Sunday, June 12, 2016

THOSE MISGUIDED POLITICAL MISSILES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

By Dominique Paul Noth
Some Sanders backers still look askance at Clinton on social media

Now that Hillary Clinton has locked down the Democratic nomination for president and Barack Obama has publicly endorsed her, I’m awaiting the side reward – my social media subsiding into some semblance of rational discussion.

Total receding will never occur, of course.   Social media is here to stay until the next digital revolution. It it both relevant and ridiculous. 

Along with photos of your pets, favorite dining spots, pinnable interests and family albums,  it has even replaced newspapers and television as main sources of information – self-confirming information in many cases, since people friend people they think are in their camp.

Few do as I and other journalists do,  go strolling among the various Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat  and Facebook feeds to smell what is going on – and that is the accurate olfactory verb. More of our citizens get excited by tweets and the like than by traditional sources (even when those are a ripped-off factor of social media excitement).

Tweets and company have become an irresistible fever, even elevated in some quarters to idolatry. Donald Trump represents that nadir, actually boasting about 50 dead in an Orlando gay nightclub shooting. 

The jaded truisms about social media  remain true.  People say things on the Internet they wouldn’t say in person or even on the phone.  Which only reminds voters of how self-involved in self-congratulation Trump is. And how some people on the Internet are proud of displaying their ignorance.

Internal standards of ethics concocted by journalism’s watchdogs, even to the point of demanding addresses and other checkpoints in letters to the editor, have disintegrated.  On the Internet they usually don’t exist at all.

News reports from reliable reporters are stolen or repurposed – and often mixed with satirical commentary pretending to be objective information.  That creates threads that seem like news, linking together several URLs from “reliable investigators” who seem to agree with the point the poster is trying to make.  In the real world this is known as cherry-picking. But who bothers online to check? 

The Internet has become so important that it even leads cable news around by the nose. Think of how many TV outlets look for validation through the digital feeds they engender.   They count tweets as soldiers in their own cable army. And since we tend to look for articles that support our pre-existing opinions, trollers sense that isolation and try to disrupt it. 

In this cyclical dance of doomsaying, demons of language and attitude are unleashed.  A few extremists come off booming like a battalion

Who are these weirdoes so devoted to Bernie that they now say they will vote for Trump?  Is that 3 people or 300?  Or 300 sounding like three so similar are their posts?  Such a radical swing between polar opposites of “outsider” is beyond belief except in the land of Bizarro from the old DC Comics.  It makes supporters of Sanders sound like radical dimwits, which most are absolutely not. In fact, if you are abandoning Sanders to vote for Trump you never understood Bernie in the first place.

The state of social media messaging makes it especially difficult for responsible journalists.  The volume may just be on my feed. Your feed may have high volume in another direction. Threads on election fraud, pleas for delegates to change their minds combine facts with fiction. 
Actor-playwright Denis O'Hare

I know Sanders people who feel that Clinton backers have been the main online offenders, but that is not my experience.  (I’m with Hillary but I held my online tongue for a long time.)  It’s much more like what an eminent actor, the usually outspoken Denis O’Hare, explained in an MSNBC interview.  O’Hare is best known from tons of movies and as a regular on “The Good Wife,” but I also know him as co-writer of the one-man  “An Illiad” that I have previously admired.

O’Hare explained why he guards his enthusiasm for Hillary in conversations with his peers.  It is not just their passion but their eagerness to share it and dismiss alternative viewpoints, he noted.  So atypically he tiptoes.

There’s a lot of that going around in the Hillary circles.  They know the bashing has been going on for decades. “Like horse-racing, Hillary-hating has become one of those national pastimes which unite the √©lite and the lumpen,” Henry Louis Gates wrote in a New Yorker article – in 1996! 

Now, there may be legitimate emotional as well as intellectual reasons why the Bernie or Bust people stand doggedly by idealist values. That is what  brought them into politics.  They don’t see history in the round and they still are prone to shoot down any favorable remarks about Clinton's progressive idealism.  The doubters exist among neighbors, family and colleagues who were (are?) on the Sanders side. 

The clinging  is particularly strong in Wisconsin.  During the primary, many Clinton supporters I know hung back about speaking  aloud.  They were circumspect because some really wanted a strong showing for Sanders –they wanted Hillary to feel the pressure.  They agree with many of his main themes even though they agree more with Clinton’s suggested strategies to reach such goals in a gridlocked society. But expressing that online? They knew it would blow up their feeds.

I suspect that Sanders’ primary win in the state is another reason Obama and Clinton are coming together to Green Bay as the president’s  first active campaign event (originally June 15 but in the wake of Orlando horror it is being rescheduled).   Cleaving together here may require special attention.  Obama is not only itching to get into the fray and has strong backing in Wisconsin, but he knows residents have suffered horribly under Walker – so horribly that the failure to remove the governor may have derailed the better angels of their judgment. Few people can accept when slower and steady wins the race.

I told one friend that Bernie was talking about the sort of “take no prisoners” goals the progressives will need in 10 years once the legislative and executive branches are aligned -- but that Hillary represents a better way to maneuver the current system.  

And I noted as almost a side comment in a previous story focused on school issues:   “Sanders has certainly moved Clinton to the left on things like attention to income inequality and deeper government funding for higher education.  But Hillary  has actually moved Bernie to the left on issues like early child care and gun regulations.” That’s factually true but I was braced to be FB-bombed. 

It gets even more confusing. Both Sanders and Hillary are veteran established politicians who have made deals along the way (though Bernie’s escaped discussion, except for gun votes, during the campaign). Both understand that relying on polls taken five months before November (about who would be stronger against Trump) is a flimsy flight of imagination.

Today some Clinton backers are a bit uppity that Sanders is not showing his party’s clear choice the recognition both her victory and her historic accomplishment (the “first woman” thing) deserve.  But note who isn’t getting uppity -- Biden, Warren and Obama who went out of their way to pour respect on Sanders, appreciation of how he has opened up the party and understanding of his own time schedule and need to deal with his blindly enthusiastic supporters. That respect was built at length into their endorsements of Clinton.

