Common Ground denies ‘quid pro quo’ between $30M Nationstar deal and change in stance on arena

Leaders of Common Ground — the community group most critical of public funding for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena — said Friday they will change their position on arena funding after news that they prevailed in a separate campaign involving a company chaired by Bucks co-owner Wes Edens.

Nationstar Mortgage, a Dallas company chaired by Edens, will contribute $30 million to address residential foreclosure problems in the city.

Common Ground has held protests in recent months with a list of demands for Edens-chaired Nationstar Mortgage to provide addresses of foreclosed and vacant houses to the city of Milwaukee, invest money in a fire-damaged house on the city’s west side and donate other properties to nonprofits.

Common Ground also has made demands for more than a year that if the public is going to help pay for a new downtown arena, then $150 million of public funds should go to repairing or replacing playgrounds and school athletic facilities in Milwaukee County. The campaign is called Fair Play.

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As for whether there was a connection between Common Ground reconsidering its position on public funding for an arena and the Nationstar agreement, Connolly said not really.

“They are linked but we weren’t bought off,” Connolly said. “This wasn’t aquid pro quo arrangement. There are relationships though — we admit that. And the Nationstar relationship with Wes Edens gave the city the leverage to do this ($30 million deal). We know that even if people don’t talk about it.”

Barrett took exception to the suggestion that there might have been a connection.

Barrett said he and Common Council president Ald. Michael Murphy reached out to Nationstar officials in January, resulting in the agreement. Barrett said city staff worked independently of Common Ground but he thanked Common Ground for pushing the issue with Nationstar.

“Common Ground was not part of this conversation,” Barrett said. “That was purposeful. When I called them yesterday to tell them where we were, I was not certain whether they would be pleased or not.”

Read on.

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