel Committee and is a member of the Zoning and Neighborhood Development and Capital Improvements Committees.

City Budget Director Mark Nicolini

City Budget Director Mark Nicolini

Kovac’s work extends outside City Hall and throughout his district as chair of the East Side Architectural Review Board and member of the Milwaukee Arts Board, the Milwaukee Public Library Board of Trustees, the Milwaukee County Federated Library Board, the Park East Advisory Committee, the Lakefront Development Advisory Commission and the Riverside University High School Foundation Board of Directors.

Kovac was born and raised on Milwaukee’s East Side in the HWTN area. He attended Milwaukee Public Schools—from McDowell Montessori School to Golda Meir Elementary School, and Jackie Robinson Middle School through Riverside High School. While at Riverside, he earned more than 20 college credits from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Attending Harvard University and graduating cum laude with a degree in mathematics, Kovac became a beat reporter and then a newspaper editor in New York City. He returned to Milwaukee to work for the Shepherd Express and Riverwest Currents.

City Budget Director Mark Nicolini has more than 30 years of budgeting and strategic planning experience from executive, legislative and departmental perspectives at the state, regional, and city levels of government. Nicolini has served as the City of Milwaukee’s Budget & Management Director since August, 2004, during the entire tenure of Mayor Tom Barrett. During this time, Nicolini and his staff have implemented the Accountability in Management (AIM) program, funded major improvements in core infrastructure replacement cycles, maintained key service levels, and developed community-responsive budget initiatives. This has taken place in the context of declines to state financial assistance and the need to accommodate substantial increases to employer pension contributions.

During his tenure in the Wisconsin State Budget Office, Mr. Nicolini designed new statewide funding initiatives for adult literacy and economic development-focused technical college programs. He also served as Governor Tommy Thompson’s lead advisor for Wisconsin Retirement System benefit and finance issues.

Nicolini earned an A.B. degree from Wabash College, where he graduated summa cum laude and was awarded an NCAA post-graduate fellowship for outstanding achievements in scholarship and athletics. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Public Policy & Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.



More concerns raised about proposed changes to Milwaukee’s effective preservation ordinance

Opposition is growing from across the community to proposed harmful changes to Milwaukee’s successful historic preservation law.

Many see the proposed changes as largely weakening protections and share concerns about the non-inclusive process used to develop the proposal and the speedy approval being sought for the plan. (You can view the full video of the hearing this week at which Historic Preservation Commission members, residents and business leaders detailed numerous problems with the proposal.)

A well-reasoned Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial, noting that “there’s not a lot that’s broken in Milwaukee’s process,” this week called on the city to delay any votes and instead hold a series of public forums to determine what changes are needed. We agree.

Whitney Gould, the paper’s retired urban affairs writer and current City Plan Commission, wrote a detailed letter to the city saying she feared the proposal could “gut historic preservation in Milwaukee” and create “a setback for economic development” The full email is worth reading.

Also, a large group of associations (including HWTN), businesses and individuals sent a joint letter to the city asking that the flawed proposal be given a thorough review and changed as needed before being vote on.

Reacting to concerns raised at the public hearing this week, Ald. Terry Witkowski, the rewrite’s author, has signalled he’ll pull the plan from the fast track. The plan was just shared with preservationist in the last week or two and had already been scheduled for a committee vote this coming week.

We’re hopeful that this flawed plan will be scrapped. We support a truly inclusive process to review the existing preservation ordinance and recommend any needed changes so we improve, not diminish, preservation efforts in the city.

By the way, be sure to check out an interesting interview with former Ald. Sandra Hoeh, who sponsored the city’s original preservation ordinance, about the proposed rewrite and the history of preservation in Milwaukee.

Important hearing held today on future of preservation

Advocates of historic preservation including members of HWTN attended a critical Milwaukee City Hall hearing today (that was covered by the Journal Sentinel) about a proposed ordinance that many believe will greatly weaken our effective and balanced historic preservation laws.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission criticized the proposals at the hearing, as did a number of residents and business people who spoke. Preservationists including HWTN have made their concerns about the proposal public and are asking that Common Council action on the proposal be delayed to allow for more discussions and reviews. The proposal was only very recently introduced, but it is already scheduled for a committee vote in early April.

A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article lays out the benefits of historic preservation in our community and how the proposed ordinance changes would create barriers to saving historic structures. The National Trust for Historic Preservation even wrote a letter to city officials yesterday raising several grave concerns about the proposed ordinance, saying one of the proposed changes would “seriously compromise Milwaukee’s preservation program.”

The preservation community has only recently seen the proposal and is still in the process of reviewing it. HWTN is in the process of reviewing the ordinance. The current draft proposed ordinance and an analysis by city legislative staff are now available.

We’ll be posting more info from today’s hearing and on this important issue in the near future.