For such pains, the extremists among the Sanders backer have labeled them – and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, a noted progressive leader in the Senate – as turncoats abandoning progressivism because they support Hillary.  The attack on Brown in particular must drive diehard progressives mad. 

Ever hunting for eyeballs, cable news has gone out of its way to find the strangest  Sanders creatures  who say they will vote for Trump over Hillary, so angry are they that Bernie lost. Some don’t even admit he lost.  But that  is la-la land (the 3 or 300 problem previously discussed).  Trump is a genuine danger to progressive longings.  Clinton’s high negatives are bound to come down the more people realize who Trump is  and when Sanders is not prominent as a polling contrast. 

Wisconsin  may actually need a deeper dose of healing.  Locally, the GOP may not much believe Trump is a Republican. But patience with their brand of GOP as well as his has run out. Yet nationally they are asked to  go for a  more patient pace rather than the attractive absolutes. 


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com. 



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

MPS TAKEOVER SYMPTOMATIC OF BOWING TO BAD LEGISLATION

By Dominique Paul Noth

Everywhere Means turns these days he is confronted with
reminders of what his role is actually about.
In a commentary piece for On Milwaukee, their regular theater critic Dave Begel – who has considerable history in local politics – offered the most sympathetic current portrait of Demond Means even while the praise was couched in criticism.

A few years ago Means, also superintendent at the Mequon-Thiensville school district, was regarded as a champion for public school districts such as Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) with its sizeable contingent of union teachers and transparent data (unlike the opaque voucher and private charter schools).  He was saluted as an African American who hadn’t lost touch with his community roots.

There was even a sigh of relief in some quarters when County Executive Chris Abele named him as commissar for MPS public schools. In that curious role, he has the authority to select central city schools for outside private operation – and in several cases superior authority than the Harvard educated MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver appointed by the elected school board,  which is also equally sidelined by this particular legislation.  

There was a sliver of hope along with massive shock when Means became the honcho of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP), more accurately dubbed MPS Takeover by those who have looked under the hood.  This is the recycled brainchild (aborted several times along its way to Madison legislation) of Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep.  Dale Kooyenga. 

By any intelligent measure, Supt. Darienne
Driver is undercut by OSPP.
Talk about dismantling your own reputation. Talk about how the end doesn’t justify the Means, who now faces questions even back in his own Mequon district. Talk about undercutting the highly respected Driver.  He accepted a role that by its nature is anti-MPS.

He is now trying to maneuver in a way acceptable to MPS and to the GOP legislative powers in Madison – an impossible task.  One original idea – turn an empty MPS building into an early child care education facility – seemed acceptable to all, but apparently was scrapped because it didn’t fit the  Madison concept of the OSPP law. At this point, nothing interesting does fit.

Means is trying to sell a halfway house proposal neither fish nor fowl, and he is disappointed that the MPS is not buckling under.  Expect him shortly to realize what the MPS board already sees -- Darling and Kooyenga will not allow him or his hirer, County Executive Chris Abele, to get very far reinterpreting their law to be friendly to MPS.

In his past life, Means always recognized the weight of poverty and poor funding on children and  the value of dedicated long-term teaching, which is not the model of Teach for America, which wags have dubbed Teach for Awhile given its revolving door (60% turnover within three years). But hiring them for less money is a centerpiece of the privatized charter movement, which is also the centerpiece of the OSPP law.

If you read the law, it is clearly designed to sidetrack and subject MPS to the will of suburban legislators – something Abele must have understood.  He knows English and he’s been apologizing ever since, though since he won a recent election with enormous self-funding he apparently thinks the voters won't care.

OSPP is tantamount to creating a black  recovery district and requires private support, none of which is yet forthcoming.  In New Orleans, that recovery district, created to mixed reviews in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, is now being returned by Louisiana to local school board control, partly because of community frenzy,  but it’s returning with unseemly conditions – the local boards can’t change the private school operators or the staff.  Sounds like a prelude to OSPP. 

Kooyenga gets a civics lesson
in civil discussion.
The holes in the law already mean the bill sponsors won’t buy this unshaped Means plan. In a Marquette University discussion with Lauren Baker, executive director of the MTEA teachers union,  Kooyenga even indicated he was not a supporter of Means’ proposal because it counters what was written in his legislation. This was the TV discussion in which Baker mopped the floor with Kooyenga ignorance about education, yet he is one of the controlling forces the state education system must now deal with. See for yourself.

Going on Mike Gousha’s  “Up Front” TV show May 29,  Abele  argued that he and Means were wiggling to make OSPP  “as pro-MPS as possible” – limiting it initially to one school that OSPP intends after several years to return to MPS, more than likely as a privately operated charter school.

Contrast reality with such dissembling. Means may only choose one to start, but he is looking at eight schools.

Whatever the concerns about how poverty and crime affect inner city schools, and put all forms of education at risk, the OSPP has yet to find the right “struggling MPS school” because MPS keeps improving these schools on its own.  The struggling MPS school that fits this imaginary concept may not exist and OSPP clearly has no idea how to change it anyway.

Yet Abele promises that teachers at the chosen school will be retained with full union reputation and benefits.  How does that track when Means chooses the private operator outside MPS standards and when promised corporate commitment has yet to appear?  Would any MPS employees want to voluntarily transfer into such an environment?  

The Real Politicks came later in the TV interview. Abele echoed Means’ argument that the MPS board had better go along:   Do so or something far more dire will emanate from Madison.

Abele told Gousha there is no option to just ignore the law. “We have to do something. If we don't do this, I think you might see something more heavy-handed and honestly, I'm concerned about that."  You can almost feel his  tremble on the video. 

It is not just Means and Abele admitting this is a bad law but that they must go along with it.  This fever of giving in is everywhere in Milwaukee, with elected officials cowed by the governor and legislature in Madison, heavily conscious that the intergovernmental structure can make them bit players with even less authority than the shrinking authority they now possess.

Fight this Madison cartel and it will do worse – that seems the new slogan. It came up in passing rules last June on city of  Milwaukee charter schools, for fear that tougher laws -- such as a total moratorium -- would bring immediate harsher response from Madison, even taking away the power to create schools.

Fortunately, the recently replaced president of the Common Council, Ald. Michael Murphy, helped negotiate quieter ordinances that did make the city responsible for the financial impact on MPS.  The ordinances meant well but also require aldermanic influence under a new regime.  Time alone will reveal if the new council president, Ald. Ashanti Hamilton, will bring negotiating skill to what is clearly his  move toward a  larger African American presence in city affairs.

The fear in local officials has an understandable foundation. Think of how many pieces of Madison legislation have been passed by the Republicans clearly targeting the more liberal Milwaukee County. You’ll find such concerns infecting city of Milwaukee  officials as well as county officeholders.   Attacks on home rule and residency. The legislature using “reasonable time” as a legalistic excuse to deny freedom to deal with abandoned homes and absent landlords.  The needless attack on IRIS and Family Care, stifling a national model program with new rules being carved in Madison.  And on and on. Isn’t it simply wisdom to give in and bend over?

I wonder how long voters will accept such feeble reaction as some sort of wisdom.

Buck private Ald. Jim Bohl
City Ald. Jim Bohl unintentionally summed up this permeating caution.  Bohl, explaining how personally he didn’t like the state law that MPS vacant buildings must be sold only to competitors, said in a recent interview:   “Government works like it’s the military -- the state is the sergeant, and any local municipality, like a city, town or village, is a private in the army. When you’re a private in the army and the sergeant says drop and do 10 pushups, you do 10 pushups whether we like it or not.”

Whether we like it or not.  That’s a roadmap to what is happening to Milwaukee County – be a good soldier, go along because they could do something worse.  Was that really what these officials were elected to do?  Anxious voices in the community are surely tired of ill-conceived half-baked ideas flooding in from the Capitol. It doesn’t smell of compromise but cowardice. And you don’t have to call for a revolution to make it stop.

In a few months, November of 2016, change is in the air.  The Democrats have a good chance to take the state  senate, which by itself renders impotent the idea  that the legislature could do far worse.  The Assembly is likely to stay in GOP hands given its wide margin, but the margin is likely to shrink and that moves those random GOP  legislative fancies from certainty to troublesome scrutiny.

The governor remains until 2018 but his legislative strength could  be badly weakened. And he was not a big fan of OSPP in the first place.

Better government often occurs incrementally. That’s the nature of representative democracy. We see that discussion on the Democratic side  in the national presidential campaign – sometimes with more ferocity that the platforms of the two candidates deserve. 

Sanders has certainly moved Clinton to the left on things like attention to  income inequality and deeper government funding for higher education.  But Hillary  has actually moved Bernie to the left on issues like early child care and gun regulations.  Tactics differ, the direction remains similar. When do you tack and when do you demand  the whole enchilada?  What gets the branches of government plodding in the right direction? 

Interesting questions. But at some point, Wisconsinites have to stop playing national political games we can barely influence.

They must turn to local affairs where the communities wield enormous influence. They must ask: How far should the officials we elect bend in the wrong direction out of fear that "something worse" might happen?  Locally, there comes a time to make a stand – and elect people who will.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com. 


Thursday, March 31, 2016

MILWAUKEE VOTERS FACE TWO COMPETITIVE CIRCUIT COURT RACES

By Dominique Paul Noth

Jean Kies is working hardest to  take 
 Branch 45 from Walker appointee
There are only two combative Milwaukee circuit court contests April 5. One is an easy call and the other has split the progressive and grassroots community.

The easier call is Jean Kies, a private practice lawyer who has done strong work in general law and specifically in attacking sex trafficking. Now that her children are grown she is listening to friends who have long seen her personality and judgment fitting the bench.  Lawyer Lew Wasserman, who ran for the DA’s job in 2006, is not only handling her campaign but is married to her.  

Her opponent was appointed to Branch 45 by Gov. Scott Walker. Perhaps not surprisingly, Michelle Ackerman Havas is hugging close to GOP leaders in her campaign, but because she served more than a decade as assistant district attorney in Milwaukee, focusing on parental rights and termination at children’s court, she also has a following in the general legal community. Her appointment made her a sitting judge, which brings some fairly automatic endorsements.

But in Milwaukee right now, being appointed to the bench by Walker is a negative. Historically that has been true whichever party had the governor’s office.  Circuit court positions are curious things hereabouts.  Once the public elects you it is almost a lifelong tenure since you are seldom opposed or attacked unless you step headlong into controversy. The voters like to make the choice, and appointees from both parties are most vulnerable in their first run for office, as Havas is facing now.

She is also openly close to Rebecca Bradley, which right now is an even bigger negative that being associated with Walker.

That is why her open embrace of Republican leaders may be particularly harmful in Milwaukee. Particularly if voters remember she was appointed to the bench because Walker elevated the previous occupant to the appeals court – yup, Rebecca Bradley who within months he elevated again to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where she has already engaged in political maneuvering.  If you haven’t read her abusive and  rash writings published when she was in college or followed her evasive responses to the press while pretending to be objective, you can’t possible understand what a travesty it would be if she edged ahead April 5 of a respected opponent, JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Bradley did win her first test with voters in Milwaukee – but it took $167,000 from Club for Growth channels to clear the way with ads, mailers and the like.  Other appointees by this governor, even some respected lawyers, have faced hard roads in their first election, and so have appointees by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.  The public likes to decide these things for a six year term. Then it sort of lets the renewals slide by.

That’s why the other circuit court race has become a distressing decision.  For the first time in my memory the Milwaukee Area Labor Council has endorsed a Walker appointee to the bench – Paul Rifelj (the “j” I’m told is silent).  Apparently he gave a strong interview, suggesting he is not a Walker conservative or ideologically tainted as a judge.

He also served as a Wisconsin State Public Defender while working as a private defense attorney and was a Waukesha public defender before that, mostly involving children’s court according to resumes.  Simultaneously April 5, his wife, Kelly K. Rifelj, is running for a seat on the Wauwatosa Common Council.

So Paul Rifelj has taken pains to separate himself from Walker while Havas seems happy to embrace party support even into her campaign operations and funding.  That has thrown into hard question her objectivity. Circuit court judges meander from first assignment to many others so once you are a judge the impartiality or the damage you can spread are enormous.

Interestingly, giving outsiders a sense of the depth of issues involving children’s court, Kies did a lot of work there as private attorney but says she and Havas never met.

“He makes a great presentation,” people both in and out of the Rifelj camp tell me.  I recall hearing the same thing four years ago when his April 5 opponent for Branch 31, Hannah Dugan, was endorsed by the  labor council for another judgeship (which she lost to Lindsey Grady who also had strong Democratic  Party roots).

Hannah Dugan working to take
Branch 31 from Walker appointee.
And that is why Branch 31 seems to have split the community.  Dugan has earned a reputation as “a tough cookie,” as one of her admirers said, and a strong champion of union rights.  But in 28 years as lawyer – and past president of the Milwaukee Bar Association — she has taken on the sort of assignments that can make enemies and also prove competence, breadth and ethical integrity – in other words, public service that reaches way past the surface of endorsements.

She served for a few years as head of Catholic Charities, but she was also chosen as key part of the Milwaukee County Ethics Board and the City of Milwaukee Ethics Board, helping revise both organizations’ code of conduct. She chaired the Wisconsin Judicial Commission and conducted attorney discipline hearings as a Wisconsin Supreme Court referee. 

These are difficult areas of legal service, requiring steel as well as fairness. If there is a knock against her it is that she long has been eager for a judicial post.

In fact, there is some confusion about this candidacy for Branch 31.  Originally she announced as the lone candidate for Branch 44 after Daniel Konkol announced his retirement.  But then a friend, Gwen Connolly, stepped into the race, and Dugan switched to Branch 31, where another Daniel – Noonan that is — had decided to retire from judgment. 

She was alone in that race as well until Walker stepped in and appointed Rifelj who now has the advantage of running against Dugan as the incumbent, trusting many voters   won’t know that, like Havas, he was the governor’s pick and not the voters.

Several liberals and court observers have contacted me about this race, encouraging me to not decide based on Walker but on merits. Indeed, I have discovered nothing to fault Rifelj qualities as a judge, though I have less knowledge to work with since many of the cases he was involved in are closed to public inquiry. 

Part of that knowledge about him includes negatives --- he was recruited for Walker and then early endorsed by Rebecca Bradley.  Given what I know about her behavior and bias, that remains a strike against him.

As for Dugan, I have long known her and appreciate how her decision process would transfer to the bench.  So Kies obviously gets my nod, and Dugan has earned an edge over Rifelj.

WHERE do you live and WHO are you voting for April 5? 

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

MILWAUKEE CITY AND COUNTY ALSO ADD SUBSTANCE TO APRIL 5

By Dominique Paul Noth

Two-thirds of  Milwaukee County live in the city of Milwaukee, including me. So while everyone has heard of the presidential primary April 5 and  there are interesting contests unfolding in many suburbs,  let’s focus here on the Milwaukee Common Council and then the suburban-inclusive Milwaukee County Board final races. (The statewide supreme court race and the contest for county exec have already been dealt with.)

Normally even just the Common Council would require a ton of coverage from a one-man band.  But fortunately it’s not quite that daunting. There are 14 out of 15 seats being “contested” (Ald. Jim Bohl of District 5 is, surprisingly to me,  unopposed) but  I can pass on several sure things for the incumbents, including Ashanti Hamilton (District 1); Milele Coggs who still capably represents District 6 and is outspoken on issues important to the African American community;  Michael Murphy of District 10 who is also Common Council president and its longest serving member; even newer Ald. Jose Perez of District 12, who must feel like he’s running against zombies from the district’s past life  since his opponent is one-term alderman (2000-2004) Angel Sanchez, and assuredly a well connected incumbent, Russell Stamper II of District 15.


Bob Bauman should shake off
District 4 flies.
Even Downtown alderman Bob Bauman of District 4 has not been damaged a bit by the anti-streetcar forces that have put their money on an interloper  (she doesn’t even live in the district and is known by several names), since Bauman’s concerns and efforts  reach way past what citizens tend to think of as “downtown.” He’s spread the   bustle  of new developments toward the 34th  St. border.

I could readily add to my “no worries list”  Ald. Nik Kovac,  because I live within his District 3, which includes the UWM campus where I taught, Lake Park where my family played, North Avenue area where I still see movies and many Oakland Ave. rooming houses where I thankfully never lived. It is arguably the whitest district in the city yet I hope one of the most welcoming to minorities. It has a reputation for leading the parade of Milwaukee liberals.

However true those generalities are, I am mighty familiar with the 3rd  where at the county board  a good friend, longtime supervisor Gerry Broderick, announced his retirement more than a year ago and will be replaced, without opposition on the April 5 ballot, by former state representative Sheldon Wasserman, actually an obstetrician who has worked with many families I know.


Ald. Nik Kovac
Kovac,  whom I haven’t always supported, has become  a powerhouse in  progressive motion on the Common Council, touted by many as a future mayor.  He is best known as  a bike trail and Packers enthusiast, but he’s actually ahead of the curve on how important the Common Council is to business development. Yet he hasn’t abandoned empathy for educational needs, for those less fortunate and with neighborhoods’ desire for individuality. He is argumentative but has earned his opinions.

Describing him, warts and all,  gives me a chance to emphasize the broader role in economic and community development that aldermen now engage in and should be held responsible for,  quite different than the old-fashioned  view that they were only good if your street wasn’t plowed, your trash wasn’t picked up or you wanted police to investigate a rash of burglaries.  The good ones do far more, and that has trapped some antiquated officials into not leaning forward as far as they could in offering legislation or reaching deeper than licensing taverns. Those are the traits I looked at in this story.

This also makes  Kovac an easy choice against Shannan Hayden who wound up being the sacrificial goat for the angry anti-streetcar and anti-Barrett financial forces that have beaten their heads bloody trying to get the public to pay attention to their ranting. Indeed the anti-streetcar folks are a pattern of largely empty attacks  in this election.  

Over at District 13, the only reason Chris Wiken is challenging Terry Witkowski is the anti-streetcar crusade, which is what Wiken admits led him to run while managing the Packing House restaurant near the airport. Apparently he is anti his own business, since Witkowski not only supports the streetcar but is working to extend it to the airport.


Looking good for re-election -- Mayor Tom Barrett
This is good place to insert my presumption that the incumbent mayor -- and main force in using  federal dollars to move the streetcar  forward --  Tom Barrett will easily sweep the floor with his opponent. Not that Barrett can’t be criticized for slowness on  the trigger of his beliefs – as one friend put it, you throw him a pitch down the middle and he tends to foul it off.

But Milwaukee is not the Wild West nor a baseball game. Barrett’s undeniably friendly and open manner is one of the few candor  realities left in politics and his caution (perhaps not my style nor those of many troubled by Milwaukee’s poverty rate)  reflects his measured approach to changing things step by step.

Look at the downtown landscape and some developments spreading into diverse communities. He is making progress on police community relations and sensible pressure on crime, so overall he has  served  the city well, especially given the lousy hands being dealt him by the Madison legislature.  How often does he attack problems like foreclosures and aid for economically distressed districts and have Madison politicians shoot him down?

I expect him to easily win the mayor’s race against violently conservative Ald. Bob Donovan of District 8, who has spent the debates denying his own words that paint him as either a racist or a racist dupe -- hardly a healthy leader for a community that is nearly 40% African American. And I have not even touched on his simplistic insecurities about the police and community violence, which is rather an insult to  the true conservative community. There are several politicians who claim to be conservative but really expect  a big mouth to camouflage a tiny brain.

But the most interesting aspect of Donovan on April 5 is that he is trying to retain his seat as alderman even as he runs for mayor.  Now I didn’t pay much attention to this race last February and was rightly called out on my shoddy  thinking that Rep. Josh Zepnick’s better name recognition and inroads in the growing Latino community would carry him through, despite a drunken driving arrest. What I’ve since learned is he didn’t work the trenches very hard and was easily beaten by someone whose energy and desires are completely focused on District 8, which extends south of Menomonee Valley to much of the near  south side.


Justin Bielinski -- far better choice
than Ald. Donovan
I knew little about Justin Bielinski, beyond his background as a teacher and energetic supporter of progressive issues. But  I applied myself to find out more.  I listened to his friends and foes and his campaign promises – and to the growing Latino community. Now I’m convinced he is the aldermanic fit for the community, which lags other near downtown districts  in economic advances.

It is rather astonishing that Donovan has held on so long with his tired vision of service and his role as a gadfly without a stinger. That  community should be screaming for an alderman who actually makes a difference, not just noise on Donovan’s favorite issue of crime.

I was also struck by how Bielinski’s platform of economic development and service fits both his   personality and the needs of District 8 to return to the 21st century.  


Chantia Lewis merits  win over Puentes.
The need to move forward should also be the key motivation in ousting Robert Puentes from District 9.  This could be a thriving northwest community of the city with more attention and cultivation than Puentes has been offering for too many years.  His challenger helped lead 9to5 but she is also a business operator, mother and veteran, Chantia Lewis, who came out of nowhere with a strong campaign to modernize and fix District 9.  Puentes is entrenched and probably better known, but change is in the air and Lewis is riding the breeze.


Time seems ripe for Chevy Johnson
Some other council races are totally open or problematical. One such is District 2, which Joe Davis abandoned to run for mayor, finishing third.  The choices left are an aide to Davis, Sheldon Morton, and a former aide to Barrett whose time for public office has arrived in my opinion, Cavalier (Chevy) Johnson. He made a good impression in previous races and reflects a devotion to youth-related services and workplace development. 

For near west side District 7, veteran Willie Wade abandoned this seat and is trying to pass the mantle along to a former Gwen Moore aide and departing county board member, Khalif Rainey. Rainey, given his background and lifelong public service interests,  would normally be a shoo-in, but he is being opposed by someone with name recognition --  the chair of the Milwaukee School Board, Michael Bonds, also a UWM professor and in past life  a senior fiscal review analyst for the city. Bonds has also promised to quit the MPS board if he wins.


Khalif Rainey seems more natural for District 7.
Still he is  a mystifying candidate since it sounds like he’s giving up on MPS, though he himself says there’s a lot more to be done.  He once promised to be a mediating presence on the board while several now on the board find him a difficult chairman. I would have to know more about his motives before I abandon Rainey. 

There are two other aldermanic races that merit close attention. One involves the newest alderman, Mark Borkowski, and why he squeaked by liberal state Sen. Tim Carpenter in last year’s special election. Borkowski has some name recognition as longtime supervisor in an overlapping county district but I also feel he sold himself to District 11 by wrapping himself in the fond memories of Joe Dudzik, the popular alderman who died while inebriated in a motorcycle accident.

Dudzik was quite a character. He was known to support family values and needy children.  He was a  member of AFSCME as manager for city workers when I visited his neighborhood to do a profile during his first run – a story for the union’s newsletter. I took a photo of him sitting on a swing in Euclid Park and he grabbed it for his campaign literature. Afterwards he told me that photo won him the election. “I looked like a young Alan Ladd,” he joked.

Within a few years I told him to stop embarrassing me with that story, since I found many of his attitudes and votes on the Common Council disturbing – and unexpected.  Dudzik remained  strong in supporting public unions, his AFSCME region boss reminded me,  even taking the floor whenever Donovan went on a diatribe about how dangerous crime was for the police. Dudzik would point out that more public road workers were dying or injured than police offices, a true statistic. 

Yet he also joined Donovan in a particularly broad attack on blacks after the youth misbehavior at State Fair and in more recent actions, and he resisted many modernizing ideas for a district that really hasn’t grown with its own demographic changes. I thought many of his views  close-minded.

So Dudzik was a mixed bag well liked in his neighborhood. It disturbed me how Borkowski wrapped himself in mourner weeds, using Dudzik’s family and friends to win election.

This is a newer era, and this time Borkowski is opposed by Tim Kenney, a longtime Jackson Park resident and Little League coach who has served some 17 years for the Department of Defense, what neighbors regard as a solid citizen.

Kenney has been endorsed by Carpenter, lives and breathes the district but has to overcome lack of name recognition and getting attention for the ideas more than the ideology he offers the community. He also fits more neatly than Borkowski into the forward-looking wing of the Common Council, which Borkowski keeps managing to offend.

Common Council seems ready
to listen to Meagan Holmon.
In the Bay View area former school board member Meagan Holmon is tackling incumbent Tony Zielinski, District 14. Zielinski served as county supervisor before switching in 2004 and has been a big spokesman about Fair Trade, public education and other hot-button liberal issues. But he has  something of a different reputation when you talk to people in Bay View about licensing and small business favoritism. 

I do know Holmon as personable, progressive and somewhat unfairly tarred by public education forces for steering a middle ground at MPS on respectable charters and MTEA policies. She fits the upwardly mobile “soccer mom” image of Bay View, though her platform is really built around her reputation to get things done – short on details, long on personality.  

Zielinksi’s is built around years of public statements though mixed reputation on the council itself.  I keep sensing a hidden persona behind the public one. I actually think she would be smarter on issues of city charter schools and gain more support for her proposals than Zielinski has. 

The county board also features compelling races, though not as many as you would think given publicity about how the office reduces to  part-time pay April 5 -- while still demanding full time commitment. Yet again, there is not as much motion as advertised.  In competitive races I expect Michael Mayo to retain his incumbency, Stephen Taylor in District 9, Jason Haas in District 14, John Weishan Jr. in District 16 and Tony Stakunas in District 17.  Sequanna Taylor is running unopposed (which means she’s in) for the District 2  seat Rainey has abandoned to run for Common Council.

She would be new to the board, but amazing how many incumbents are going unchallenged: Theodore Lipscomb Sr. of northern District 1 and  the current board chair; Marina Dimitrijevic of Bay View neighborhood District 4,   James (Luigi) Schmitt of western District 6, Supreme Moore Omokunde of District 10,  Peggy Romo West of District 12, Willie Johnson Jr. of District 13 and Eddie Cullen of District 15. 


Marcelia Nicholson, touted
as rising progressive star.
A move to citywide full time pay was attempted by the newest supervisor, Martin Weddle – and that was way too fast.  He came in third. Competing to replace Weddle in District 5 are two public school teachers – Michael Glabere, a veteran of such contests, and Marcelia Nicholson whose reputation as a progressive star of the future  surpasses his. So do her endorsements and examples of community leadership.

While I deeply regret the decision of Pat Jursik to retire from District 8 (she has been a smart legislator on the board), I simply don’t know enough about the two candidates to replace her in this far south terrain, Tony Bloom and David Sartori, though on resume I would lean to Sartori.

But I have strong opinions, and worries, involving District 11, a deep south district from Oklahoma Ave. to Ryan Rd. (between 27th and 76th). It has a conservative reputation, which helped Borkowski win, but I am not sure the residents are ready for one of the candidates if they know anything about him – Dan Sebrig who is in bankruptcy and running an auto repair shop. He is best publicized as a county board pest whose heyday as leader  for Citizens for Responsible Government disappeared as CRG flailed  around for issues after the recall scandal. 


Patricia Najera the intelligent choice.
If the district wants to go extremely right, Sebrig is their kind of inciter.  If they want to go for real community development, which she has done for years at UWM and on the city planning commission, the intelligent choice is obviously Patricia Najera.

Along similar lines, District 18 on the far northwest side of the county may have thought electing a nasty  conservative maverick was what they wanted, but how about now?  Deanna Alexander goes around making fun of Black  Lives Matter and addressing a presidential candidate as Ovary  Clinton.  But frankly she hasn’t done much for the economic development and social magnanimity of her district,  which I am familiar with. It is disjointed on planning and growth. It deserves far better – and has the chance since Martha Collins-De La Rosa is challenging. She  is executive director of Wisconsin Jobs Now and former leader of 9to5. A longtime resident of the district she is disturbed by the tone Alexander presents while ignoring key issues.

“The current county supervisor does not reflect or represent this district, or me, or my children or the next generation of children,” Collins-De La Rosa told the Shepherd Express. “She has made racially derogatory comments and statements. This next generation doesn’t have time for that kind of divisive, fear-mongering racism. This supervisor has said a lot of hurtful things and hateful things and that’s not right. It’s not acceptable at all.”

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com. 


Monday, March 14, 2016

A TALE OF TWO CHRISES -- ONE PROVES FAR FAR BETTER

By Dominique Paul Noth


Rep. Gwen Moore (left) was on hand when Chris Larson with his family
announced he was running. In front is Moore aide Shirley Ellis.
Months ago, I told colleagues that the race for Milwaukee County executive would be one of nuances – and I frankly doubted the intelligence of the county voters to handle the intricacies of counterclaims and  separate facts from political maneuvers in this era of  ifs. 

I was wrong.  In the first primary warm-up in February, challenger Chris Larson amazed pundits by edging incumbent Chris Abele despite facing overwhelming superiority in dollars, campaign staffing  and name familiarity. That alone was astounding, particularly considering how many of Larson’s current supporters heavily favored Abele in a previous contest, believing him an ideal mix of social responsibility and wealth. That was the aftermath of Scott Walker as county executive. Could Milwaukeeans admit at the polls April 5 how wrong they had been the last time?

It seems so. The public has caught on to original error, or rather outsized expectations of what a billionaire’s son with expressed progressive leanings would actually do.  Abele, accustomed to corporate methodology in his ventures and upbringing and well aware of the respect, even obsequiousness, shown him by those seeking his enormous largesse, is  a big giver to LBGT causes (perhaps that explains the otherwise against-the-grain endorsement from  the Wisconsin Gazette), international women’s rights and classical performing arts as well as Democratic candidates and causes.

But recently he has also given the max to his Republican “friends” and run his own slate of candidates against Democrats in the state Assembly.

He first  campaigned promising a broad approach to what’s best for the county, not left or right, not beholden to any one party (sound familiar?). So he participated in union Act 10 protests in Madison while listening closely to the MMAC and such business giants as Sheldon Lubar. Even normally cautious county budget watchers believed he was sincere in his dualistic  approach, as retired supervisor and noted budget guru Richard Nyklewicz -- a self-described “conservative South Side guy” -- told me in 2012. Just don’t ask Nyklewicz for his sentiments today – they are laced with disappointment.

One heightened cause of distrust is Act 14, sold to the public as a money saver but requiring working with the GOP in Madison in a manner that scooted past cooperation into mutual fawning.  Act 14,  proposed and pushed by Abele,  has had minimal financial impact but gives him more ways to thwart the county’s  elected  board, which also sits well in Madison for political reasons.

Making  supervisors part time weakens  the Democrats’ voting clout. These spring races may be nonpartisan but most supervisors are either liberal or moderate left, and people who get used to voting in these districts also show up at the November polling places. 

Contrast Act 14 with the original hope of many, including a  new state senator named Chris Larson, that Abele would  simultaneously open the business drawer on his desk and the labor drawer, co-mingling the contents  – particularly on issues of  income parity and quality of life  for working families that the county’s $1.2 billion budget and the executive’s bully pulpit can directly influence. 

But Abele  never made the link between the two drawers and, until this election, had been closing up that labor drawer. In speeches he justified voting against the living wage though he agrees in principle. He claims the money would come from “the frail and elderly” – something of an exaggeration that begs the question of his priorities and willingness to develop new sources of funding.

When he now boasts he has a staff he trusts – far larger than Walker’s – it comes at the cost of dynamic sometime contrarian ideas. Insiders at the Courthouse say he expects his hires to tread cautiously in criticizing his concepts.  Remember the fates of a rotating door of hires at several agencies along with some powerhouse names once eager to work with him (including Sue Black, now in charge of Arizona’s state parks, and former head of transportation for the state  Frank Busalacchi). Both were let go in mysterious circumstances after being promised support. All those departures came after Abele won election in 2012 – an ominous reminder that what  Abele says now may not hold true after April 5.

Chris Abele (left) and Chris Larson during Gousha TV debate.
In the  sole scheduled TV debate conducted ably by Mike Gousha, Abele said his approach was to leave every door open. He  squirmed around or smiled when Gousha’s questions got too close or Larson’s rejoinders were too cutting.   What might have once been regarded as the cute naivet√© of a nonpolitician was unsettling from a five year veteran of the office who had enforced  a modern version of noblesse oblige. 

Strangers watching the two Chrises  would have thought the calm,  prepared,  point by point analyzer  in the debate was already the county executive, not his challenger. Look at the tape and see if you don’t agree. Larson scored heavily with his  principal concern (plus examples) that Abele was shutting out the local democratic process in favor of his own opinions.  Larson’s view of Milwaukee’s future is certainly more trusting of the people and envisions a Wisconsin undergoing change.

Some of his ideas are an uphill push – for now. Larson’s concept of a separate 1% sales tax excluding food, rent and gas (but not excluding school supplies as Abele countered, forgetting how some supplies for the poor these days are paid for by their own public school teachers) requires the stubborn Madison legislature  to listen. But Larson’s ace in the hole is that many other counties, some once quite Republican,  are also suffering under Walker’s restrictions and eager to free up the sales tax for their own needs.  

It is also clear that if Larson can’t get legislative changes to restore lost authority to the voters, he is pledging not to use these hauls. He is committed to working with the county board and voters as they expected until they were deluded into thinking Act 14 would bring big money savings. 

Abele  is clearly consumed with debt relief – which always sounds great to a segment of the community.  But do Abele’s concern to unleash his rich man’s managerial background on county policies justify asking for so much freedom from public input? Does it even work?  Does  Abele’s track record sound more “my way or the highway” than what we should expect from public  servants?

His preoccupations come across to critics as working with the side he is most comfortable with – the heirs of the wealthy. He does seem overly concerned about  the Republican majority in Madison.

That could backfire even this year.  Given how angry many Republican communities are about restrictions imposed by Walker on how they can pay for simple things like school operations, the Senate is likely to change hands  in November and the Assembly is losing an inordinate number of Republicans who came in on that 2010 tidal wave.  

Cooperation with the other side  is great – Larson promises the same. But some of Abele’s pronounced motives in deal-making seem contradictory to his methods.  A  mental health agency run by professionals seemed like a good idea to all, and Abele pushed for it.  But  now its leaders seem afraid to move sensibly without a nod from Abele’s staff – especially Hector Colon, who got a 39% raise while other county workers watched in disbelief.

The board selection process to run the Milwaukee Area Technical College needed strong roots from Milwaukee  (which provides some 90% of its students) and expansion into the health professions where the jobs are growing, Abele vetoed the  top health expert from Milwaukee, Sandy Pasch,  in favor of the MMAC welder choice from outside the county. 

The supervisors go part-time starting April 5,  no longer have any say in the sale of  county land outside the zoned  parks,  have no voice in choosing or vetting department heads  and then saw Abele acquiesce where even Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wouldn’t (and Barrett  once toyed with controlling Milwaukee public schools!). He accepted an executive role in that  runaway rail car designed  to pollute public education, the so-called Office of Educational Opportunity (OEO). 

Abele and his aides argue that he accepted the OEO position to protect Milwaukee Public Schools and will do nothing to injure them such as opening rival charters or selling vacant MPS buildings directly to such competitors. But if he hadn’t accepted, the Darling-Kooyenga blitz had no local authority to turn to.  His aides have been telling folks that if he hadn’t agreed the governor would have stepped in, but that’s nonsense. Walker didn’t even include the Darling proposal in his budget and there was never a chance of support  when Walker was running for president and even less chance now when he’s dodging criticism about  mucking too much in local affairs.

While Abele  was  playing checkers, GOP insider Alberta Darling was playing chess.  While he and his appointed representative, Demond Means, were assuring the voters they will do nothing to interfere with MPS, along comes Darling’s former chief of staff, Gary Bennett, hired by the UW system to oversee OEO with power to bypass local school boards and establish charter schools in both Madison and Milwaukee.

That means Bennett, whose educational background from long ago is three years teaching second graders in Las Vegas, can  run rings around two school districts led by women with Harvard doctorates in education.

The  central campaign issue has become “who do you trust. “ Abele fought for  sole authority over multiple un-zoned parks, the airport and the zoo,  though he claims he will make no move to privatize them. Larson wants to change the regulations and  in any case promises to involve the community before he acts. But seriously, should any one person have that much power over public land?  And what should we think of the guy who wanted that power when he proclaims innocence of the obvious consequences?

If the  battle of the Chrises is a  chess game, both sides fudged their  opening gambits last year. Larson brought out early his queen of endorsements, Rep. Gwen Moore, whom he may need more for April 5.  Abele was more ham-handed, spending a fortune so early in TV ads that there has been plenty of time to balance his rosy claims against the facts.  (His recent ads trying to link Larson to Walker and Wall Street have been laughable on their face, a further sign of desperation. How dare Larson do so well without Abele’s money?)

The  generic ads still showing tout Abele’s special “find work” help for black fathers, walking coeds gleeful there’s been no raise in transit fees, businesses thrilled  about a new arena and the promise of thousands of new jobs in downtown development.

But his Uplift MKE effort for families in 2014 was a direct steal and expansion of Ready to Work – a program by then Supervisor Eyon Biddle and current board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb that Abele originally vetoed.

Likewise,  his transit video totally ignores how bus drivers went on strike to halt a plan supported by Abele that increased part time workers and would slowly erode family living wages. 

And taking credit for the new arena and all the announced development around it  at $1 a parcel for county land was also a bit much and way too early.  It was, after all,  Herb Kohl who pledged $100 million from the team sale and talked hedge fund titans Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens to put up $150 million more to guarantee Milwaukee as the Bucks home with a new arena heavier on luxury boxes.

It was also Abele who broke up Walker’s plan to spread statewide the $250 million tax burden (half the cost of the new facility).  That led to fine tuning by Sen. Larson and others  to protect county taxpayers from  Abele’s concept that county  bad debtors would pay $80 million over 20 years. In the end, alas, most of that $250 million falls on Milwaukee, along with  a little noticed $5 million plus in land remediation costs not originally advertised.  Abele has even returned to the legislature to restore his funding version, though  even the county  comptroller says it will never work. 

It is too early to determine if Abele’s land gifts to the Bucks and their commercial development arm, the Herd, will pay off. It’s certainly wrong to suggest that all downtown businesses are happy with the deal. Restaurants and bars seem particularly troubled at artificial incentives being given potential competitors without proof of demand. Union workers are delighted by the vision of new jobs, except it’s just a vision aside from the new arena and parking lot itself, which involve short-term construction.

Civic leaders point out that homegrown entrepreneurship made Water Street, the Third Ward and some Riverwest areas thrive, while Abele is gambling on imports and  a hedge fund Herd notorious for making money out of distressed properties. 


The future of the Domes is now a campaign issue.
Some recent events are also putting the race in perspective –  notably the closing of the Domes.  Abele, based on his “look at all options” philosophy, early on floated the possibility of tearing them down. He puts the costs of renovation at $71 million. His own engineering consultants suggest that is inflated. They even told me that Larson’s estimate of $45 million may be inflated until further investigation.

Meanwhile some myths need to be clarified.  The Domes are hardly raining down indoor meteors. The chunk of concrete that caused all the fuss is about two and a half inches in diameter and may not even have fallen from the roof. It was tossed into a collection bucket at a facility that has long been shedding concrete  specks and is subjected to wind and rain damage. Yet one engineer reportedly said it  was so safe he would take his family inside picnicking.

Yet the Domes are closed out of an abundance of caution, political calculation (remember how Walker scooted away from any responsibility for an O’Donnell Park death in 2010) and the headline panic engendered.

Obviously there are liability issues for the county in the face of such publicity, but there also have been intensive regular engineering reports for two decades, warnings about the preventive maintenance needed yet often ignored throughout the county’s buildings and parks, even those less an historic architectural  landmark than the Domes. To put recent history in indisputable context (summer of 2015), the county board set aside $5 million from surplus funds for parks infrastructure and specified $500,000 for Domes repair. They had to restore the money to the budget after Abele vetoed it. That is why the county already has much of the corrective funding. 


Suprevisor Gerry Broderick blames neglect.
Engineers now believe that for under $800,00, their  netting and wrapping can lead to reopening all three Domes and give more time to evaluate the future.  Gerry Broderick, retiring chair of the county board’s parks committee, is convinced that failures of maintenance are a base cause.

While Abele seeks public support by announcing a committee to investigate all options, including razing the Domes and replacing them,  his group will have to play second fiddle. This is parks land and the authority rests with the board, where Broderick’s committee  has already offered  a task force committed to keep the Domes open and operating, as some 75% of the public wants in opinion polls.

After Abele floated $71 million as the cost of reconstruction and raised the idea of  the Domes being replaced with something like an amphitheater, he said during the  debate he was raising all options and would hold public hearings. But Abele did not attend that  public hearing hosted by the board which was attended by several hundred citizens. Nearly all who spoke favored preserving the Domes.

Imagine how they felt in the subsequent debate when Abele said the public has not been heard from about the Domes, implying that he believes those at the hearing and in media reports are not representative of citizen sentiment.

Larson was quick to pounce, pointing out there were no public hearings on the Arena deal or other Abele decisions about county land use.  Why now?

Larson’s implication was clear. This time there is an election. 


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com.